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ECS Governance NotesAugust - September 2002

Governance Notes Archives


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

While the recent U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in the Cleveland school VOUCHER case was definitive in terms of federal constitutional provisions, it says nothing about the continued application of restrictive clauses in state constitutions. In this column, Frank Kemerer examines these clauses, and their potential impact on the growth of publicly funded voucher programs.

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On April 23, 2002, IOWA Governor Thomas Vilsack signed H.B. 348 into law. This bill creates a pilot charter school program, whose implementation is contingent upon Iowa's receiving federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education's Public Charter Schools Program. The bill allows up to 10 charter schools to be created if the federal government appropriates money from the program to Iowa.

In June 2002, PENNSYLVANIA policymakers enacted H.B. 4. This bill transfers authority for the establishment, evaluation and renewal of cyber charter schools from local school districts to the state department of education, and requires the department to establish guidelines in a number of areas affecting cyber charter schools, including attendance procedures, computer versus personal instruction time, and curriculum standards. It also requires the state to reimburse local school districts for up to 30% of the per-pupil funds lost when prospective students enroll in cyber charter schools.

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According to "How Are the Boston PILOT SCHOOLS Faring? An Analysis of Student Demographics, Engagement, and Performance," Boston's pilot schools serve a student population generally representative of the Boston Public Schools. Pilot-school students perform well on all available measures of student engagement and performance, and are among the top performing of all Boston's public schools.

"Understanding the Basic Bargain: A Study of CHARTER SCHOOL Accountability in Massachusetts and Texas" provides a detailed examination of the basic bargain of autonomy for accountability from the perspective of charter schools and their respective state authorizers in Massachusetts and Texas. It argues that the contractual relationship between charter schools and the agencies charged with overseeing them will be the lasting legacy of the charter movement.

"School VOUCHERS: Settled Questions, Continuing Disputes," produced by The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, contains two documents. The first is a joint statement on school vouchers and the U.S. Constitution written by leading law professors, who provide nonpartisan description and analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court's resolution of this issue and a brief and balanced presentation of major arguments on important constitutional issues that the Court did not resolve. The second document is a set of contrasting essays on whether it is advisable for states to adopt school voucher plans as a way of strengthening education.

According to the "Evaluation of the Performance Driven Budgeting Initiative of the New York City Board of Education (1997-2000)," the initiative produced a new budgeting system in which SCHOOL-LEVEL DECISIONMAKING is driving change upward through New York City's community school districts and central administrative structure. The study also found indications that academic outcomes in schools participating in the initiative have improved relative to schools not participating in it.

"CHARTER SCHOOLS and the New Accountability Provisions in NCLB" examines some of the critical issues that charter schools and their authorizers will face as states respond to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act's new accountability provisions. One of the major conclusions of the paper is that it is unclear whether the act's prescribed consequences for poor performance will take precedence over the terms of a given authorizer's pre-existing charters or contracts.

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The ECS National Center on Governing America's Schools is tracking a number of SCHOOL GOVERNANCE issues, including takeovers, charter schools and P-16 systems. A new publication, "What's Hot in School Governance? Takeovers, Charter Schools and P-16 Systems," examines state activity in each of these areas in 2001 and early 2002, explores recent research findings and provides key questions for state policymakers.

The ECS National Center on Governing America's Schools recently completed "State COLLECTIVE BARGAINING Policies for Teachers," which provides information on collective-bargaining policies in the states, including which states have such policies, who is covered by them, the scope of coverage, impasse procedures and whether strikes are permitted.

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The ECS National Center on Governing America's Schools is working on a policy brief on CYBER CHARTER SCHOOLS. This paper will identify where such schools have opened, and will examine existing state policy on cyber charter schools. It will also raise key questions for policymakers to consider as they debate and discuss cyber charter schools.

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


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