September 9, 2021


Groundbreaking Study Details Positive Impact!
Prioritizing diversity as a core value of a charter school tends to improve behavioral and academic outcomes for students, according to a new study from a team at Teachers College, Columbia University, headed by Professor Priscilla Wohlstetter.  “Moving the Needle on Desegregation: Performance Outcomes and Implementation Lessons from Diverse-by-Design Charter Schools” analyzed “diverse-by-design charters” in California, Colorado and New York.  These schools use various methods to attract students across race, ethnicity, income and ability. Students attending diverse-by-design charter schools are 12 percentage points more likely to learn among peers of different racial or socio-economic backgrounds than students in other schools, according to the report. The study also found that intentionally diverse schools often have lower chronic absenteeism and suspension rates, particularly among students of color; and have mixed academic outcomes but generally do better in English Language Arts (ELA) and have better graduation rates for students of color.

Diverse-by-design charter schools are defined as having low-income students make up 30-70 percent of their student body and have no one race or ethnicity make up more than 70 percent of the school. They use practices that seek to create and engage with the community, use less exclusionary discipline practices, and teach with a culturally responsive pedagogy. According to the researchers, diverse-by-design charters almost always include diversity in their mission statement. Most belong to the Diverse Charter Schools Coalition and were founded in part to counter the growing segregation in America’s public schools.
Read more here


State Supreme Court Imposes "Constitutional Duty" On Authorizers
In 2016, New Jersey’s Commissioner of Education approved applications for seven Newark public charter schools to expand their combined enrollment by nearly 8,500 students over a five-year period. The Education Law Center appealed the approval, claiming that the expansions would further segregate Newark’s schools and drain money from its traditional schools. After six years of litigation, the state’s Supreme Court has ruled that public charter school authorizers - in this case the state Commissioner - have a constitutional duty to ensure public charter schools do not segregate students by race, disability or language status. The Court stressed that the Commissioner’s duty to assess the impact of a charter school on student segregation is not contingent upon the local school district raising any objection to a charter's approval or renewal. With regard to the funding issue, the Court ruled that an authorizer must analyze the fiscal impact of any funding loss to traditional schools, but only after a district comes forward with specific evidence. 

This is the first and so far the only time that a state Supreme Court has imposed such a duty on public charter school authorizers. In spite of its ruling, the Court did not reverse the 2016 decision to allow the schools to expand, citing the passage of time. It also did not determine whether or not the expansions actually contributed to increased segregation or financial hardship. David Sciarra and Wendy Lecker, NJ SUPREME COURT AFFIRMS MANDATE TO ADDRESS THE IMPACT OF CHARTER SCHOOLS ON SEGREGATION AND FUNDING, Education Law Center, August 24, 2021

Legal Troubles Force Founders/Management Company Out
Epic Charter Schools is beginning a school year under its own management for the first time, which will save a 10 percent management fee - about $46 million - it previously paid annually to its operator. The school split with its co-founders / for-profit management team after a blistering Grand Jury report on the schools’ finances. Epic said the management company will repay any money Epic owes to the State Department of Education, along with the school's administrative cost penalties for the past two fiscal years. State auditors and the Grand Jury report cited a lack of transparency, intentional avoidance of disclosure by the for-profit management company and a lack of cooperation. However, it stopped short of handing up indictments. Epic Schools is the largest charter operator in Oklahoma, serving 53,000 students in bricks-and-mortar and online classrooms. Epic says it will use the cost saving for technology and other supports for students. Colby Thelon, Epic Charter Schools Begins New Semester For One-On-One & Blended Learning Schools, News 9 Oklahoma’s Own, September, 7, 2021; Jennifer Palmer, Grand Jury: Epic Charter School ‘System Ripe for Fraud” Oklahoma Watch, May 11, 2021


COVID-19 "Transforming Authorizing"
The National Association of Charter School Authorizers this week released a NACSA’s new accountability guidance paper and accompanying resources. The organization says that as schools navigate learning during COVID-19, all schools, charter authorizers, and states must measure school quality more broadly. That said, NACSA asserts that assessments and data collection must still continue with fidelity, to identify opportunity gaps. During the 2020-21 school year, and perhaps beyond, states and authorizers should require robust, baseline assessments in order to identify where to target additional resources and support. NACSA's mission is providing practical guidance and best practices for authorizers and charter schools nationwide on prioritizing student success and measuring progress towards educational equity. The new guidance can be found here.

