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.

Background for the Charter Audit Debate
This FY 2015 audit report includes details of many of the same problems that
came up in the FY 2013 audit.  PED questioned Moss Adams’s 2013 audit
which they said lacked “independence.” This time they used Axiom, which I
found even more shortcomings at both PED and at many of the
state-charters. The FY 2014 was turned in 11 1/2 months late and has not
yet been released.
Below is a letter to the editor of the Santa Fe New Mexican (the best
paper) thanking the ED Reporter, Robert Nott for his coverage. He keeps
referring to our call for a moratorium, but that word has raised lots of
hackles from charter supporters. In the letter, I clarify that the League
doesn’t want to shut down good charters: we recommend a hiatus before
authorizing new charters. We want the state to conduct studies of the
decline in public education students,  projections of enrollments, and the
shortfalls in instructional funding and capital outlay dollars for
facility leases and improvements, and other financial factors. PED also
needs to respond to the need for better charter school oversight. The
innovative programs and practices of good charters were supposed to be
disseminated to improve education for the masses, and they haven’t been in
NM anyway.
Wish I had had more than 150 words, or I would have requested that
policy-makers examine the positive outcomes of some past practices that
produced better results than we now have. These include magnet programs
and career academies, alternative programs which no longer get the extra
funding they used to get.
Letter to Editor, Santa Fe New Mexican:
Thanks to Robert Nott for excellent education coverage–particularly on
district funding shortfalls and charter school audit irregularities. He
mentioned the League’s call for a “moratorium.”   Perhaps “hiatus” would
have been preferable. Some charters provide undeniable value; nonetheless,
their support significantly increases education system costs funded by
taxpayer dollars. Before new charters are authorized/reauthorized,
declining school enrollments and excess school capacity in certain regions
need consideration. Because of the dire state economic situation, access
to –- and expenditure of –- scarce state education dollars must be
predicated upon successful attainment of agreed-upon goals. PED’s 2015
audit demonstrates uneven oversight and accountability and academic
performance. LFC’s Charter School Study demonstrates the need for
equitable funding to promote student achievement. Let’s analyze the data
and disseminate successful charter school programs, so our investment
improves the education for the 93% of students who attend traditional
public schools. Universal education is the foundation of democracy.
Meredith Machen, LWVNM President
Posted in Charter School Management, Charter Schools, Department of Education, New Mexico.

One Comment

  1. From the 2016 Health of the Charter Public School Movement Rankings, National Alliance for Charter Schools report:

    “While there are many successful charter public schools in New Mexico, the performance of the movement as a whole needs to improve, as demonstrated by the four quality metrics in this report. We encourage the state to ensure that authorizers are closing chronically low-performing charters. ƒ We also encourage the state to explore why charter public schools are serving lower percentages of racial and ethnic minority students and free and reduced-price lunch students than traditional public schools.”

    THEY said it. Wouldn’t it be great if some of the bad actors got closed down and the state were more judicious about authorizing new charters!

    Louisiana’s governor sponsored this bill before he was elected. It is more than reasonable, but it was stalled in committee.

    Charter proponents should consider the compromise: School districts graded C, D, or F would get eligible for charter
    schools. Charters would be allowed in districts graded A or B if the districts approved. If not allowed by the districts, they would not be allowed to authorized by the state. This limitation would make sense for it would focus scarce dollars on charters that might address the achievement gap. We should create opportunities for compromise to get everybody working in the same direction. BUT how many districts get A and B grades these days…with high stakes testing, they are set up to fail.

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