Long Awaited Charter School Bill Introduced in the House

June 4th, 2013

Category: News

In the fall of last year, Governor Jack Markell and former Representative Terry Schooley created a Charter Work Group to review the current charter school law and recommend changes. Members included charter schools, the business community, DSEA, PTA, school districts and boards, legislators, Delaware Department of Education, and the State Board of Education. 

There were a number of issues within the existing charter law that the group agreed should be addressed to create an environment for charter schools to thrive. Specifically, the work group focused on the process of how charter schools are authorized, the expectations for charters once authorized, and additional support and funding for charter schools.   

Improving the authorization process offers charter school applicants more opportunities to engage in the vetting process with authorizers. This begins by providing applicants a pre-screen process to ensure quality, followed by in-depth applicant interviews. Perhaps most importantly, more opportunities for public input will be built into the process to truly consider impact on communities and students.

The key to success in almost all situations is to have clear expectations and support to succeed. The bill addresses these concerns for all charter schools. Authorizers and charters will enter into agreements based on the charter performance framework which establishes have set standards for achievement and management to maintain their charter. In addition, all board members serving charter schools will be required to have training, and to establish procedures in the event school closure becomes necessary.   The renewal process will be tied to how each school meets the rigorous standards set in the Charter Performance Framework.

Finally, one of the significant concerns is support for fledgling and established charter schools.  High performing charter schools will be rewarded for the efforts by allowing extended renewal terms.  One of the key concerns for both new and existing charter schools is funding. Financial supports will include a timely allocation of district funds and access to the conduit bond financing process. Most significant would be the creation of the Charter School Performance Fund to help finance charter schools with a proven record of success. Priority would be given to schools with high quality plans or those serving high need students.  

Delaware has been envied nationally for its ability to bring together stakeholders on tough issues and build consensus. House Bill 165 is a clear example of that quality. The Charter School Work Group managed to create a fair piece of legislation to address accountability and quality in our charter schools while solving tough funding inequities. 

This bill will be considered by the House Education Committee June 5, 2013.

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Melissa Hopkins




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