One of the functions of a Board is to undertake a regular and careful assessment of the threats, the challenges, and the opportunities ahead.
In June, the MACS Board spent a day looking at the internal and external threats to Minnesota’s Charter School Movement. As part of the day long exercise the Board identified and discussed over 24 potential internal and external threats. The board then prioritized the most critical threats,and as it did the board, “… looked beyond simple answers and focused on the fact that it is normally the internal threats that do the most to undermine a movement, given that it is unaddressed internal threats that often provide energy and life to the external threats.”
Through the course of the day it was clear that there are four potential threats that should be the focus of the Association’s attention and action if Minnesota’s Charter School Movement is to continue to grow and be sustained: They four potential threats are: the Capacity and Effectiveness of Board Governance; the Management Capacity and/or Leadership of School Administration; the Capacity, Quality and Quantity of Authorizing and the Level of Political Engagement by the Charter School Community.
For more on the Challenges: A REFLECTION ON THE CHALLENGES for MINNESOTA’S CHARTER SCHOOL MOVEMENT
WASHINGTON [State] – 8/15/2014 – The Washington State Supreme Court announced that it would hear arguments on whether the charter school law adopted by voters in 2012 is constitutional. The main issue in the case is whether charter schools qualify under the state constitution as “common schools” which would make them eligible for certain categories of public funding – including funding for facilities. The lawsuit against the constitutional of charters in Washington State being qualified as “common schools” has been brought by a consortium of groups including the League of Women Voters and the state teacher’s union. Source: Seattle Times
LOUISIANA – 8/17/2014 – The Iberville Parish (COUNTY) School Board announced that it will file a lawsuit against the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Education over that agency’s approval of Type 2 charters (charter schools approved directly by the State without approval from the local school board). The lawsuit is aimed at the State for directing the local board to give charter schools funding based on projected enrollments rather than actual enrollments which in turn that affect the district’s share of the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP), a constitutionally set amount of money to public schools. The lawsuit will claim that the State is violating the constitution that specifically defines how the funds from the MFP are to be disbursed to school districts. Source: The Advocate – Baton Rouge
NEW MEXICO – 8/16/2014 – The New Mexico State Auditor released a report on the financial affairs of two charter schools in Albuquerque. The report cites ‘Procurement Violations, Conflicts of Interest and Increased Fraud Risks Related to Leases, and that the Official Actions of the Head Administrator Enhanced His Personal Financial Interests’. The report also raised ‘Concerns over the High Salaries and Generous Benefits Packages for the Top Charter School Staff.’ The State Auditor referred some of issues to the FBI for further action, and called on the State Education Agency and the State Legislature to take action to strengthen charter school financial oversight to reduce the risk of fraud, waste and abuse. Source: New Mexico Office of State Auditor Press Release
CHARTER SCHOOL NEWS
Beacon Preparatory School and Seven Hills Classical Academy Merge – On July 1, 2014 Beacon Preparatory School (Grades 6-8) and Seven Hills Classical Academy (Grades K-5) merged and will be known as Seven Hills Classical Academy. Both schools have been located in the same building in Bloomington for the last several years.
- New Charter Schools Opening this Fall
Art and Science Academy, Isanti; Bodte Learning Center, Minneapolis; Minnesota Math and Science Academy, St. Paul; Northeast College Prep, Minneapolis; Sejong Academy, St. Paul; Star of the North Academy, East Bethel; St. Cloud Math and Science Academy, St. Cloud; Technical Academies of Minnesota, Wilmer; Universal Academy, St. Paul; Woodbury Leadership Academy, Woodbury.
Earlier this month ARCH Academy, Minneapolis announced it was closing due to low enrollment – the school opened in Fall, 2013.
CHARTERS IN THE NEWS
Jennings Community Learning Center, St. Paul, was profiled in the July 23rd Backstories Supplement of the Highland Villager Newspaper, a widely read community newspaper in St. Paul. The profile outlined the school’s grades 7-12 program, its history, alumni and faculty, and the renovation the school is undertaking this summer which will allow the school space to grow to an enrollment of about 95 students.
Academic Arts High School, West St. Paul and Nasha Skola Charter, Minnetonka, were profiled in the recent Career Education Guide of CITY PAGES, the weekly alternative newspaper of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Last week the MACS Board adopted a policy that ties the annual membership dues for Pre-Operational and First Year Schools to the annual minimum annual dues for operating schools.
For FY15 (2014-2015) the annual minimum school membership dues are $2,320.
Under the old policy the annual membership dues for Pre-Operational schools were $2,500, and First Year Membership Dues were based on June 15th enrollment projections schools submitted to MDE. Linking First Year membership dues to these projections proved to be problematic for a number of reasons.
The new policy completes the membership dues formula policy adopted by the Board last year and will make is easier for new schools to budget for membership in the Association.
NOTE: The minimum Annual Membership Dues for FY16 ( July, 2015- June, 2016) will be $2,335, based on the new policy formula adopted last year.
A recent (8/11/2014) STAR TRIBUNE article “Teachers who pay for students’ supplies get some welcome help” was a reminder that the real cost of education is not often appreciated by a lot of folks, and that teachers, charities and parents also cover some of the costs of a free public education.
Teachers - The article discusses how teachers spend their own money (often hundreds of dollars) to buy school supplies for the kids in their classes and materials for their classrooms through relaying the experience of four teachers. Three of the teachers mentioned in the article teach in charter schools; Jesse Maloney, Hmong College Prep – St. Paul, Patricia Hampton, Learning for Leadership Charter School – Minneapolis and Christine Pilney, LIFE Prep – St. Paul.
Charities – The article also highlights the work of the national Kids In Need Foundation which assists teachers in high poverty schools with supplies and a local non-profit, Companies to Classroom that work to provide supplies to teachers in some schools districts in suburban areas of Hennepin and Carver Counties.
Parents - While there is help for some teachers who buy supplies for their students’ through these non-profits, the beginning of the school year is a good time for schools to remind parents that many instructional materials and supplies, equipment, books and fees qualify for Minnesota’s K-12 Education Tax Subtraction (Deduction) and Tax Credit Program.
The Association has expanded the Board Leadership Training offerings for Fall – 2014 with two new courses, Course 110 – What it Takes to Make Governance Work and Course 310 - The Board’s Role in Personnel Management, which is being offered as an On-line Course.
In addition, Course 300 – Employment in Charter Schools has been revamped, and Course 200 – Charter School Finances: A Public Trust is now being offered exclusively as an On-line Course.
Courses 100, 200 and 300 (the courses that cover the legally required topics for new board members) are now open to board members of all of Minnesota’s charter schools on a tuition-fee basis. ( These three courses are offered to board and staff members of MACS member schools free of charge as a membership benefit).
More information on the courses, and schedule of courses can be found in the Fall – 2014 Board Leadership Course Catalog