Independent Charter Expansion Could Potentially Impact 177 School Districts

As we reported earlier, last Friday night, the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee dramatically expanded the authority to open independent ”2r” charter schools across the state.  At the same time it weakened local control and oversight of schools by locally elected school boards. This major education policy change was inserted into the state budget without a single public hearing or opportunity for public input.

The Joint Finance Committee’s party-line vote would hand over power to authorize independent “2r”  charter schools to a whole new range of individuals and groups — including a new unelected employee of the University of Wisconsin System President, an unelected technical college board, two other colleges, and the Waukesha County Executive — that will impact local school funding and property taxes.

According to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the authority for expanded independent “2R” charter schools could potentially impact as many as 177 public school districts.  (See the list of affected school districts attached to DPI news release.)

In Waukesha County, for example, the County Executive could be empowered under the JFC proposal to authorize charter schools impacting 19 public school districts in that county.

In Northeast Wisconsin, the College of the Menominee Nation could be authorized to administer charter schools in 15 different school districts across four counties.

The WASB supports charter schools for experimental and innovative programs provided: (a) the school board is the sole chartering agency; (b) exemptions from many state “input-type” standards and restraints are allowed in exchange for accountability to clear and high standards of student outcomes; and (c) funding arrangements are determined by the school board and charter school. (See WASB Resolution 3.21.)

Across our state locally elected school board members have made Wisconsin a national leader in establishing strong locally authorized charter schools that provide innovative options for their students, have avoided many of the fiscal scandals that have occurred in other states, and are accountable to local property taxpayers.

Now, with the Joint Finance Committee changes, it appears likely that individuals, for-profit companies and nonprofit groups will be able to operate independent “2R” charter schools open to children from up to 177 public school districts without local oversight.

Read More:  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article; Wisconsin State Journal (AP) coverage; DPI news release.