By Steve Gunn
MONROE, La. – One of the dumbest education policies, common throughout many states, is to force officials who are trying to open new charter schools to gain the pre-approval of local school boards.
Far too often, school boards resist the applications altogether or drag their feet during the approval process. Why? Because charter schools compete with local school districts for students and the state dollars attached to them. Local school boards are naturally hesitant to part with that money.
Opposition also comes from the local teachers union, because charters often hire non-union teachers.
The most recent case occurred in Monroe, Louisiana, where the school board denied a request earlier this week for the Neville High School Charter to open in the fall, and barely approved a resolution to consider allowing the school to open in 2013-14.
In April, a fall opening seemed likely for the new school. The board received a formal application, along with a proposed budget that was apparently very close to the final budget presented to school board members earlier this week.
The board voted months ago to give Neville “provisional approval,” based on the information received in April.
But board members changed their minds this week, despite the recommendation given by an independent charter school evaluator to give Neville the green light. The majority of board members explained that they needed more time to study information about the proposed school.
But board member Vickie Krutzer told the News Star that board members should have learned more about the charter school prior to the meeting. She also noted that board members failed to meet with the independent charter school evaluator they hired.
“We had the opportunity to have these questions answered,” Krutzer was quoted as saying by the newspaper. “We didn’t do our due diligence in a timely manner.”
It’s safe to assume there is a proposed charter school in Monroe because there is sufficient interest among parents and students. That means some families are looking for education alternatives that might serve their children’s needs better than the local traditional school district.
But the school board still can’t make up its mind, probably due to financial and political considerations. So the kids who are waiting for the charter school will just have to wait. Money and politics always come first.