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ECS Governance NotesJanuary - February 2004

Governance Notes Archives


Welcome to ECS Governance Notes, a bimonthly e-mail publication with links to key information on education governance.

At the end of the fourth year of a study of Cleveland's VOUCHER program, conclusions about the impact of the program on students' academic achievement remain elusive, says Kim Metcalf of the Indiana Center for Evaluation. In this issue's guest column, Metcalf discusses major findings from the center's multi-year study of one of the nation's most closely watched pilot programs.

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COLORADO policymakers have introduced a bill (H.B. 1141) that will allow charter school applicants to become authorized by the state board of education if a local school board rejects their application. If the state board approves the application, the school becomes a "state charter school," is under the board's general supervision, is subject to accreditation and is a local education agency.

As part of a recently passed spending bill, the U.S. Congress created a publicly funded voucher program for the DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA. The bill provides $13 million to cover vouchers of up to $7,500 for at least 1,700 children once the program is phased in. Children in families whose household income does not exceed 185% of the federal poverty line will receive priority, as will students in schools failing to make adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind Act.

WASHINGTON policymakers have introduced a bill (H.B. 2295) that will create a charter school law. This bill allows for the creation of five new charter schools per year over a six-year period beginning July 1, 2004. It also allows local school boards to convert existing schools that are classified as low performing under the No Child Left Behind Act into charter schools.

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"Evaluation of the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program: 1998-2002" by the Indiana Center for Evaluation presents the accumulated findings of a four-year study of Cleveland's VOUCHER program. According to the report, students who participate in the program are more likely to be Caucasian, Hispanic or multiracial, whereas public school students are more likely to be African American. Also, after adjusting for students' minority status and family income, there is no consistent pattern either of enhanced or diminished academic achievement for students who have used a scholarship to attend public schools from kindergarten through 4th grade.

The Brookings Institution established the National Working Commission on Choice in K-12 Education to explore how CHOICE works and to examine how communities interested in the potential benefits of new school options could obtain them while avoiding choice's potential damage. In the commission's report, entitled "School Choice: Doing It the Right Way Makes a Difference," the commission explores choice in terms of four key issues: benefits to children whose parents choose new schools; benefits to children whose families do not exercise choice; effects on the national commitment to equal opportunity and school desegregation; and advancement of social cohesion and common democratic values.

What are the consequences when mayors lead urban districts? According to Kenneth Wong and Francis Shen, MAYORAL TAKEOVER is associated with greater levels of per-pupil expenditures in core education functions, such as instruction and student support. While there is some mixed evidence on recent student achievement, there is no evidence to suggest that mayoral takeover will leave the worst schools behind in the wake of reform, write Wong and Shen in "When Mayors Lead Urban Schools: Toward Developing a Framework to Assess the Effects of Mayoral Takeover of Urban Districts."

In "Creating a Network of Charter Schools in Buffalo," the Education Innovation Consortium explores the feasibility of creating a NETWORK OF CHARTER SCHOOLS under the auspices of the Buffalo Board of Education. From the report's perspective, charter schools bring a significant tool for meeting goals of the district's reform agenda. Furthermore, a group of schools with discretion over their own budgets can be a powerful force for change within the school district. For that to happen, however, the network must be of sufficient scale and the school district must be able to address collective bargaining rules and other issues that might impede its ability to become competitive as a contractual provider of charter services.

"Administrative Costs of Education Voucher Programs" by Paul Hill at the Center for Reinventing Public Education considers the tasks public and private agencies must undertake in local VOUCHER programs and estimates the administrative burdens and cash flows such programs create. Cost estimates within the report are approximate because costs are highly sensitive to the voucher program's design, existing local practices on providing services to children in private schools and the condition of local school district records.

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While state laws and school district policies have a large impact on the daily operations of individual schools, another set of rules and regulations affects what happens in a school each day – the collective bargaining agreements between school districts and teachers unions. "COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AND TEACHERS UNIONS IN CHARTER DISTRICTS," written by Alex Medler, Bryan Hassel and Todd Ziebarth for the ECS National Center on Governing America's Schools, presents the challenges that arise when district, union and school leaders consider changing collective bargaining agreements to support the creation of charter districts. In addition, it offers a variety of options for dealing with these challenges.

ECS' National Center on Governing America's Schools recently updated its K-12 GOVERNANCE STRUCTURES Database. From this database, you can generate profiles of individual state K-12 governance structures, comparisons of states' K-12 governance structures and predetermined reports on state K-12 governance structures.

In the two years since its enactment, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act has brought both satisfaction and apprehension to CHARTER SCHOOLS. On the one hand, NCLB largely adopts the high-stakes charter model as an accountability framework for all public schools. At the same time, NCLB has complicated the accountability relationship between charter schools and their authorizers. “Two Years and Counting: Charter Schools Under No Child Left Behind," written by Nelson Smith for the ECS National Center on Governing America's Schools, looks at how NCLB has begun affecting the American charter school community, and points toward both the promising and worrisome signs on the horizon.

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The ECS National Center on Governing America's Schools is creating a 50-state database on state policies for SCHOOL CHOICE. This database will identify state policies for open enrollment, charter schools, vouchers, tax credits, tax deductions and dual enrollment/postsecondary options. Look for the database this spring.

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To read more about Education Governance, visit the ECS Issue Site on Governance.


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