Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Charter School Legislation Update

Well, we thought we'd wrapped up H. 3010, the charter school bill, when we left last night at about 8pm. But, as the old saying goes, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Conservatives were told that the only changes in the compromise amendment concerned the makeup and location of the new charter school authority. We agreed not to create a brand new bureaucracy and also to house the new statewide charter school authority in the State Department of Education instead of in the governor's office.
But, when it took over an hour to draft these two changes into the amendment, I and others began to wonder. As it turns out, the defenders of the status quo and their allies slipped three major changes never previously discussed into the bill.
First, the provision allowing charter school students to participate in public school activities, such as band or athletics, was stripped. Senator Fair has fought for the fundamental right to equal treatment for charter school students for years. Unfortunately, opponents of simple equality snuck their designs into this bill.
Second, the opponents of charter schools extended the window for default approval of a charter school from thirty to sixty days. This existing law states that if a charter application to a local school board (not the new statewide entity) is not acted upon within thirty days, the application is automatically approved. Somehow, the current law got amended to sixty days, placing yet another burden upon charter applicants.
Third, as I have noted conservatives agreed to house the new statewide authority in the State Department of Education. But, in the drafting of the compromise amendment, somebody added the word "staffed" in that section. That effectively gives the very educrats so hostile to charter schools control over the new statewide charter school authority.
What happened here was a good old fashioned Shanghai. If you're not familiar with the origin of that term, it refers to people of the late 19th Century who went out one night in San Francisco and woke up on a slow boat to China. THey had been drugged or knocked out and loaded onto the boat as a crewmember. Their next destination would be Shanghai.
It just goes to show that defenders of the status quo will fight hard, fight dirty, and fight after the bell to keep their monopoly. Fortunately, the sharp staff in the governor's office caught the mischief overnight. We're going to reverse these things in the chamber today. I just hope it's not dark when we're done.
If you don't already know, you can follow the debate live at Click on the senate video feed link. And feel free to write me during session. I'll answer as quick as I can. I have access to my e-mail ( while on the floor.