April 15, 2009


Charter school changes? Published (1/26/2009)

A pair of legislators plan to propose a new charter school moratorium until other changes are made.

That is one of nine reforms in the to-be-introduced 2009 School Reform and Accountability Act.

At a news conference, Rep. John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul) and Sen. Kathy Saltzman (DFL-Woodbury) said better oversight is needed to ensure that education dollars are spent effectively at charter and contract alternative schools. (Watch the news conference.)

"There have been enough concerns heard so that we need to take a closer look at what is going on," Saltzman said.

In addition to problems in a legislative auditor's report, Lesch cited a recent fraud at Center for Training and Careers, a contract alternative school in Minneapolis. In that case, the school operator billed more than $3 million from a private, for-profit company that he owned. The operator, whose wife worked for Minneapolis Public Schools, was never required to provide specific details as to what the resources purchased. He has since disappeared and the school closed.

"There is a growing need to crack down on waste and misspent resources in state government, especially with this budget deficit," Lesch said. "Charter schools are an area where a lack of accountability has created a system ripe for mismanagement."

Other reforms proposed include:
• approval of curriculum, budget and all administration contracts by a publicly elected body of the serving district;
• charter school administrators must be licensed, just as public school administrators must be;
• civil penalties for failure to submit annual independent audits as currently required by statute; and
• criminal penalties could be imposed for falsification of professional credentials, assets or other material facts made by developers or sponsors in an application or petition for certification.

Continue reading "Moritorium" »

April 14, 2009

K-12 Policy Committe Passes HF1179

Hey guys,

Here is an article from Daily Planet on the K-12 Policy committee taking some more action on charter school legislation. The link is below!


Continue reading "K-12 Policy Committe Passes HF1179" »

Teachers @ charters face power strugle

Teachers at Minnesota charter schools face power struggleState law quirk requires educators to sit on school board
By Erin Carlyle
Published on January 27, 2009 at 12:14pmIn early August, Vincent de Paul McMahon heard a story that roused his ire. Kevin Byrne, executive director of the Minneapolis charter school where McMahon worked, had bullied a school board member, allegedly cornering him and demanding that he resign his board seat. The traumatized man refused and reported the incident to the rest of the board.

David Kern
A hazardous profession: Vin McMahon, an ESL teacher at a Minneapolis charter school, was chair of the school board. He wanted to make the school financially stable. Instead, he was laid off.
courtesy of Amber Hougo
Charter schools at their best: Amber Hougo's charter school, Minnesota New Country, has helped her excel. Teachers run the school and there is no administrator.McMahon felt it was his duty to confront Byrne. As a teacher at the school's English Language Academy, McMahon was Byrne's employee. But when McMahon acted in his role as school board chair, he was effectively Byrne's boss.

The August 12 meeting started out well, according to McMahon. "I didn't have an ax to grind," McMahon says. "I was just trying to get his side of it." (Byrne declined to comment about the incident.)

Byrne began to criticize McMahon. He said he didn't trust him, and began to recount grudges he'd accumulated against McMahon in the five years they'd worked together.

On August 20, eight days after the meeting with Byrne, McMahon was inside the school board room, passing out paperwork for a critical board meeting that was scheduled to begin in 20 minutes, when Byrne entered the room. He asked McMahon to step into his office.

Byrne sat down behind his large wooden conference table, two security guards at either end of the table. He told McMahon the school was experiencing financial difficulties, and that as a result, the school had decided not to renew his contract. Byrne gave McMahon a termination letter that said he was off the school board.

"I was crushed," McMahon says. "I was blindsided. I didn't see this coming."

McMahon left Byrne's office and walked back to the boardroom. He saw a sign tacked to the door: "Board meeting cancelled."

The events at Minnesota Internship Center's English Language Academy highlight a controversial charter-school law unique to Minnesota: Teachers must serve on the school board. In fact, Minnesota law requires that teachers compose the majority of a charter school board, which is elected by parents, staff, and, in some cases, students. This can put teachers in the awkward position of managing their supervisor—the very individual with power to fire them.

By contrast, traditional district school boards almost never allow school employees to serve on the board. And educators at charter schools are not unionized, which can leave them further exposed to the whims of an administrator.

Last summer, the state Office of the Legislative Auditor outlined a host of potential problems with charter schools, including the requirement that teachers must serve on the board. A special legislative committee is looking at ways to remedy the problem, but it's unclear what direction the Legislature will take. Everything from getting rid of the teacher-majority law to banning new charters has been proposed.

