Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 17, 2006

Charter schools need a stronger structure

Hawai'i's charter schools, born out of the belief that fewer rules and more autonomy could improve public education, are now doing what was once unthinkable.

Now, the charters want rules, organization and structure, essentially their very own bureaucracy.

It's actually a good idea.

Since 2001, charters have grown to 27 schools, 500 employees, and nearly 6,000 students. That student count has doubled in five years and is projected to increase by 22 percent over the next two years.

House Bill 2962 would simply codify the charter consortium's existing rules. Instead of a set of rules and procedures cobbled together, the charters would have a consistent structure to govern their growing system.

Such a plan would clarify the powers and duties of the Charter School Administrative Office, its executive director and oversight panel. The bill would allow local boards of the charter schools to negotiate with labor unions. And it would let civil service employees in conversion (former DOE) charter schools to remain within the Department of Education's civil service system.

Most of those ideas come out of a legislative task force report last year that was asked to improve charter schools. The cost to the taxpayer is expected to be nominal.

Unfortunately, what wasn't included in the bill were ideas to address the contentious issue of funding the charters.

Pat Hamamoto, superintendent of education for the state, thinks the bill generally is a good idea, provided it doesn't take away money from the DOE.

She's right. Money shouldn't be taken away from the DOE. But the charter schools, which after all are public schools, deserve full and equal support. Furthermore, there should be greater transparency in how charters spend the public's money.

Those issues will take more time to resolve. For now, House Bill 2962 is needed to provide the next step for the continued development and stable growth of state charter schools.