State Tightens Rules For Charter Schools

Julia Zorthian PhotoPaul Bass PhotoIn the wake of recent controversies, the state announced plans to start requiring that charter schools operate more like other public schools—“transparently,” with clear standards to meet.

That was the upshot of new policies announced Monday afternoon by the state Department of Education. That agency—not local school boards—oversees charter schools, which receive public money but can operate under different rules from those followed by traditional public schools.

The department announced the new regulations on the heels of a scandal involving a Hartford charter organization and the last-minute approval of a controversial charter for New Haven’s new Booker T. Washington Academy. (Read about that here.)

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration has come under criticism by charter skeptics for allegedly being too close to the charter movement without properly regulating it. His handling of charter controversies has become an election-year issue; the governor recently said in a New Haven visit that he wants his education department to “do a better job.” Click here and on the video to read about his response to that.

One of the state’s most outspoken charter critics, gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Pelto, dismissed Monday’s announcement as “an election-year gimmick to deflect Malloy’s inappropriate support for the charter school industry over the past four years.” Charter advocates characterized them as creating pointless new bureaucracy.

The new regulations require charter boards to set “clear[er] expectations for student performance and equity,” follow open-meetings laws, and do background checks on its members and employees and to adopt anti-conflict-of-interest policies.


The rules also require charters to “develop clearer rules governing the fees charged by” charter management organizations. The most recent hearing involved Booker T. Washington Academy revealed that another New Haven-based charter organization, Achievement First, is subletting space to house the school temporarily.

On another contentious topic—whether charters accept enough special-needs students—the department announced the “convening” of “a workgroup to examine ways to improve special education services delivery.”

Click here to read a department fact sheet on the new regulations.

Pelto, a former state representative who is seeking a petition spot on the gubernatorial ballot, described Monday’s “‘new’ oversight policies are nothing but a sad commentary on the Malloy administration’s on-going effort to cover up their mistakes and their utter failure to manage taxpayer’s funds correctly.  Lest we forget, it was [Education Commissioner] Stefan Pryor’s Achievement First, Inc. charter school chain that pushed the legislation that allows 30 percent of charter school administrators and teachers to be uncertified and therefore go without background checks.  Now he wants us to believe he and Malloy are concerned about the lack of background checks?

“And the Malloy administration’s suggestion that they will be ordering charter schools to adopt policies preventing conflicts of interest and nepotism is particularly insulting since it was just last week the Pryor and the State Department of Education re-approved the Booker T. Washington Charter School plan in New Haven with all of its accompanying conflicts of interest and nepotism.”

Charter advocates, on the other hand, depicted the rules as unnecessary.

“People who know the facts know that the vast majority Connecticut’s charters are playing by the rules, providing good schools, giving parents choice and strengthening their communities. These schools don’t need any more red tape, but they will comply just as they comply with hundreds of other state accountability, transparency and equity laws,” the head of the Northeast Charter Schools Network, Jeremiah Grace, was quoted as saying in a release issued Monday afternoon.

“Let’s hope that the Department of Education’s new policies will serve as a crucial starting point for equitable and long-term regulations that ensure all kids have the opportunity to achieve their goals. We look forward to learning more details and working with state leaders to define
specifics so every child has access to great teachers, principals, and public schools,” Jennifer Alexander, the head of another charter-advocacy group, ConnCAN, was quoted as saying in a release.


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posted by: Noteworthy on August 12, 2014  9:29am

Emporer Has No Clothes Notes:

1. The rules are welcome but they are tardy, in fact they are a set of unexcused absences while spending millions of taxpayer dollars in grossly unaccountable, non-transparent ways.

2. Conveniently, the state adopts new rules after approving the highly dubious Booker T. Washington school, the founders of which not only don’t know anything about education and desperately needed and will continue to need massive and expensive outside help, but also violated every open governance rule applicable to such operations in the run-up to that sorry decision.

3. There should be a moratorium on new charters and those who cannot show demonstrable and significant advancement of students should be immediately unfunded.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 12, 2014  10:05am

State Tightens Rules For Charter Schools.

Snake-Oil being sold.

You want some rules for the Charter Schools.How about these Rules.

The Charter Schools Act.

Part One.

1. STUDENT RIGHTS – Charter schools MUST be required to retain Special Ed and ELL students. No longer push out, counsel out or expel them out of the school.
2. PARENT RIGHTS – Every charter school board MUST have a parent board member who is the President of the school’s independent parent association.
3. BILL OF RIGHTS – There MUST be a universal Parents Bill of Rights and Students Bill of Rights for charter schools.
4. INDEPENDENT PARENTS ASSOCIATION – Every charter school MUST be required to have an independent parents association.
5. CO-LOCATIONS – The state MUST develop a better process in determining co-locations in public school buildings in New York City because it is pitting parents against each other.
6. ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY – Charter school board members and employees MUST be held to rigorous financial disclosure requirements and conflict of interest prohibitions as all other organizations receiving public money. There MUST be more oversight of Founding Boards. Board members MUST NOT be allowed to be permanent trustees. All employees (principals, directors, staff) MUST not be allowed to serve on the board. All schools must be audited by the State Comptroller.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 12, 2014  10:07am

The Charter Schools Act.
Part Two.

7. CHARTER CONTRACT & BY-LAWS – Every charter school MUST be required to post their charter and by-laws online to increase accountability and transparency in charter schools and their governing boards. Every board meeting MUST be held at the school.
8. STATE RECEIVERSHIP – The state MUST have the authority to take over a charter school and re-constitute the board of trustees.
9. MANAGEMENT ORGANIZATIONS – For Profit Management organizations MUST NOT be allowed to manage charters. Public money should be spent on public students.
10. COMPLAINT & GRIEVANCE PROCESS – The state MUST develop a formal complaint and grievance process that includes tracking and resolving issues within 30 days.
11. TEACHER RIGHTS & PROTECTIONS – Teachers in charter schools MUST be provided with whistleblower and job protections when exposing corruption, financial mismanagement and corporate chicanery in charters. No teacher should be fired for standing up for their students. E.g. East New York Prep Charter School.
12. CHARTER AUTHORIZATION – Authorization MUST only be granted by the Board of Regents.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on August 12, 2014  1:49pm

The vast majority of people do not commit murder.

So, let’s get rid of the laws that protect us against those who do, because an “unvast” minority of murderers should be of no concern to the state, right? 

The “logic” of these charter school owners is frightening, indeed. Especially considering the fact that they have access to non-transparent public funds for the purpose of educating our children.

The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee
Immanuel Missionary Baptist Church
New Haven, CT

posted by: Brutus2011 on August 12, 2014  2:16pm

Why do charter advocates say the rules are unnecessary given that public schools are bound by the same rules?

President John F Kennedy once said:

“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived, and dishonest, but the myth—persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allow the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

posted by: LongJohn47 on August 13, 2014  7:35am

Brutus - thanks for the terrific JFK quote.  It describes what’s wrong with so much of our political discourse.

posted by: Beth1 on August 15, 2014  12:20am

I assume, Noteworthy, that your wish that “those who cannot show demonstrable and significant advancement of students” “be immediately unfunded” extends to our traditional public schools as well?

posted by: Beth1 on August 15, 2014  12:26am

threefifths, I believe it is already State law (and a good one at that) that for-profit charter operators cannot operate charters schools in our state (#9 on your list). I agree with your prohibition on counseling students out (but traditional public schools exclude students all the time and push them into lousy “alternative” programs). Would be tough to prove, but certainly worth the effort to explore.