Charter School Finances – Preparing for 2015 Legislative Session

As you know, the upcoming 2015 session of the Minnesota Legislature is a budget session and there are a number of charter school finance issues that have become fornt burner issues as a result of legislative actions over the last several years. Some of these issues are a result of the condition of state finances in the recent past, others as a result of policy positions of the past and current administrations, and others as a result of proposals by members of the legislature.

Among the reasons for the growing equity in funding between traditional districts and charter schools are the following legislative decisions:

  •  The decision to fund more education costs through property taxes rather than state taxes,
  •  The decision to phase out the state portion of local operating levies,
  •  The decision to end Extended School Year funding,
  •  The decision to allow school districts to impose operating levies without voter approval,
  •  The decision to exclude charter schools from “Small School Funding Disparity” formula,
  •  The decision to require charter schools to pay a portion of excess special education costs

The cumulative effect of these actions, no matter the source, has been a growing gap in funding equity between students who attend traditional public school district schools and those who attend public charter schools. The equity gap according to studies is most profound in the metropolitan urban core, however, the inequity is growing no matter where charter school students live or attend school.

All of these, and other decisions by the legislature and the Administration are expanding the inequity in funding. It is gap continues to grow at some point  it will raise a constitutional issue of whether the State of Minnesota is providing equitable resources to all of Minnesota’s public school students. Hopefully, the issue of growing funding inequity will be addressed by the administration and legislature before things reach that point.

However, we cannot nor should we expect them to take up the issue unless the charter school community speaks with one voice about this growing inequity in funding. It is the job of the entire charter school community to raise the issue, work to educate lawmakers about the impact on public school students who choose charter schools, and advocate for changes in public policy.

Everyone in the charter school community needs to become an active advocate for equitable funding for all public school students, no matter which public school they attend, charter schools or traditional schools.

Servant Leadership, Boards and Government Regulation

Last week I took the opportunity to attend the 24th Annual International Servant Leadership Conference put on by the Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership in Atlanta. (The conference, which I have attended about a half dozen times is one of the best professional and personal growth events I have ever found as it brings people from all walks of life together from business, government, non-profit, academia, social services and more to focus on the principles of servant leadership in the workplace and one’s life.)

Among the areas that Greenleaf himself, and now the Center focuses on is Boards.

In one of his major essays – TRUSTEES AS SERVANTS, Greenleaf wrote: “A basic conceptual flaw in the conventional wisdom of institutional structures is the inadequacy- or even absence-of provision for trustees to be a functioning part of the institution’s leadership.” But instead of lamenting the state of governance he called on boards to take up their leadership responsibilities and not just be passive actors or do just their required fiduciary duties.

In his book Servant Leadership in the Boardroom, Kent Keith, former CEO of the Greenleaf Center writes that: “Weak and ineffective boards have allowed their institutions to languish or go astray, with negative impacts on employees, customers, business partners, shareholder or members, communities, … Greenleaf did not urge more government regulation as the solution to the problem. … Instead of relying on government regulation, Greenleaf urged boards to assume the leadership that they were created to provide. If boards would step up, then government regulators would not have to step in.”

Every year the charter school movement is faced with proposals for more government regulation of governance. These proposals come about as a result of individual charter school boards and charter schools boards as a group not leading. It is time for every charter school board to step it up, or face more government regulators stepping in.

For those unfamiliar with Robert Greenleaf and the principles of Servant Leadership I suggest Greenleaf’s essay entitled The SERVANT as LEADER.

http://greenleaf.org/product-category/robert-k-greenleafs-writings/

The High School for Recording Arts in the Spotlight

The High School for Recording Arts (HSRA) – St. Paul was spotlighted in a recent report, “OVER-AGE, UNDER-CREDITED STUDENTS AND PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS: An Exploration of Successes, Strategies, and Opportunities for Expansion” published by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

http://www.publiccharters.org/publications/ou/

The report looks at the programs of  five charter schools across the country that are serving Over-Age, Under-Credited Students and the success those schools are having with the student they serve. It also looks at some structure and policy challenges these schools and other schools have in serving this segment of students, including the lack of accountability systems that take a holistic approach and view of student success.

But back to HSRA - http://www.hsra.org/ – it will again be in the spotlight at the 3rd Annual Alternative Accountability Policy Forum in mid- November, when Tony Simmons, Executive Director of the school will be on a panel to discuss some of the school’s strategies, successes and challenges.

