The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has come up with a revised version of its 2009 model charter school law that covers a plethora of topics relevant to these innovative educational institutions. The goal of the document is “to create a model charter public school law that is grounded in principle, flexible enough to serve in a wide variety of state policy environments, and well-supported by research.” The authors point out that the blueprint is most applicable to the seven states that currently lack a charter school law. It is not going to work.
My experience this summer in attending the Amplify School Choice conference sponsored by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity taught me about some key components that must be included in such a framework. The meeting, which included myself and 49 other bloggers, was meant to introduce us to the theory of school choice, but for someone like me who thinks about this subject on a daily basis, it really changed my approach to the subject.
The session was held in Denver and the location was no accident. It turns out that this city has the academically fastest-growing public schools in the nation. But it was not the test scores that captured my attention.
We heard from a wide variety of speakers. No matter whether the individual at the front of the room was from the political right, left, or middle, or even if he or she had no specific ideological position, they shared one common attribute. They were all committed to the fostering of an educational marketplace.
Uniformly they stated that they had come to this conclusion because in the recent past the schools had been doing such a poor job educating students. But I came to understand that there was perhaps a more fundamental reason for their viewpoint. The Denver school choice model is based upon an educational collaborative compact.
As I have written about before, the compact spells out specifically how the charter schools and Denver Public Schools will work together for the benefit of the students they serve. It has requirements specifically for charters and also for the regular schools. The document also spells out how the two sectors will work together, which includes promotion of each others’ work.
I have made the point that Washington D.C. desperately needs such an agreement. Failure of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools to include an outline of such a compact in its model school law will lead to the battles over charters that have been witnessed throughout the United States. The paper should go back to the drawing board.