Over the last several years, NSEA has been calling for greater accountability and controls for charter schools, including a cap on charter school expansion. While this proposal was not successful, the legislature passed a 5-year “Growth Management Plan” for charters. Interestingly enough, while the Charter School Authority was developing this “Growth Management Plan”, they approved nearly 5000 new charter slots. This past week we found that charter school slots are projected to increase 8.6% in FY22 and a whopping 15.9% in FY23, while enrollment in neighborhood public schools remains relatively stagnant.
We know the explosive growth of charters has been driven by deliberate, billionaire-backed efforts to exempt charters from the basic safeguards and standards that apply to our neighborhood public schools. This growth has created an uneven dynamic, undermining local public schools and communities, without producing an overall increase in student learning and growth.
While the Charter School Authority has made some improvement since last session, including actually conducting site visits by the State Public Charter School Authority (SPCSA), let’s be honest with each other—the Charter School Authority is only now clearing a relatively low bar of accountability. While it is great the Charter Authority has just begun to address the baked-in biases against disadvantaged students, when looking at overall charter student populations, charter schools serve proportionally fewer at-risk students, English learners, and students with disabilities. Even with progress on more diversity in new charter seats, there is no path for charters to achieve parity in the foreseeable future.
We learned of the extent of problems with the inner workings of charter operators and charter management organizations last June, when the Nevada Current reported on a dispute between the American Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas and their Utah-based, for-profit management organization. This included large payouts to education management organizations who the charter claimed provided little in terms of services and complicated financial relationships related to charter school facilities.
AB419 does not address the issue of charter growth or the issue of student mix and as amended no longer prohibits operators of the lowest performing charter schools from opening new charter schools. Instead, it is a very modest reform when the situation calls for more sweeping change.