Friday, June 02, 2006

Open thread: recent topics

It has been a while since I last posted, and several significant things have happened that I have not commented on:

1. The Board approved the proposed southeast boundaries on a 6-1 vote
2. The Board approved the location of the new southeast elementary to be south of Timnath
3. The Board raised its requested development fees to more accurately reflect the actual cost of land purchases
4. The Board has moved forward with Wellington toward getting a fair intergovernmental agreement that allows us to assess development fees on new developments there
5. A new calendar has been proposed which adds two additional student contact (teaching) days to the middle of the year, replacing previous school holidays.
6. The Board has approved a lawsuit appealing the denial of our exclusive chartering application (see below)

The thread is open for questions or comments on these or other topics.

Thoughts on Exclusive Chartering Appeal

In the immediately preceding post, below, I gave the history and details of PSD's Exclusive Chartering appeal. My personal thoughts are as follows.

First, I strongly feel that government works better the closer it is to those who are governed. In other words, for school issues, it is better to have a local Board of Education make decisions on how to spend local taxpayers' money, because it gives the local taxpayers a much stronger voice in the makeup of that Board. In my mind, the Charter Institute goes against this principle. As it grows and authorizes charters across the state, it will become a centralized bureaucracy, directly accountable to no elected board (the Institute Board is made up of political appointees).

Second, the Colorado Constitution seems to give the Legislature little power to actually create something like the Charter Institute

Third, it seems clear to me that our previous "limit" was not a "moratorium" as defined by State statute.

Finally, in my mind, the State Board acted arbitrarily in approving other Districts' requests while denying PSDs.

This lawsuit will not be free. It will require time and energy from District staff. However, in my mind, the local control issues are important enough to spend the estimated $10,000 to $15,000 that the lawsuit will cost. Additionally, the per-pupil-revenue that the District stands to lose to Institute schools is much greater than that amount.

This is not the only avenue we should pursue. I feel we should continue to lobby our State Board representatives. I will update this post later with contact information for others who wish to lobby our State Board.

PSD Board Approves Appeal on Exclusive Chartering Authority

The PSD Board of Education met this morning in a special session to discuss whether we should appeal the recent State Board of Education decision which denied PSD exclusive chartering authority. On a 4-2 vote, the Board decided to file suit challenging the decision. Directors Johnson, Tellez, myself, and President Ley were in favor; Directors Neal and Yeldell were opposed.

For those who may not know the issues involved, here is a summary. In 2004, the Colorado State Legislature passed legislation creating the Charter Institute. This is a state-level organization which has the authority to approve charter school contracts anywhere in the state. By default, the Charter Institute has shared chartering authority with local Districts; that is, a charter school may decide to apply either to the local Board of Education, or to the Charter Institute. The legislation also authorized local Boards to apply for exclusive chartering authority in their District (which had been the status quo before this legislation). However, the State Board was allowed to deny exclusive chartering authority if the applying District had had a "moratorium" on charter schools in the past four years. Additionally, the Legislature made it illegal for Districts to have a limit on the number of charter schools located within their boundaries (previously, this had been expressly allowed).

Poudre School District had a "soft" limit, authorized in 2001 (if I recall correctly); in the authorizing resolution, the Board at that time also said it would consider any "innovative" charter applications that came forward (it's that willingness that makes this a "soft" limit and not a moratorium as defined in the law). After the law was passed making limits illegal, the Board of Education repealed PSD's limit (at the first opportunity, I might add).

PSD then applied for exclusive chartering authority, arguing, among other things, that our "limit" was not a "moratorium". The State Board voted 4-4 to deny our application; this left us in a bit of a grey area, as the motion to deny failed. Our belief is that, consequently, we had exclusive authority during this time, but the Colorado Department of Education does not agree. We applied again, and, on May 11, the State Board voted 4-3 to deny our application (I was there to witness; Shaffer made the motion to deny; Shaffer, Suckla, Littleton, and Polis voted to deny; Hudak, Middleton, and Munn voted not to deny; and DeHoff recused himself).

This brings us to the present. On May 22, the Board approved a motion which requested that the District's legal council investigate the grounds and possible costs for appealing the decision in court. This week, our attorney got us the information, and President Ley scheduled a special meeting for this morning at 7:00. The Board decided to proceed, as outlined in the opening paragraph.

This post is plenty long, so I'm going to put my personal perspectives in a separate post.