Governor Signs Charter Bill – But Delaware Still Trails Leading States
Today, Governor Markell signed House Bill 205 into law, inching Delaware one step closer towards creating a vibrant charter school environment; however, much more is needed in order to attract charters with proven track records of lifting low-income student achievement.
House Bill 205 has some positive components, including:
- Providing additional governance and financial oversight, including board member background checks, financial auditing, and financial transparency;
- Closing schools earlier along with granting the opportunity for qualified charter operators to take over struggling schools; and
- Requiring authorizers to consider the impact of quick expansions in order to provide sufficient time for impacted schools to adjust programs and staffing.
While these steps are laudable, they represent an initial first step towards creating a level-playing field among all public schools – one that is, according to numerous charter management organization leaders, necessary in order to attract high-performing charter schools, such as Achievement First and Rocketship Education, to set up shop here in Delaware. As the article states, their primary considerations in determining where to expand include:
- Having Teach For America corps members/alumni in the region (which we have);
- The ability to acquire free or low-cost facilities; and
- Being given the same per-pupil funding as traditional public schools.
In Delaware, charter schools receive approximately $3,000 less per pupil in funding. This inequality is exacerbated by two factors, including (1) charter schools are required to pay for facilities (estimated at about 15% of their costs) out of their operating budget and (2) charters do not have access to major capital funding, which districts utilize for facilities. This glaring difference in access to resources only leads to one conclusion – our policy environment is not ripe for attracting those with proven track records to our state. Until we take a more proactive approach and incorporate charter schools into our state’s overall reform strategy to increase student learning, Delaware’s charter schools will continue to be a mixed bag.