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ECS Governance NotesSeptember - October 2003

Governance Notes Archives


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

In this issue's guest column, Ron Zimmer and Brian Gill present the major findings from RAND's recent report on California's CHARTER SCHOOLS. The report suggests cautious optimism about charter schools, but notes that there are important differences among them, some of which merit closer inspection.

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On September 23, 2003, NEW MEXICO citizens voted to significantly change their education governance structures at the state level. As a result of the vote, the state will have a governor-appointed secretary of education, instead of a state board of education-appointed chief state school officer, and an elected state board of education instead of a board composed of both elected and governor-appointed members.

The OHIO Department of Education, in partnership with several organizations, is supporting the creation of the Ohio Charter School Sponsor Institute, which emerged in response to the enactment of a charter school bill - H.B. 364 - that passed earlier this year. The institute will recruit, train and support new sponsors for charter schools in Ohio. A variety of entities may sponsor such schools, including school districts, county education service centers, public universities and nonprofit organizations.

On June 9, 2003, FLORIDA Governor Jeb Bush signed S.B. 30-A into law. Among its many provisions, it amends the state's tax credit law, which provides tax credits to corporations that donate money to scholarship funding organizations. In turn, these organizations use such contributions for scholarships to low-income children who may use these funds to attend the private or public school of their choice. As a result of the bill, the total amount of tax credits that may be granted each fiscal year increased from $50 million to $88 million.

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"SCHOOL CHOICE 2003: How States Are Providing Greater Opportunity in Education," by Krista Kafer of The Heritage Foundation, provides a brief history of school choice in each state, as well as the status of various aspects of school choice, such as public school choice, charter schools and vouchers.

"Cross-Sectoral Alliances in Education" examines the recent emergence of cross-sectoral alliances - groups of public, private and nonprofit organizations working together to solve issues of mutual concern - in the creation and operation of CHARTER SCHOOLS. Among other things, it discusses the policy conditions that influence the development of charter school alliances and the types and ranges of alliances that exist between charter schools and other organizations.

According to "An Impossible Job? The View From the Urban Superintendent's Chair," produced by the Center on Reinventing Public Education, even the best superintendents are finding it nearly impossible to make the changes necessary to raise school performance because DISTRICT GOVERNANCE thwarts their ability to implement reform. The high expectations set for superintendents are unlikely to be met until a number of things are in place, including clearly defined and limited responsibilities for school boards.

"CHARTER SCHOOLS and Race: A Lost Opportunity For Integrated Education," by Erica Frankenberg and Chungmei Lee of The Civil Rights Project, explores whether charter schools in states where they now enroll at least 5,000 students are more or less segregated than their public school counterparts. According to the authors, charter schools in most of these states enroll disproportionately higher percentages of minority students resulting in students of all races being more likely to attend schools that, on average, have a higher percentage of minority students.

"Leading in Difficult Times: Are Urban SCHOOL BOARDS Up to the Task?" reviews the challenges facing urban school boards and urban school board reform efforts. It also presents important considerations to keep in mind in urban school board reform efforts, including: urban districts need policy stability and consistency to make and sustain difficult changes; context is critical; many school boards may require state and federal assistance to strengthen their data infrastructure; and school board reform is not a panacea.

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Will No Child Left Behind (NCLB) crimp the flexibility at the heart of the charter school model? "CHARTER SCHOOLS and the Teaching Quality Provisions of No Child Left Behind," written by Nelson Smith of New American Schools for the ECS National Center on Governing America's Schools, defines the NCLB requirement for "highly qualified" teachers and what the charter school community must do to meet this challenge. The paper also lists questions that have generated quandaries for those trying to interpret this requirement of the law.

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The ECS National Center on Governing America's Schools is updating "REWARDS AND SANCTIONS for School Districts and Schools." This document provides a snapshot of the rewards and sanctions policies in place in each state. It will be completed by the end of the year.

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


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