Charter schools for Maine


Today’s Bangor Daily News
describes upcoming legislation that would, at long last, authorize charter
schools for Maine.  Maine is one of only 10 states in the nation that does
not allow the development of charter schools, which have been hugely
in states across the nation, as we described in a 2007 paper.

allows for the development of up to 20 charter schools for a ten year
pilot program.  This restriction on the number
of charters  is needless, but at this
point we’ll take what we can get.

Of some concern is a provision of the bill that allows only the following
groups to be charter authorizers:

1.  A local school board within the boundaries of a
school administrative unit;

A collaborative among local school boards and other eligible authorizing
entities that form to set up a public charter school for their region; or

A college or university located in the State that offers a baccalaureate degree
in education.

other states, community groups, non-profits, for-profits and a whole host of
groups can form charter schools.  Under
this bill, citizens interested in developing a charter school have to go on
bended knee before the very people who are under-educating their children now, the
local public school systems.   What public school system is going to allow the
development of a charter school that will compete against it directly? 

Remember, the public school
establishment, of which the universities are a part, is the problem.  If the public school establishment was effective,
we wouldn’t need charter schools.  Now we’re
going to give that same establishment the power to oversee the charter schools
that are created, which will no doubt limit their freedom to innovate.

From the BDN:

Department of Education Communications
Director David Connerty-Marin said any group that wants to form a charter school would
have to gain the support of the existing education system before they
could establish a program. He said the federal government was pushing
for assurances that states allow flexibility on charter schools and the
department now was willing to do that.

“In this bill the charter schools have to be controlled by the
university or a public school system,” Connerty-Marin said. “Private or
nonprofits cannot do it on their own. They need an authentic public
entity for oversight.”

Ugh.  Don’t we want charter schools because the “authentic public entities” are not getting the job done?

Despite this serious flaw, the
bill does represent a big step forward for 
a state that trails most of the nation in the level of innovation it has
brought to K-12 education.  It will make us,
finally, the 41st state to allow the creation of charter schools.

The public hearing on the bill is
scheduled for Thursday, May 7th.