With all eyes on the Rhode Island budget bill passed by the General Assembly last week and its impact on charter schools, another bill with similar consequences for the state’s charter school sector made it through on the last day of session with little fanfare.
If signed into law, Senate Bill 3075, would require every new network charter school to get duplicative approval from each city or town council it proposes to serve. It also would require the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education to modify its nationally-recognized approval process to instead place substantial weight on new financial and academic indicators of local cities.
Upon the bill’s advancement to Governor Gina Raimondo’s desk, Amanda Fenton, director of federal and state policy for NACSA issued the following statement:
“As written, the bill puts the 39 city and town councils between families and the school of their choice, meaning that once again, a child’s address will determine her educational opportunities.
“Rhode Island has one of the highest-performing charter sectors in the country, built on a foundation of strong charter school oversight policies, including a rigorous approval process that values community support and involvement.
“By adding an additional layer of approval bodies—bodies that lack expertise in education or in charter school authorizing—the bill serves to suffocate growth of new charter schools. Even more troubling is the way it singles out the very charter schools that have the most potential to quickly transform education in the state.
“Rhode Island deserves better policies. Policies that embrace what is working for students instead of perpetuating an ‘us versus them’ conflict between charters and other public schools.
“Earlier this year, Gov. Raimondo stated she would veto any bill that had the practical effect of killing charters. We hope she is true to her word and vetoes this bill.
“There is much to be done to continue strengthening public education in Rhode Island, but it is not in this bill.”
NACSA reports on how well public policy is ensuring charter school and authorizer accountability in its annual State Policy Analysis. Rhode Island’s state ranking and NACSA’s full policy recommendations for the state are available here.
The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) is an independent voice for effective charter school policy and thoughtful charter authorizing practices that lead to more great public schools. Our research, policy, and consultation work advances excellence and accountability in the charter school sector. With authorizers and other partners, we have built the gold standard for charter school authorizing. Through smart charter school growth, these authorizers will give hundreds of thousands of children an opportunity for a better education each year. More at www.qualitycharters.org