Former Minnesota State Senator Ember Reichgott Junge, author of Minnesota’s 1991 first-in-nation charter school law and 18-year legislator, testified at the hearings.
National experts on Charter Schools and Charter School laws testified that WI's current law is not in accordance with the charter school movement and that AB549, while not going far enough, is a positive step in the right direction to rectifying our charter school law. Wisconsin's law was ranked 37th out of 43 states with charter school laws last year from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools rating system against their charter school model law.
Parents and teachers testified that these PUBLIC school charter options are being demanded from parents in Wisconsin. The National experts quoted over 1 million students on wait lists for chartered schools across the country (43 states and the District of Columbia).
Instrumentality Charter Schools do not need legislation to exist. School district boards could and have created these semi-autonomous programs and schools in Wisconsin. True "charter" schools are to be totally autonomous on issues such as personnel, finance, curriculum and operations. Wisconsin law as it is now is silent on the autonomy provisions and hence we have this bifurcated system of which school district boards can authorize Charter Schools. Out of 243 "charter schools" listed in the DPI Yearbook for 2013-14 only 54 of those are truly autonomous charter schools. This was again, validated yesterday by the experts who work in the movement and strive to ensure best practices for the charter school movement.
Charter school proponents and those who are working hard to seek answers in their communities about how to effectively improve the quality of the public education system in their communities are asking for the opportunity for additional authorizers. Nationally, states with multiple charter school authorizers, in particular, higher educational institutions are known to have the highest quality charter schools in their states. There is a correlation, not necessarily in increasing the number of charter schools but in ensuring high quality and automonous charter schools for their communities.
Replication at the high stakes yard stick proposed would ensure these quality public education options would be available to families. This is particularly needed in our urban communities across the state. If a school is hitting the marks out of the park....why would we not want more of those public school options for kids?
Charter schools are PUBLIC schools and the charter bargain is that they get increased flexibility (AUTONOMY) in exchange for increased accountability. Since they are public schools they are responsible for all of the same standardized test and reports to not only DPI but also to their authorizer by the way of their up to 5 year performance charter contracts. The ultimate in accountability for these public charter schools is that they can be shut down if not fulfilling their mission and performance benchmarks or financially. BUT, they must have the autonomy to effectively operate and work to hit these accountability measures for the students and families they serve. For this they need "TRUE" autonomy.