“Laura Brown Image”

Following a critical January 2003 Hawaii State Audit, “New Century Charter School Allocation Project — FY02-03”, the state Legislature introduced dozens of charter school bills in an attempt to fix Hawaii’s existing flawed law.

Only two bills, SB 1700 and HB 1091, survived the first round of the legislative session.

However, according to an informal analysis by a U.S. Department of Education charter school official, the proposed legislation does not improve the current law, and may open Hawaii to lawsuits and further legal and education woes.

The stated intent of SB 1700 is to create a new charter school funding mechanism, but on a closer look, the bill appears to be a legislative attempt to create a separate charter school district, and as a result, establish another full-blown bureaucracy that include a 9-member board. That board, according to the bills, would act as fiscal agent for all charter schools.

The Senate Education Committee report, SB 1700 Senate Draft 1 SSCR503, makes the following amendments:

*Deletes per pupil amounts in statute;

*Bases charter school request on projected enrollment using average per pupil costs reported in the DOE annual consolidated financial report;

*Includes all categories of funding, basing special ed funding on a per pupil weighted count formula;

*Establishes a 9-member board and Executive Director to consult with the Board;

”Problems with these amendments include:”

*Funding for new charters appears to be narrower than for conversion schools;

*Does the new charter school commission have status as a Local Education Agency? If not, how will the Department of Education, which has ultimate responsibility, hold them accountable?

*The bills place the new State Association of Charter Schools into statute, creating a monopoly and giving preference to one organization that does not represent all charter school interests;

*State Association of Charter Schools would duplicate budgetary responsibilities of the Department of Education;

*The bills repeal current language that states “federal financial support for New Century Charter Schools shall not be less than other public schools;”

*Basing special education funding on a weighted formula would require a careful distinction between state and federal funding, which must be distributed on a straight per capita basis;

*The bills repeal language requiring technical assistance to schools, but how then will the state meet the requirements for technical assistance under No Child Left Behind?

*The legislation allows charter schools to send special education students back to the state, thwarting current IDEA federal law that requires a collaborative effort and IEP team decision to determine placement of a child;

”The state auditor listed 3 main concerns with the existing charter school law that must be addressed by the Legislature:”

*A retroactive provision in Act 262 may require an additional appropriation to the 2001-2002 school year;

*The current law created two methods of allocation — one for new charters and one for conversion charters;

*Involves the state auditor in the allocation process, blurring an executive branch function into the roles and duties of the legislative branch.

Solutions to Hawaii’s charter school problem also include the removal of caps on the number of charter schools allowed, removal of collective bargaining from charter schools, creating multiple authorizers for charter schools, giving authority to the Superintendent, developing measurable goals and allowing for annual public review, legislating equal funding formula for all students, removing Board of Education members from New Century Charter Review Panel and allowing each charter school to become an LEA.

SB 1700 not only does not address these issues, it sets the effective date at 2054 — a typo indeed, but critics of the Legislature and state education system say the date may represent a foreshadowing given the long standing inability of the Legislature to get good law written.

”’Laura Brown is the education reporter for HawaiiReporter.com and can be reached via email at”’ mailto:LauraBrown@hawaii.rr.com

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