I’m so glad to be back to blogging!  The length of my absence has been unpardonable, but I hope you’ll take some pity on me because I’ve been sick for the last two weeks.  We think it may have been swine flu…either that “exhaustion” is not just an illness celebrities get.  Whatever it was, I am feeling much better.  Onward and upward!

UPDATE on Charter/Charter-Like School Bills

HB1043–You may remember this bill as the “new start” bill, which allows local districts to replace the staff of an entire school that has been designated as failing for three consecutive years.  Reps. Mayo (D-Clarksdale) and Frierson (R-Pearl River) amended this bill to allow local districts to hire a charter management organization (CMO) to operate the school in lieu of the district hiring new staff.  This amendment does not authorize charter schools.  Rather, it could create charter-like schools, depending on the nature of the contract that a local district offers to a CMO.

However, when the bill hit the Senate, the Senate decided to delete the House’s language and insert SB2293, the charter school bill, with a few changes.  Now, the Senate charter language and the House “new start” language are going to conference together.  The conferees named are

House: Brown, Whittington, L. Coleman

Senate: Carmichael, Burton, Yancy

We’re not quite sure what these conferees will mean for this bill, yet.  We think it will depend on what happens in the negotiations over SB2293, the charter bill.

SB2293–That the charter school bill is still alive this late in the session is probably really surprising to many people.  But, as we blogged before, the House inserted entirely new language designed to create “innovative” schools, which are not charter schools or even charter-like schools.  Rather, the bill enables parents to petition the State Board of Education to be granted the right to manage a school that has been “failing” or “at-risk-of-failing” for three successive years.  Although MSF has some serious reservations about the Senate version, we believe the House version creates more problems than it solves, particularly in the areas of governance, autonomy, and accountability.

When the bill passed on March 9, we knew that everything hinged on who the House conferees would be.  On Friday, we finally got to see the full list:

Senate: Carmichael, Burton, Watson

House: Brown, Warren, Burnett

From our observations, we think the Senate version of the bill may have a fighting chance with these conferees.  However, we hope that both sides are willing to give to create a policy more aligned with our recommendations.  We’re also in the process of scoring both versions of the bill according to the guidelines in Race to the Top.

What Now?

We expect to see some action on at least one of these bills sometime this week, so check back with us or sign up for the RSS feed.  I’ll be in DC Wednesday and Thursday and will get to see U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, so I hope I’ll have some good tidbits to share about Race to the Top and the re-authorization of NCLB/ESEA as well.

Have a great Monday.

Rachel

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