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ECS Governance NotesJune - July 2001

Governance Notes Archives


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

In "Redesigning the Operating Environments in School Districts and Schools," John Murphy and Denis Doyle assert that the need to CHANGE SCHOOL GOVERNANCE STRUCTURES has never been greater, particularly in the nation's largest districts. In this column, the authors discuss ways to change traditional bureaucratic structures, create new channels of communication and strengthen accountability mechanisms within school governance systems.

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In May, PENNSYLVANIA Governor Tom Ridge signed into law H.B. 996, which creates an educational improvement tax credit for corporations that donate money to educational improvement organizations or scholarship organizations. The amount of the tax credit cannot exceed $100,000 annually per corporation, and the total amount of tax credits cannot exceed $30,000,000 in a fiscal year, with no less than $20,000,000 used for tax credits for donations to scholarship organizations and no less than $10,000,000 used for tax credits for donations to educational improvement organizations.

In FLORIDA, Governor Jeb Bush has signed into law H.B. 21, which provides a tax credit for corporations that donate money to scholarship funding organizations. The bill requires scholarship funding organizations to use 100% of such contributions for scholarships for children who qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program. Scholarships may be used to cover tuition or textbook expenses for, or transportation to, an eligible nonpublic school or transportation expenses to a public school that is located outside the student's home district. Corporations may not contribute more than $5,000,000 to any single scholarship funding organization, and the amount of the tax credit may not exceed 75% of a corporation's tax due for the taxable year.

INDIANA became the most recent state to enact a charter schools law when Governor Frank O'Bannon in May signed S.B. 165 into law. Thirty-seven states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico now have charter school laws. The Indiana law allows local school boards, state universities and the mayor of Indianapolis to sponsor charter schools, and allows the conversion of an existing public school to a charter school if at least 67% of the teachers and 51% of the parents approve of the conversion. It also requires teachers in a charter school to hold a license to teach in a public school or be participating in the state's transition-to-teaching program, and provides for collective-bargaining rights for charter school employees.

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"The Key Work of School Boards Guidebook," a 2000 publication from the National School Boards Association, provides information to help SCHOOL BOARDS understand and achieve the essential elements of their work. The guidebook provides a framework of strategies in eight key action areas where successful school boards have focused their attention: vision, standards, assessment, accountability, resource alignment, climate, collaboration and continuous improvement.

"Autonomy in Exchange for Accountability: An Initial Study of Pennsylvania Charter Schools," a 2001 study by Gary Miron and Christopher Nelson of the Evaluation Center at Western Michigan University, examines the 31 CHARTER SCHOOLS that opened in 1998-99 and the 17 charter schools that opened in 1999-2000 in Pennsylvania. According to the study, which was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, charter schools in Pennsylvania are having some positive impacts on the predominantly at-risk student population they serve. In fact, in the four oldest charter schools they studied, students were posting gains on state assessments far in excess of those posted by students in surrounding school districts. Still, the absolute scores on state assessments for charter schools as a group were lower than the scores of traditional schools across the state during the period under study.

In "Key Elements of a Successful School-Based Management Strategy," a 2001 working paper produced by the Center on Educational Governance at the University of Southern California, Kerri Briggs and Priscilla Wohlstetter argue that recent research suggests that SCHOOL-BASED MANAGEMENT can improve instructional programs and produce higher levels of student learning. The authors synthesize research findings from major studies of school-based management to identify the eight core elements of a successful school-based management strategy.

The Ohio Legislative Office of Education Oversight recently released "Community Schools in Ohio: Second-Year Implementation Report," a two-volume report that examines the community school, or CHARTER SCHOOL, initiative in Ohio through the experiences of the 46 community schools in operation during the 1999-2000 school year. Volume I evaluates the improvements and continued problems of the community school initiative and offers recommendations. Volume II describes the overall characteristics of community schools in Ohio and provides a detailed profile of each of the 46 community schools. Click on the following links to see Volume I, Volume II.

In “Governance and Coordination of Public Higher Education in All 50 States," a 50-state study released in 2000, the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research provides a comprehensive review of all 50 states' statutes on governance and coordination of higher education. It compares all 50 states in funding for higher education, student enrollment, student tuition and fees, faculty salaries and numbers of public and private universities and community colleges, among other factors. It also includes a description of the boards and agencies governing or coordinating higher education in each state and the advantages and disadvantages of each system. Finally, it compares the power of each of these boards in many areas, including the power to set budgets for public universities, the power to establish or terminate academic programs and the power to make higher education policy. To access a press release about the report, which contains ordering information, please see October 3, 2000 News Release.

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The PRIVATIZATION OF K-12 PUBLIC EDUCATION is a multi-faceted issue. In one of its forms, school districts sell advertising space on school district property, such as school buses. In another of its forms, school districts contract with private, for-profit companies to provide specific services, which range from running a school lunch program to operating an entire school. To assist policymakers as they address this complex issue, the National Center for Governing America's Schools recently completed an issue page on the ECS Web site devoted to privatization. It contains an overview, quick facts, information on what states are doing and summaries of selected research and readings.

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Also at the 2001 National Forum in July, the National Center on Governing America's Schools will unveil its "Web-Based 50-State K-12 Public Education GOVERNANCE STRUCTURES DATABASE," which will contain information about each state's governance structure, including information about structural elements at the state, regional, school district and school levels.

The National Center on Governing America's Schools is in the final stages of work on an ECS StateNote on OPEN ENROLLMENT policies across the country. This report will include a review of the requirements about school district and school participation, who is responsible for covering a participating student's transportation costs and, as available, the level of school district, school and student participation. It will be available at the 2001 National Forum in July.

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


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