"The structure that the Legislature set up here really requires people to be very secure in themselves and competent," says Eugene Piccolo, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools. "There's a case or two every year where it becomes a situation where it gets to a crisis point."

JOE NATHAN WITNESSED the birth of the charter-school movement in Minnesota with the thrilled idealism of a social reformer. In his youth, Nathan had marched in civil rights protests in the South with his mother, who helped found Head Start in Kansas and instilled in her son an indignant sense of justice. He earned a doctorate in education policy and drank at the well of Saul Alinsky, the founder of the modern community-organizing movement whose work influenced Barack Obama.

Now director of the Center for School Change at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute, Nathan has made it his life's work to improve schools. In 1970, he helped found and taught at the Open School in St. Paul, one of the state's first nontraditional public schools. As the push for change intensified in the wake of the seminal 1983 Nation at Risk report, which warned of massive failings in the American education system, Nathan was very involved in school reform in Minnesota.

He helped push for legislation that empowered high school students to enroll in college-level courses—Minnesota was the first state with such a law—and made it possible for any student to apply to any public school, regardless of district lines.

"It seemed to many of us that affluent families have always had choice," says Nathan, whose office is littered with books and newspaper clippings documenting the history of education. "There has been a strain in American history about expanding opportunity."

In 1988, the Citizens League, a good-government civic organization, proposed improving public education by removing the districts' monopoly on running public schools. It was thought that increased competition would lead to innovation.

Charters would be publicly funded and open to anyone, but would have a unique focus not available in traditional district schools. They could specialize in a particular subject matter, teaching method, or curriculum.

Nathan and like-minded social reformers like Ted Kolderie, then a fellow at the Humphrey Institute, hoped that chartering could help reduce income- and race-based inequities in public education. They also hoped it would free entrepreneurial-minded teachers from the strictures of the district, empowering them to improve teaching as only a teacher can.

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Continue reading "Teachers @ charters face power strugle" »

ACLU sues charter-RE: religion

ACLU suing charter school that caters to Muslims
By Emily Kaiser in ReligionThursday, Jan. 22 2009 @ 9:37AMThe American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, a Twin Cities charter school they allege is promoting the Muslim religion while being publicly funded.

ACLU is also suing the Minnesota Department of Education for failing to properly investigate the school.

The Star Tribune's Katherine Kersten must be celebrating after she raised questions about the school in her column and blog. ACLU says their investigation was prompted by her column.

The school, known as TIZA, has one campus in Inver Grove Heights and another in Blaine with about 430 K-8 students total. Most of the students are Muslim. The school receives state funding, which is expected to total $4.7 million for the current school year.

More from the Star Tribune:
TIZA said in a written statement on Wednesday that the school is nonsectarian and in compliance with federal and state regulations.
But the ACLU claims the school is using federal and state money to promote religion in violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
"TIZA has received millions of dollars of taxpayer money to support what is, in essence, a private religious school," said Charles Samuelson, state ACLU executive director.
Minnesota law requires that charter schools be non-sectarian in their programs and policies. It allows charter schools to lease from religious organizations, but only if other suitable space is not available, the space rented was built as a school and the state approves of the lease.
According to the lawsuit (PDF), the school has prayers on the walls and teachers participate in student prayer. The school has also allegedly used their Web site to find others to lead prayer and requires students to dress to conform to the Islamic religion.

Joan's interview with Rep. Solcum

Major points Slocum touched on regarding HF0935
Bill requires more of charter school sponsors:
• Changes the language to authorizer
• Requires greater over site of finances, academic outcomes, and human resources issues. In exchange for extra supervisor burden, the bill increases the fee that authorizers receive to $30/pupil.
Bill offers a few new administrative models from which charter schools may select.
Changes the composition of individual charter school boards:
• Current law requires board to be comprised of majority teachers. Slocum said that many teachers complained about this burden. It is advantageous for teachers to serve on the boards, however the current requirement places undue burden on teachers. Further, effective boards require individuals with diverse skill sets, particularly administrative and finance expertise.
Both House and Senate bills contain provisions that prevent new charter schools from opening with a defined radius of a closed public school or consolidated school district for 12 months. The Senate bill and House originally set the time limit at 36 months. According the Slocum, at the request of charter school interest groups, she was able to work with senate to negotiate this number down to 12 months.

