It's widely believed throughout the state that "the State Board of Education always supports charter schools" in appeal hearings. The facts say different. Of the 155 appeal cases that have been filed, 100 have been heard. Of those 100 hearings, the State Board backed the district 57 times on first appeal. The other 43 times the State Board remanded the matter back for further reconsideration, thereby supporting the charter school applicants.
Supporting the school district the majority of the time was also true in the early years of charter schools in Colorado. Before 2000 there were 53 charter appeal hearings and 32 times the State Board supported the district's decision to deny the charter application.
From 2004 to 2007 there were 44 appeal hearings filed. It was during this period that the State Board members began searching for another way to conduct appeal hearings. Members Randy DeHoff and Karen Middleton convened a couple of meetings to discuss alternatives which included expert reviewers, a rubric for reviewing charter applications and as different type of hearing process.
This discussion led to the creation of the standard charter school application, checklist for completion and review rubric in 2008 and then charter school appeal hearings dropped dramatically. In 2007 there were 10 appeal hearings and that dropped to one in 2008 and none in 2009.
The development of the standard applcation by the CDE, Colorado League of Charter Schools and the Charter School Institute was revolutionary in that it was the first time the "three C's" collaborated on a project. And it was only the beginning.
Following the standard application, charter school authorizers asked for sample contract language. That was developed in 2009 and just recently revised. The sample contract has something for everyone to love or hate. Some of the provisions are tougher than districts currently use. The contract delineates the responsibilities of both the charter school and the charter school authorizer; a first for many Colorado charter school authorizers to consider.
There has been eleven times that the State Board of Education ordered a district to open a charter school. However, that has only resulted in one charter school actually opening (Imagine Charter School at Firestone).
The first time the State Board took this type of action, the case was taken to the state Supreme Court. Thurgood Marshall Charter Middle School was proposed by an African-American teacher in Denver -- Cordia Booth. The Supreme Court ruling declared that while the State Board did have authority to order a district to open a charter school, it could not dictate the provisions of the contract.
When the Charter Schools Act was adopted in 1993 it was a pilot program with a sunset of 1998. When the sunset provision was lifted, almost half of the charter schools in the state were open due to the appeal process.