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ECS Governance NotesAugust - September 2001

Governance Notes Archives


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

Florida has initiated a very complex education governance experiment that has potential national implications. In “Statewide Education Governance Reform: The Florida Experiment," Adam W. Herbert details these governance changes, reviews the arguments of advocates and opponents, and identifies the issues and questions that must be addressed before this governance experiment can be considered either a success or a failure.

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On August 24, 2001, the Kansas City Consensus School Governance Task Force released “Steer, Not Row: How to Strengthen Local School Boards and Improve Student Learning." This report, the result of an 18-month effort by the task force, examines trends in public education that affect school boards, discusses the policy governance approach to school board leadership and explores the relationships between school boards and student learning as well as school boards and the community. It also outlines governance structures in Kansas and Missouri and offers eight recommendations for improving the performance of school boards in the two states.

In Texas, on June 17, 2001, H.B. 6 became law without the governor's signature, and put into place a number of changes to Texas's charter school statutes. The changes include a cap on the number of charter schools that can be granted by the state board of education at 215, although current charter holders may continue to open additional campuses in line with state board of education regulations; a shift in the responsibility from the state board of education to the state commissioner of education for modifying charters, placing charter holders on probation and revoking or denying charter renewal; and a requirement for charter schools to comply with state public information and open meeting laws.

During their 2001 legislative session, Utah policymakers enacted H.B. 267, which creates a 15-member Enhancement of Public Education Task Force. The task force is charged with reviewing the ability of schools and school districts to comply with legislative and other governmental mandates given by education policymakers, and reviewing the purpose, function, roles and responsibilities of the state office of education in relation to school districts and public schools. The task force is responsible for submitting two reports to the legislature's Education Interim Committee. The first report is due by November 30, 2001, and must recommend what action the legislature or the state board of education needs to take to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the state office of education. The final report, including any proposed legislation, is due by November 30, 2002.

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“Charter School Districts," a May 2001 paper written by Paul Hill for the Progressive Policy Institute, explores the emerging concept of charter districts, which are school districts composed entirely of charter schools. It examines the differences between charter schools and charter districts, and identifies who is interested in charter districts and why. It also outlines the benefits of charter districts, and discusses who can create them.

In July 2001, the Center for Education Policy at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst released “An Analysis of State Capacity to Implement the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993." This report examines and offers recommendations concerning the overall ability of state-level organizations and individuals to implement specific portions of the education reform act, as well as the various political, organizational and financial and human resource issues that affect implementation of the act. According to the report, the act gave additional responsibilities to the state, such as funding public education, specifying what students should learn and holding educators accountable for students' achievement. But despite these increased state responsibilities, there have been few additional resources devoted to building the state's ability to effectively implement the act.

The authors of “Challenge and Opportunity: The Impact of Charter Schools on School Districts," a June 2001 report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Research and Improvement, found that every school district in the study, which examined 49 school districts in five states, reported impacts from charter schools and made changes in school district operations, in the school district educational system or in both areas. In addition, the authors identified factors related to state law and local conditions that influenced how charter schools affected school districts and how school districts responded to charter schools.

In May 2001, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) released “Governing in the Public Trust: External Influences on Colleges and Universities," a statement of principles, good practices and policy guidelines central to the work of the volunteer boards and trustees of public and independent institutions. According to AGB, this statement responds to the need for all higher education leaders to thoughtfully consider the perspectives of external voices, while resisting purely political or ideological agendas. Its intent is to provide a template of good practices and policy guidelines for boards to consider and adapt to their needs, as opposed to being prescriptive about specific solutions. Copies of this publication can be obtained for $11.95 by calling 1-202-296-8400.

“The Future of the Federal Role in Elementary & Secondary Education," a collection of papers published in February 2001 by the Center on Education Policy, focuses on what the federal role should be in elementary and secondary education and how that role might be improved and reshaped. Authors include Jack Jennings, Carl Kaestle, Richard Rothsein, Margaret Goertz, Paul Barton, Elizabeth Pinkerton, Paul Hill, David Cohen and Susan Moffit, each of whom discusses a different aspect of how the federal role in education ought to be transformed.

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The National Center on Governing America's Schools recently completed a one-of-a-kind K-12 Governance Structures Database. This database contains information about the K-12 governance structures in each state, which are broken into three levels: state, regional and school district. The state level has information about governors, legislatures, chief state school officers and state boards of education. The regional level has information about regional boards and regional superintendents. The school district level has information about local school boards, local superintendents, schools and collective-bargaining agreements. From this database, you can generate profiles of individual state K-12 governance structures, customized reports on state K-12 governance structures and comparisons of states' K-12 governance structures.

The “Open Enrollment ECS StateNote" is completed and posted on the ECS Web site. For each state's open enrollment policies, it details the nature of the policies (i.e., interdistrict vs. intradistrict, mandatory vs. voluntary), requirements for school district participation, who is responsible for covering a student's transportation costs, how desegregation court orders and/or plans are to be addressed and, as available, the level of school district, school and student participation.

On August 9, 2001, Todd Ziebarth, a policy analyst with the National Center on Governing America's Schools, provided testimony at a Pennsylvania House Education Committee hearing on cyber charter schools. Ziebarth presented the major charter school policy issues facing policymakers, such as charter school sponsorship, facilities financing and accountability, and discussed states' experience with cyber charter schools, particularly in Alaska, California and Ohio. The Pennsylvania House Education Committee expects to debate a number of bills concerning cyber charter schools later this year, with possible action by the end of the legislative session.

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The National Center for Governing America's Schools is working on an issue page on the ECS Web site devoted to school-based management. It will contain an overview, quick facts, information on what states are doing and summaries of selected research and readings. It will be finished in September 2001.

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


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