New Mexico: Charters Need Regulation

new-mexico
by Meredith Machen
LWVNM has a new charter school position that shows where we stand. We need to stand together to fight all attempts to drain essential resources from traditional public schools!
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LWVNM Charter School Regulation Position

Adopted by the LWVNM Board, November 12, 2016

The League of Women Voters of New Mexico believes that every student should have access to a high quality, publicly funded education regardless of race, ethnicity, family income, or geographical location.  The League believes in accountability, transparency, and equity in the use of public funds for education.

 Charter schools are discretionary programs intended to fill unmet needs and/or to test innovative instructional strategies to produce quality educational outcomes. Policy makers must ensure that adequate funds are available for traditional public schools and define how charter schools fill unmet needs.  Appropriate instructional and support services must be provided to meet the diverse needs of individual students in both traditional public and charter schools.

Regarding the mission of charter schools, the LWVNM believes the following:

  • A charter school should not be authorized unless

its mission would serve a need the traditional schools cannot;

funds are available;

there is a demonstrated need based on student population projections.

  • New Mexico should provide flexibility and supplemental funding for magnet programs and career academies within traditional public schools.
  • Charter school innovations demonstrated to be effective should be disseminated to improve the traditional public education system.
  • The state should establish a closure policy revoking the contract of a charter school that fails to meet minimum academic, financial, and organizational standards for two consecutive years or for two of the three most recent years.

 For the sake of assuring accountability and transparency and minimizing the fiscal impact, LWVNM recommends the following:  

  • A charter school’s finances should be available for public scrutiny, and budget processes should be similar to those for school districts, which require the public to be provided with an opportunity for input into decision-making.
  • Charter school governing council members should adhere to standards and best practices as delineated by the NM School Boards Association.
  • Funding to state-chartered schools should minimize the amount allocated to for-profit management and business operations with oversight provided by state-approved auditors.
  • The school funding formula should be equitable so as not to advantage charter schools over traditional public schools. 
  • NM should develop an effective performance-based accountability system for charter schools focused on increased proficiency, academic growth, and college/career readiness standards to ensure that charter schools demonstrate positive student outcomes. Charter schools that do not meet the established benchmarks should be put on time-limited improvement plans and not allowed to increase enrollment until they have met the benchmarks.

 

LWVNM believes that public funding for virtual schools should be less per student since the schools do not require brick and mortar facilities.

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For more information about the League’s formal two-year comprehensive Charter School Regulation Study and how this position was determined through research and member consensus, please contact president@lwvnm.org. This position will be incorporated into LWVNM’s complete Education position available at http://lwvnm.org/positions.html#education.

 

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New Mexico: The Charter Debate Escalates

by Meredith Machen, New Mexico
New MexicoThe New Mexico charter debate is particularly interesting because the state has tried to responsibly regulate charter management.  In yesterday’s post, I mentioned the 59 state managed charters, but there are also 43 district chartered schools.  Clearly the state’s Public Education Department is overwhelmed even though they only manage a few more than half of the charters.
New Mexico’s dual charter management system: state and local, should be a caution to Florida’s charter advocates.  Central state management as proposed by some in Florida, has overwhelmed the New Mexico Public Education Department.
Meredith, President of the NM League sends more background information on the charter management problems.

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Florida Gets an ‘F’ Again

FAILED1Which states get it right?  Not Florida.  It was one of eight states that received an overall grade of ‘F’ when its grades were averaged across the categories studied.   The Network for Public Education rated states based on six criteria.

For each category, I combined the percentages of A, B and C grades received across states.  I was surprised at the results.  Relatively few states (11) use test scores to punish students and teachers, but Florida is one of those that do.  You can see the combined percentages (think of them as passing scores) at the end of each of the criteria.

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LWV New Mexico Proposes Charter School Study

by Meredith Machen

bisti-939735_1280League of Women Voters of New Mexico Study

Charter School Regulations: Public School Funding, Accountability, and Transparency

Scope of Study: In the context of the growing emphasis of some governmental policy-makers on promoting charter schools, this study will review information regarding the regulations and policies from which charter schools are released to determine if the exemptions from regulations may impede the progress of traditional public schools and the sufficiency of funding for public schools.