Current difference between House (HF0935) and Senate (SF 867) versions:
• Some advocate for a cap on the total amount a single authorizer may receive. Senate bill currently has this provision, House bill does not. Slocum is working with Senate to remove this from SF867. This will prevent successful authorizers with proven/quality charter school models from expanding the number of sites/students they can serve.
• Senate is pushing for a moratorium or cap on the number of charter schools in the state. Slocum strongly disagrees with this. Referenced Obama’s recent statement encouraging the replication of charter schools that work.

Some advocate for a cap on the total amount a single authorizer may receive. Senate bill currently has this provision, House bill does not. Slocum is working with Senate to remove this from SF867.
Senate is pushing for a moratorium or cap on the number of charter schools in the state. Slocum strongly disagrees with this. Referenced Obama’s recent statement encouraging the replication of charter schools that work

She is confident that the Republican block will vote for it. Has faced greater resistance from democrats.

Additional comments…
Really displeased with Education Minnesota. Felt they tried to hijack charter school reform movement to push their anti-charter school agenda.
Disapointed with resistence to charter school reform on behalf of Democrats. HF 0935, according to Slocum, promotes over site and accountability to encourage success in charter schools. Believes that charter schools function to foster innovation and have a legitimate place. Would like to see the New Schools Commission (bill will probably die) or charter school advisory bill that she proposes serve a vehicle to share best practices and replicate successful models.
Slocum was a former public school teacher and pro-union. Displeased that the teachers union writes off the charter school movement in total.

city not a town-"Legislature must decide whether to accept being trumped by the court"

A town is not a city when it comes to school, court rules
A Ramsey parent sued a local charter school after it refused to move his son up on its admissions list. The law giving preference to residents uses the word "town" not "city."


Last update: April 12, 2009 - 10:41 PM
Featured comment

A legal distinction between the words "town" and "city" justifies a Ramsey charter school's decision to deny admission preference to a neighborhood kindergartner, the Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled.

In a decision last week, the court sided with PACT Charter School, which had refused to move Ramsey resident Matt Look's son up on a waiting list for the 2008-09 school year.

Look, a Ramsey City Council member, sued in March 2008, citing a law that says if a charter school is the only school in town offering a certain grade, residents get preference. No other Ramsey school had kindergarten.

An Anoka County District Court judge sided with the school last June on the grounds that Ramsey is a city, not a town. The Appeals Court upheld that ruling.

"[The] appellants have failed to make a sufficient showing to establish that the Legislature intended the language of the statute to apply to cities as well as towns," Judge Francis Connolly wrote.

The Minnesota Department of Education supported Look's suit, saying the terms were interchangeable. Even former state Sen. Tom Neuville, R-Northfield, sponsor of the language, said the Legislature didn't mean to draw a town-city distinction.

PACT, which stands for Parents Allied with Children and Teachers, had support from the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools, which said schools do better when they draw students from a wider area. Dan DeBruyn, PACT's administrator, couldn't be reached for comment.

Look, later joined in the suit by fellow City Council member and parent John Dehen, said he can accept the court's interpretation. "We were looking for a legal opinion ... and not a school administrator's opinion," he said.

The school eventually accepted Look's son through a lottery, but the family declined to enroll him because of threats the father said he endured during the suit. "I'm not going to subject my son to potential ridicule," he said.

Last year, the Legislature amended the language of the statute, changing "town" to "municipality." But the change was embedded in an omnibus bill Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed.

Look said the Legislature must decide whether to accept being "trumped" by the court.

Patrice Relerford • 612-673-4395
Retrieved April 14, 2009, from:

April 7, 2009


********* these are the posts that I have accumulated over the last three weeks. I'm not sure if they are what we need, but here they are...

NPR- http://www.npr.org/programs/specials/poll/education/education.front.html
Date of Access- 3-8-09
Title- Americans willing to pay for improving schools
- September 1999, a survey was done to show Americans support for paying higher taxes for improvements for educational reforms

- Public charter schools states it s a controversial reform more people are in favor of them, but not enough info to speak about it

Pioneer Press- http://www.twincities.com/ci_11838364
Date of Access- 3-9-09
Title- Bill would tighten the rules for Minnesota Charter schools
- Changes to make charter schools stronger help with monitoring of schools; finances and academics
- 1991 MN passed charter school law to allow for kids to attend school for free
-2008 Legislator auditors report suggest that some rules need to be changed in order to assure that charter schools are strengthening
- bill means (if passed into law) limit who can sponsor a charter school, who manages finances and trainings for board members, keep sponsors from "unfair financial gain" in its relationship to a charter school
-allow for student dismissal for up to 3 hours due to religious reasons

