NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Regulators Out To Box In Charters

August 13, 1999

While the charter school movement is gaining momentum, state legislatures and federal bureaucracies -- aided and abetted by teachers' unions -- are out to rein them in, warn analysts. Fans of education regulation argue that since charters receive public money they must be held accountable by the education establishment.

  • A law tucked into California's latest budget would require charters that offer home-study or distance learning programs -- which serve about one-third of the state's charter students -- to prove that their students spend the same number of minutes in class as students in other public schools, or their funding could be yanked.
  • A school which couldn't show that proof would only be able to enroll students in the county where it is based or counties that border it -- a requirement which would put some of the most innovative charters out of business.
  • In Arizona, which has more charter schools than any other state, lawmakers introduce bills each year that would hamper them -- such as requiring that charters' buildings and equipment be owned by the state, or that charter boards be publicly elected and teachers be credentialed.
  • Civil rights enforcers at the federal Justice and Education departments are blocking in court the start-up of charter schools in Louisiana and South Carolina because of the impact they could have on desegregation orders.

About 500 school districts nationwide are under desegregation orders and the outcome of the cases in those two states will prove a bellwether.

Mary Gifford, director of the Center for Market-Based Education at Arizona's Goldwater Institute, predicts that if legislators hamstring charters with more regulations and try to make them more like traditional public schools "their actions are going to drive a lot of public education supporters into the voucher camp."

Source: Anna Bray Duff, "Charter Schools in Choke Hold," Investor's Business Daily, August 13, 1999.


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