Because charter schools are publicly funded, the study raises the question of whether they should be held to standards of accountability and transparency that are at least as rigorous as those of traditional public schools. The study will also examine the need for changes in charter school regulations regarding their missions (which now allow adults to get their high school credentials, have specialized curricula, and alternative assessments), their governing bodies (which are not publicly elected or complying with the Open Meetings Act), their  operations (which are not publicly audited), and rules for authorization and reauthorization.

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New Mexico LWV Urges Moratorium on Charters

by Meredith Machen

New MexicoThe President of the New Mexico League of Women Voters calls for a moratorium on new charter schools.  She cites the Center for Public Education:  “46 State Education Agencies are cutting back on charter school funding because of their fiscal difficulties, the challenges of delivering adequate special education services, and the lack of staff available to provide proper oversight. We hope that NM will follow suit and impose a moratorium until the data demonstrates the need.”

Meredith supports her position with data.

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New Mexico Cites Inequity in Funding for Charters

New Mexico

by Meredith Machen

New Mexico’s League has become alarmed at the shift in funding from traditional public schools to charters.  Too much charter funding is misused according to the National Education Policy Center.

Please see the chart below from the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee which shows that from FY08 to FY15 charter schools received 46 percent of the change in funding while educating only 6.6% percent of all students.  Over the last 7 years there has been a steady increase in funding for public education.  School districts received about $114 million in additional funding while charter schools received about $98 million.

 

Table xx: Change in Funding from FY08 to FY15 for Charter Schools and School Districts
FY08 Funding FY15 Funding Number of Students, FY15 Change Funding
Charter Schools $92,723,831 $190,656,486 22,008 $97,932,655
School Districts $2,234,708,899 $2,348,700,663 309,178 $113,991,764
Statewide $2,327,432,730 $2,539,357,150 331,187 $211,924,420
Source: PED

For the larger context, please see the report from the National Policy Education Center below.

The Business of Charter Schooling: Understanding the Policies that Charter Operators Use for Financial Benefit

Four major policy concerns are identified in the report:

  1. A substantial share of public expenditure intended for the delivery of direct educational services to children is being extracted inadvertently or intentionally for personal or business financial gain, creating substantial inefficiencies;
  2. Public assets are being unnecessarily transferred to private hands, at public expense, risking the future provision of “public” education;
  3. Charter school operators are growing highly endogenous, self-serving private entities built on funds derived from lucrative management fees and rent extraction which further compromise the future provision of “public” education; and
  4. Current disclosure requirements make it unlikely that any related legal violations, ethical concerns, or merely bad policies and practices are not realized until clever investigative reporting, whistleblowers or litigation brings them to light.

Recommendations to address these concerns are listed in the NEPC report.  Charters should be public in more than name only.  They financial data should be transparent, their facilities should be publically owned, oversight should be improved to include major contracts between EMOs and charters.  More attention must be paid to open meetings, independence of boards and other agents involved in the charter schools, and funding oversight based on tracking the movement of students from school to school or for students with special needs must be improved to reduce gaming incentives.

 

LWV New Mexico Focuses on Strategies for Academic Success

by Meredith Machen, LWV New Mexico

nm2Meredith Machen, President of the New Mexico League, has just won The New Mexican 10 Who Made a Difference award for 2015.  She sends us their LWVNM positions and strategies to support public education.

This could not be more timely.  Here in Florida, we are working on a similar statement.  It is easier to criticize the many shortcomings of current education policy than it is to formulate workable strategies, but New Mexico has set a high standard.  They address many current problems in constructive ways.

The LWV-Florida is compiling strategies from other state leagues as well.  Send us yours.

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New Mexico Struggles Against Inequity

 

el-morro-national-monument-140118_1280‘New Mexico’s education department is in court.  So are those in 12 other states, including Florida.  This lawsuit is about money, but not just the amount of money.  In New Mexico, the population is different from many states, and the needs are greater.

Meredith Machen sent information about their state that helps to better understand the challenges they face.   Take heart, some public education advocates are winning in court.

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