Connecticut’s charters provide strong academic results and offer children a high quality public school option. As a result, thousands of families are on wait lists for these schools. As the membership organization that represents Connecticut’s charter schools, the Northeast Charter School Network advocates for laws and policies that increase the number of quality options available to these families. We believe Connecticut’s charter law and regulations should be updated to reflect best practices nationally and ensure that Connecticut children and families have access to great public schools, including a growing, robust and high-quality charter school sector.
Connecticut was one of the nation’s early adopters in the charter school movement, enacting one of the nation’s first charter laws in 1996. Since then, other states have enacted and revised their charter laws, so that what was once state-of-the-art now no longer reflects advances in charter policies and practices.
As much as recent events highlight the need for the law’s updating, it’s a fact that the vast majority of Connecticut’s charters are expanding educational opportunity across the state and doing so within the parameters of good practice. Updating our policies is appropriate, but the behavior of one actor should not undermine a successful sector on which thousands of children and families rely.
Connecticut has an opportunity to modernize its charter law and strengthen public accountability and public confidence in the charter idea, and improve access to quality public school options. This modernization agenda can achieve this goal and continue to ensure high quality, accountability, and flexibility—the three fundamental tenets of chartering.
We suggest that the State Board of Education issue recommendations by the end of the year on how to modernize the charter law, strengthen accountability for public charter schools, utilize technology to increase transparency, and meet growing family demand for these quality public school options.
As the membership group for all of the state’s public charter schools, we want to be a partner in that effort. We offer here a framework with several improvements for policy- makers to consider. We are happy to provide additional detail and context upon request:
- New digital transparency laws that require charter school board meeting schedules, agendas and minutes to be posted online.
- Strong performance frameworks to judge the capacity and academic results of charter schools on a regular basis.
- Clear accountability contracts that set forth the rights and responsibilities of the state and the charter school, with the National Association of Charter Authorizers guidelines as a starting point.
- Mandatory criminal background checks for all charter school board members and employees (current law is not clear regarding employees).
- Strict conflict of interest and anti-nepotism regulations with regular disclosure requirements that cover all employees and board members of charter schools.
- Increased funding and staff capacity at SDE’s charter school oversight and accountability office.
- Clear operational and programmatic flexibility, excluding areas that affect the health, safety and civil rights of students.
- For schools that excel under these new, stricter standards, new conditions to help them grow to serve more families.
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