April 11, 2024

Mike DeGuire: Governor Polis Sides with Far-Right Groups in Opposing Charter School Accountability

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Colorado’s Democratic governor has come out in opposition to charter school accountabiliy. Mike DeGuire has the story for the Colorado Times Recorder.

On March 26, 2024, Colorado’s Democratic Governor Jared Polis issued a statement of “strong opposition” to a proposed charter schools accountability bill introduced by three Democratic legislators. With his statement, Polis joins far-right conservative organizations like the Koch network-funded Americans for Prosperity that hired eleven lobbyists to oppose HB24-1363, the charter schools accountability bill.

Polis’ opposition echoes the sentiments of charter school board leaders who labeled the bill an “assault on charters” in The Federalist, “a publication funded by Dick Uihlein, a packing supply magnate and Trump donor who has a history of supporting hard-right political candidates.” Polis is also siding with American Federation for Children (AFC) senior fellow Shaka Mitchell, who told Fox news that “30 years of charter school work could be undone” if the bill passes. The AFC is “funded by the billionaire Devos Family, and functions as a dark money group that promotes the school privatization agenda via the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other avenues.”

Pro-charter school voices are ecstatic with the governor’s announcement, as they referenced his longstanding support for charters in the media for weeks. Local pro-charter groups, many of whom are funded by the conservative Walton Family Foundation, have rallied their supporters to send over 40,000 emails to legislators opposing the bill. They flooded the media with criticisms and fears that the entire charter industry will “suffer death by a thousand cuts”, insisting there is venom and hostility toward charter schools. The conservative national press is sounding alarm bells, while also thanking the governor for his opposition and encouraging legislators to “follow his lead.”

The outpouring of opposition, however, conflicts with the opinions of a number of mainstream, progressive Colorado organizations. Many people across the state believe the thirty-year-old charter law is outdated. They believe adequate accountability has been lacking for the charter schools that educate students in 46 of the state’s 179 school districts. Some of the groups that are publicly committed to high levels of support for HB24-1363 include the League of Women VotersColorado PTAColorado Working Families Party,  Colorado Teachers AssociationAmerican Federation of Teachers ColoradoServicios Sigue, Latino Education Coalition, Colorado Democratic Education Initiative, Advocates for Public Education Policy, and Advocacy Denver.

CEA President Amie Baca-Ohlert stated that CEA supports parents having full information on their child’s schooling, and “local school districts should be making more decisions  on charter schools in their communities.” In a press release announcing a rally of support for the charter bill, the League of Women Voters said they view “HB24-1363 as reinstating transparency and accountability in several areas.”

Dr. Luis Torres of the Latino Education Coalition communicated that their group gave the bill a “unanimous vote of 100%,” adding “it is clear that this bill aligns with the interests and needs of the Latino community, promoting transparency and fairness in education.” Dawn Fritz of the Colorado PTA stated, “We support House Bill 24-1363 because we believe all public schools, including charter schools, must be fiscally transparent, meet the highest level of accountability, and ensure meaningful family engagement.”

HB24-1363 will reinstate more local control over charter authorization and renewal, require increased transparency for charter school expenditures and funding sources, ensure that local school districts collaborate with the charter school regarding all waivers from state laws, redefine how funding occurs for charter school use of district buildings, and require parental involvement on charter school boards. To the supporters of charter school accountability, this is simply “good government.”  Former State Representative Judy Solano stated in the Denver Post, “We should expect all publicly funded schools to be held accountable by the same rules.”

Read the full article here. 


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