"But these schools are really creatures of the state itself, not local school districts, and they have no place on local bond-issue and mill-levy elections."Colorado's Constitution [Article IX] repeatedly stipulates that our state is a "local control" state in regard to education. This means that local school boards have the Constitutional authority to determine the curriculum, set graduation standards and determine how funds will be spent. This phrase is used ad nauseum in the state legislature. School districts don't want the state telling them what they should be doing.
That's why it's mystifying what the Aurora Sentinel editorials were thinking when they try to suggest charter schools should come under the authority of the state and not the local district. The whole premise of the Charter School Institute law, which permits a "good authorizer" district to retain sole chartering authority, is to ensure local control. In fact, the basis of the lawsuit against the Charter School Institute was that the law takes away district local control. (The courts ruled in favor of the Charter School Institute, but now opponents are appealing the decision to a higher court.)
It seems as though the editors make the argument only for the purpose of denying the access of mill levy and bond funds to public charter schools. Already charter schools pay up to 23% of their per-student funds for capital expenses.
What's been said in legislative hearings is also the message in the Sentinel editorial: public charter school students are second-class citizens. Wasn't this the same thing that was said when the 2007 General Assembly cut charter school capital construction funds in half? Wasn't this what Senator Windels meant when she reminded charter school representatives testifying on a bill in her committee that "you always said you could do it cheaper!" Implying that it was fair that charter school students are educated in buildings that are substandard and oftentimes, renovated strip malls or grocery stores without adequate gymnasiums or lunch rooms.
Sentinel editors reveal some of their bias when they say that charter schools "operate without the important infrastructure of seasoned school districts." Would that "infrastructure" include the teacher's collective bargaining agreement that guarantees a job-for-life to teachers if they just show up and sit in a chair all day? That that "infrastructure" be what Supt. John Barry is trying to change with his ideas for reforming Aurora Public Schools? Do the editors believe John Barry is also enamored with the "seasoned" school district employees who have failed thousands of students who either dropped out of APS schools or were extruded because staff just didn't want to deal with them?
Even if this vehement anti-charter school sentiment comes from only this small segment of Aurora, there are still state-level public pressures that will influence APS decisions. For example, one of the "good authorizer" criteria listed in the Charter School Institute law, which permits districts to retain exclusive chartering authority, states:
C.R.S. 22-30.5-504(5)(a)(II)(B) "The provision of assistance to charter schools to meet their facilities needs, by including those needs in local bond issues or otherwise providing available land and facilities that are comparable to those provided to other public school students in the same grade levels within the school district."