HomeSchool Reform NewsColorado Liberals Chip Away at School Choice

Colorado Liberals Chip Away at School Choice

Colorado liberals chip away at school choice, proposing legislation that would limit charter schools’ numbers, increase regulation, and raise costs.

By Eileen Griffin

Liberal Democrats introduced a bill to tighten the state’s grip on charter schools in Colorado.

House Bill 1363 would tighten regulations on Colorado’s 260 charter schools bringing rules in line with public schools, The Colorado Sun reports.

The bill would allow school districts to limit the number of charter schools allowed to operate in the state. Public school districts would have the authority to limit their existence. Any district that is losing students would have the right to eliminate the competition presented by charter schools.

School boards would also have the power to refuse to renew an existing charter school. Even if a school has been operating for years, they can be denied renewal at the discretion of the school board. Appeal options are limited.

HB 1363 would also require charter schools to pay rent to use public school facilities. Under current Colorado law, charter schools are allowed to use facilities owned by the public school district and fees cannot exceed $12 per year. The proposed bill would eliminate the $12 cap.

Advocates for the bill say it will provide more transparency. Charter schools will be required to post any laws and policies they are exempt from in an accessible and understandable manner.

Opponents to the bill say that they will lose the autonomy and independence that have made charter schools successful.

Under HB 1363 charter schools would lose freedom to make decisions such as hiring and firing of teachers, The Federalist reports. It would eliminate waivers that currently allow charter schools to choose curricula and study materials.

Under the new law, all decisions will be made by Colorado State Board of Education, which is dominated by Democrats.

“The sponsors’ intent is clear: to end Colorado’s longstanding, highly successful charter school movement,” write Rob Moulton and Tim Hannan for The Federalist. “Effectively every line in the 55-page bill represents a full frontal assault on charters and the hundreds of thousands of families they serve across Colorado.”

Colorado is already facing declining enrollment in seven out of ten of the largest school districts. If this bill passes, those districts immediately have the authority to deny a request to open a new charter school or reject an existing school charter renewal.

“Declining enrollment suggests more choice and innovation, not less, would be a strategy worth pursuing,” Moulton and Hannan write. “The sponsors clearly disagree, preferring to add an extra padlock to the chains holding families in their traditional public schools.”

Charter schools are very popular in the state of Colorado, Fox 13 reports. They continue to grow, but this bill would make expansion of charters far more difficult.

The office of the Governor, Jared Polis (D), provided a statement expressing his opposition to the proposed bill.

“Colorado is a national leader in education access, innovation, and choice,” the statement reads. “Public charter schools are a popular option in Colorado, serving around 15 percent of our school-aged children. This bill would weaken, rather than strengthen, school choice in Colorado and the Governor strongly opposes it.”

The bill’s sponsors say they want to require charter schools to be transparent with the state and the public, KOAA reports. They would like to track enrollment, teacher retention, and finances for the schools.

They would have the right to require that charter schools submit their expenses and report revenue. Any school that does not submit the required reporting could have their charter revoked.

The Colorado League of Charter Schools says that the freedom from reporting requirements and the ability to choose learning materials is key to the success of Colorado’s charter schools.

“Our current public education system is ill-equipped to consistently provide high-quality options to all learners because of its top-down, overly static, overly bureaucratic approach,” the organization’s website states. “What we need instead is a bottom-up approach that empowers educators, families and communities and allows for new ideas in the public education space.”

“Autonomy and accountability lie at the heart of what makes charter schools successful. Without school-level control over such key factors as staffing, budget, and educational program, charter schools would not have the tools necessary to innovate and be responsive to their students and families in the way their communities need.”

Democrats control both houses in the legislature and the Governor is a Democrat but, on this bill, there is not uniform support from Democrats. It is expected to be reviewed in committee in April.

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Eileen Griffin
Eileen Griffin
Eileen Griffin, MBA, Ph.D., is a contributing editor at Heartland Daily News and writes on a wide range of topics, from crime and criminal justice to education and religious freedom. Griffin worked for more than 20 years in leadership roles in the financial industry and is the author of books on business and politics.


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