MPR- http://minnesotapublicradio.org/display/web/2007/03/21/edfundingbill/
Date of Access- 3-9-09
Title- Senates opening education bid undercuts governor
-charter school cap
-house not supporting the limit of charter schools
-"most significant attacks on charter schools in 15 years".
-Pawlenty disagrees with the Senate stating caping charter schools sends the wrong message

MPR- http://minnesotapublicradio.org/display/web/2008/06/30/charter_report/
Date of Access- 3-15-09
Title- Study: Charter Schools a mixed bgg
-mixed results in terms of outcomes .5 vs 2/3 charter to regular schools
-changes to charter schools
- sponsors to stop taking advantage of financial situation (provide additional trainings)

Pioneer Press- http://www.twincities.com/ci_11986537?nclick_check=1
Date of Access- 3-26-09
Title- Editorial: Concerns about charter schools are real, and fixing the problems is fine
- support charter schools, but needs some fine tuning
- "emphasis on openness, accountability, strong oversight and measurable results,"
- Senate Education committee scheduled to hear a bill today sponsored by Sen. Kathy Saltzman
- similar bill moving forward in the house
- pioneered idea of charter schools in 1991
- funded by tax payer dollars, but not private schools formed by parents, teachers, community members, colleges
- operate different from normal school district structure; don't follow same laws or rules that apply to other public schools
-held accountable to Senate educational standards and must take state standardized tests
-currently 152 school operating 32,776 with 7 more to open
-Saltzman bill would cap at 160 until fall 2011
-Saltzman bill is controversial to the house, but Saltzman agress that cap may dissolve as they move forward
- question arise about ties to sectarian organizations; conflict of interest between those who run vs. those who provide service; how funds are being used

MPR- http://minnesotapublicradio.org/display/web/2009/01/05/education_preview/
Date of Access- 3-26-09
Title- Schools embrace for rough legislative session
-changes in the way charter schools are regulated
- oversight from state and state sponsor
-whether there should be moratorium on new charter schools
- Saltzman to look at charter schools as a whole instead of 1 or 2 schools

April 1, 2009

Editorial: Changes for Charter Schools

In 17 years of operation in Minnesota, charter schools have been praised and pilloried. Some reports highlight the schools' academic successes with kids and tout figures that show high levels of family and student satisfaction. Other studies question the charters' effectiveness and say they drain dollars away from traditional public schools.

Yet one area where the studies agree is this: Many charter schools need better oversight and governance.

A smart bill that addresses those concerns and makes welcome, needed changes to charter school law is moving through the Minnesota House. Its major provisions would redefine the roles and responsibilities of charter sponsors, clarify approval and oversight responsibilities and strengthen charter board governance.

Charters are public schools that have their own boards and operate independently of traditional school districts. The idea is to free them from some of the usual state and district requirements to allow creative new educational concepts to thrive.

Under the proposal, charter "sponsors'' would be renamed "authorizers.'' Under current law, sponsors might be the state, school districts, colleges and universities, or nonprofits. Some have closely monitored their schools; others have not.

That would change with the new rules. Authorizers would have to be approved and reviewed regularly by the state. Reporting requirements, board training and stronger rules against conflicts of interest would be enforced.

Many of the bill's provisions follow recommendations made in a legislative auditor report. Based on surveys and site visits, the auditors found that the most effective sponsors are actively involved with the schools but that others had little contact or even knowledge about their programs. The new legislation more clearly defines authorizer responsibilities.

Similar needed provisions are in a Senate bill, but one proposed change in the law could unfairly restrict charter programs. The Senate education committee's plan calls for a 36-month waiting period before a charter could open within one mile of a closed school or in a consolidated district.

Several hundred state schools are expected to close or be involved in consolidations in the next decade due to declining enrollment. Such a restriction would shut charters out of many areas and limit opportunities to use existing school buildings. Those limits could also deprive the state of federal and foundation funding. According to the state Department of Education, Minnesota might have to return over $3.2 million in federal grant money and might miss out on more than $17 million in the next grant cycle.

President Obama, who views charters as among the best incubators for new education ideas, has promised more federal funding for charters and has called on states to lift caps. So as a compromise, the committee included an appeals process: Potential charter operators could apply to the education commissioner for a waiver. Still, the limits are unnecessary.

