What the Charter Bill Does (Pt. 2): Improving Transparency

This is the second post about what’s actually in the much-discussed New York State charter schools bill (S.7678/A.10928). Read about the attack on zombie charter schools in Pt. 1.

The charter schools bill that the NYS Senate approved this week doesn’t just lift the cap on charter schools, it addresses concerns about charter school transparency head-on.

Now, any sense perspective on this topic has been a scarce commodity lately. New York’s charter school regulatory system is a model for the nation, and it was more than a little absurd to hear union-backed charter foes argue for increased regulation by citing cases that the existing system caught and remedied.

Still, the charter law has plenty of room for improvement and this area is no exception. Additional sunlight on how charter schools work could help deter misbehavior, reduce mistrust, and also better equip parents to make smart school choices.

Here are the new transparency provisions in the bill, with section numbers noted.

– Annual reports by charter schools must be posted on the web by the school and the authorizer (ß 13).

– Best practices
employed by charter schools must be reviewed and reported upon annually, also by the Board of Regents (ß 15).

Board meetings by charter school directors must be publicized and open to the public, consistent with the Public Officers Law (ß 2, ß 12).

Closures of charter schools, and the reasons for each closure must be reported annually by the Board of Regents (ß 14)

Conflicts of interest among charter school board members must be disclosed as they are by traditional public school board members, consistent with the General Municipal law (ß 4).

Efforts to attract and retain high-need students must be reported by every charter school, both for the past year and for the year ahead (ß 13)

Lottery regulations to ensure transparency and equity must be issued by SED and followed by all charter schools (ß 12)

Report cards on charter schools must be sent to the local newspaper and distributed at board meetings (ß 13).

Of course, all of these measures are in addition to existing oversight and transparency structures, including the ability of charter authorizers to conduct comprehensive audits of charter schools. The full text of the bill is here.

NEXT: Meeting students’ special needs