 

 

 

2013 -2014 MACS Government Affairs Report

Government Affairs Report for 2013-2014  

When the  88th Minnesota Legislature convened for the first session in January 2013 there were indications that the legislature would give little time, if any to the needed changes in Minnesota’s charter school law and that, if there was any focus on charter school issues, the focus would be on issues raised by opponents to chartering.”…

… “It was clear from almost all of the meetings that our legislative agenda would need to be narrowly focused technical proposals, as the priorities of the sessions were going to be on state fiscal issues and a host of non-education issues, and that in terms of education the priorities were school funding formula changes, teacher and administrator evaluation, career and college readiness, safe and supportive schools and English language learners.

So within that context, the Association’s expectations for the 88th legislature were modest and we adjusted our strategy to accommodate legislative realities. Despite those realities the Association was able to secure enactment of a number of our legislative proposals.

To read more of the Report and our Legislative Accomplishments and Challenges in the 88th Session.

http://www.mncharterschools.org/_uls/resources/MACS_2013-2014_Government_Affairs_Report.pdf

 

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October – National Bullying Prevention Month

National Bullying Prevention Month was developed in 2006 by the PACER Center, which is headquartered in Minneapolis as a way to raise awareness about the issue of bullying, the impact of bullying on kids and what communities can do prevent bullying and support kids who are bullied.

Earlier this year the Minnesota Legislature enacted the Safe and Supportive Schools Act which requires public schools to take a comprehensive approach to addressing the bullying that focuses on prevention and education. The Act requires school boards to adopt a comprehensive local policy, and provide staff training and programming for students.

In late May, MACS published a POLICY BRIEF on the Safe and Supportive School Act to assist boards, administrators and teachers understand the requirements of the new law.

http://www.mncharterschools.org/_uls/resources/Policy_Brief_1_Safe_and_Supportive_Schools.docx.pdf

The PACER Center offers a wealth of tools and resources for educators, parents and young people to address bullying.

http://www.pacer.org/bullying

The PACER CENTER is also sponsoring a UNITY DAY – Wednesday, October 22nd – a day to show support for those who have been bullied. People are encouraged to wear Orange on that day as a sign of their support of “Being Good to Each Other”.

The HAZELDEN FOUNDATION, also headquartered in Minnesota has a anti-bullying program called Olweus Bullying Prevention Program that has been used in elementary, middle and high schools for over 15 years.

http://www.violencepreventionworks.org/public/index.page

We encourage charter school boards, administrators and staff to take time in October to examine the status of the school policy, the training and programming offered to staff and students and put into place whatever the school needs to do to make every Minnesota charter school a safe and supportive place for students to learn and make progress in fulfilling their dreams and aspirations.

Association News – September 18, 2014

Earlier this week the MACS website – www.mncharterschools.org was updated to make the website more user friendly.

  • Homepagebuttons were added to make it easier to find information on Membership and News.
  • Directoriesa “narrow search” button was added to help make it easier to narrow searches for schools, and a revised email link to schools has been added on each school’s profile page, and in the next month school enrollments will be added in the profile section on each school’s page.
  • Government Affairspages and content have been revised to make it easier to find information.
  • IQA Initiativespages have been added (Student Services and Transportation), others revised (Management/Operations to Financial Management and Human Resources to Talent Management) and the drop down menu revised to make it easier to find topics.
  • Networking And Exchangetwo new buttons were added Resources and Links and School Cooperative Projects.
  • Contact Usa new dropdown menu was added so that emails sent through our website are directed to an individual staff member rather than general mail – which should speed up responses.

The site is also being updated with more graphics and photos as well as new and updated content.

New Resource: The SEVEN RED FLAGS – Personnel/Employee Handbooks

Today the Association published a new resource for our member schools: The Seven RED FLAGS – Personnel/Employee Handbooks. It  is designed to outline things that an the charter school, as an employer should be aware of in developing and revising handbooks. Given the three different types of employment relationships that could exist in a charter school it is incredibly important that personnel policies and practices are aligned with the types of employment relationship(s) that exist.

The most efficient way for an employer to provide employees with these policies and practices is through an employee or personnel handbook. While the opinions of legal and human resource professionals  may vary on how much detail employers should include in personnel policies or handbooks, there are some commonly agreed upon RED FLAGS regarding employee handbooks that may create or increase the likelihood of legal action in personnel matters.

http://www.mncharterschools.org/iqa-services/human-resources.php  [Documents]

MN Statutes 124D.10 (Charter School Law) and MN Statutes 181 (Employment Law) both require that employees be given a written description of the terms and conditions of employment and personnel policies.