 (Army Staff Sgt. Rosemary Okotie and daughter on the first day of school at JBAB)

Nation's Eighth Military Base Public Charter School Opens in D.C.
The U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity website reports that charter schools are becoming an increasingly popular option for military families. Now, after 60 years of wishing for a school and more than a decade of passionate advocacy, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB) in Washington D.C. is finally home to a public charter school. Parents from JBAB and the city’s neighboring 8th Ward selected the Learn Charter School Network to operate the school, which opened last week with an initial capacity of 200 children in pre-K through first grade. Sixty more students are already waitlisted. The school will add one grade level and 50 additional students each year until the 8th grade, eventually reaching a maximum of 550 students. Students are starting the first year in temporary buildings on the six-acre site where permanent buildings will be constructed, starting in 2022.
One feature of the JBAB school: it honors out-of-state teaching credentials, understanding the difficulties many military teaching spouses have in transferring their credentials when the military moves their families from state to state. The school’s executive director says her staff is trained to focus on the unique needs of children of military families who face the challenges of starting school in a new community every two years, and of Ward 8 students who face stresses such as poverty, violence and homelessness. Karen Jowers, JBAB Charter School Opens After Years of Persistence by Military and Civilian Parents, Military Times, September 5, 2021

Florida Finds No Evidence for Charter Application Denial
After what its attorney called a "robust line of questions," Florida’s Charter School Appeal Commission (CSAC) overruled a local school board’s denial of a new public charter school in Leon County. CSAC found there was no "substantial competent evidence" to support the denial of Red Hills Academy's charter school application.  The charter plans to offer a second language instruction and emphasizes the diversity of its board, which is designed to attract a diverse student population. Ana Goñi-Lessan, State Panel Overrules School Board, Recommends OK of Red Hills Academy Charter in Leon County, Tallahassee Democrat, August 31, 2021
Parents Bombard School Board; Derail Charter School Attack
The Albuquerque Public School Board (APS) planned to petition the state for a public charter school moratorium, but dozens of parents and students aggressively made clear their opposition to that idea. After almost four hours of pushback from the crowd during APS’ school board meeting last week, board members tabled the issue. Statewide, declining birth rates and pandemic-induced homeschooling are hurting New Mexico's traditional public school enrollment, but parents said that's no reason to punish the public charter school movement. If APS board members revisit the issue, they’ll likely take it up during the legislative session. Rachel Knapp, APS School Board Postponed Proposed New Charter School Moratorium, KRQE, September 1, 2021

Solid Partnerships Will Help Students Fly High
The Alabama Public Charter School Commission has approved the opening of Alabama Aerospace and Aviation High School (AAAHS). AAAHS, which will partner with Delta Airlines, Tuskegee University and others to advance its focus on aviation with a college-focused education. Students will earn college credits and can dually enroll at Tuskegee. AAAHS's future aviators and aerospace scientists can also earn their private pilot or drone license before graduating! 

The school will temporarily locate in a church, while its permanent location will open in fall of 2022 at the Bessemer Municipal Airport, which is about 15 miles from downtown Birmingham. AAAHS is aiming for 130 students in the first year, but its ultimate goal is to reach 500 students. Students in seventh grade and up can enroll now. Summer Guffey, NOW OPEN: The Alabama Aerospace and Aviation Charter School, BhamNow, August 31, 2021
School Improvement Partnership improves transparency and accountability in the charter school bond market. The School Improvement Partnership Database (or SIP Database) contains financial, academic and operating data on charter schools and charter school borrowers around the country. It is being built out to include all charter schools and charter school borrowers in the coming months. From each financial audit for a CMO or charter school, the SIP Database contains 50 financial data points, always refreshing automatically to include the three most recent years. The SIP Database has a dashboard for subscribers that displays requested data points in an easy-to read-fashion, and such data can be exported in Excel from the SIP Database to the subscriber. Please view our website or call us at 215.854.6322.
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