After nearly a generation of studying Minnesota charter programs, the Legislature is right to reexamine the laws that created them. The best of the pending proposals would strengthen and clarify oversight and operations, while continuing to support flexibility for educational innovation.

State Accountability for Education

Here is an interesting editorial on state accountability of educational institutions...

Continue reading "State Accountability for Education" »

Charter School Funding

Here is a link on charter school funding.

Continue reading "Charter School Funding" »

Rep. Carlos Mariani on Charter School Reform

Hey guys, here is an interesting interview with Carlos Mariani on charter school reform.

Continue reading "Rep. Carlos Mariani on Charter School Reform" »

March 28, 2009

Link to MN Association of Charter Schools-MACS & Facebook group


Please tell Robin "Hello" from me!!!

Actually, what is probably the most expeditious way to provide you information
is via the website of the MN Association of Charter Schools (MACS) - - that is
our client.

There is a TON of information on the site, including a blog and copies of the
legislation moving thru both the House and Senate at this point.

The MACS site advocacy page is:
http://www.mncharterschools.org/page/1/advocacy.jsp Note the Capitol Comment -
- a Blog. I think you will find this to be of the most help, Erich!

Best regards,

GSP Consulting

Continue reading "Link to MN Association of Charter Schools-MACS & Facebook group" »

March 27, 2009

delete everything ammendment


Sure, I will help you out where I can. First off, I serve as counsel to the
E-12 education committee. Our office is non-partisan and we serve the entire
senate. I would be happy to give you updates as the bill progresses and maybe
summarize what happened in committee meetings. However, due to the neutrality
of our office as well as my duty of confidentiality to the senators, I really
would be unable to offer any "inside" information about motivations behind the
legislation or personal opinions regarding that matter. If you are looking for
more opinionated information, I would encourage you to contact Danna Elling in
the Office of Majority Research or Ed Cook in the Republican Caucus.

On Wednesday, the Charter Schools Subcommittee met and heard SF 872. At that
meeting, Senator Kathy Saltzman, who authored the bill, introduced a
"delete-everything" amendment to 872. I'm not sure how familiar you are with
the legislative process, but such an amendment deletes everything after the
enacting clause in the original text and introduces basically a whole new bill.
Much of the amendment contained the same provisions as the original, but there
were some new provisions added.

The delete everything was composed by receiving input from the various parties,
namely the Department of Education, the Minnesota Association of Charter
Schools, and the House (all of whom have had their own bills introduced).

The delete everything amendment was adopted at the beginning of the meeting and
then testimony on the amendment was given. There were several oral amendments
made to the delete everything. The main things that were removed from the
amendment were a proposed two year cap on the number of charter schools in the
state and a requirement that a charter school board of directors have a member
appointed by the resident school district.

Currently, 872 is being engrossed to include the delete everything amendment as
amended. That document hasn't been released yet. When it is, you can find it
by clicking on the "Division/Subcommittee Reports" link on the following page:

The bill is going to be heard at some point in the full education committee
where it is possible more changes will be made to the bill. Once the committee
meeting is scheduled, I'll shoot you an email. Hopefully this helps. Let me
know if there is anything else I can do for you.


Daron Korte
Senate Counsel
State Capitol, Room G-17
St. Paul, Minnesota 55155

>>> 3/11/2009 4:39 PM >>>
Daron, My name is Erich Morris and I am following SF 0867 on charter school
reform for a policy for a class assignment.
I was referred to you by Catherine Ryan. What I need is a periodic email or
cc on press release etc. on the progress of this bill from your
perspective. The project is looking at the legislation through various
perspective/sources. What is happening? Why is it happening? What other
options are available? I can be reached by email at morri679@umn.edu or
telephone 612 968 7866. Thank you for your time, Erich C. Morris

March 25, 2009

Critique of current reform legislation

"Replicate rather than restrict Minnesota's more successful charter schools"
Thoughtful critique several specific regulations proposed within the current reform legislation. Published in the Jan/Feb 2009 Minnesota Journal (Citizens League).
See page 11.

Strib Editorial from Feb 8 - frames the debate


I e-mailed this link out really early in the semester. It didn't get to everyone . Plus it's logical to have everything in same local . (This blog is sweet! good fine Bri.) Anyway, this editorial nicely frames the current charter school reform debate. The comments in response to the editorial bring some depth to the debate.

link below