Monday, July 30, 2012

The Parent Trigger and RI Charter Law

Russ Conway speculates on whether a parent trigger bill might be headed to RI in the next session. It is certainly possible, but it would require more fundamental changes to RI charter school law.

There are three types of RI charters: district, independent and mayoral academies:

  • There is already a "parent/teacher trigger" to create district charters -- you need 2/3rds of the teaching staff to approve in addition to 51% of the parents. I think that's been on the books since the mid-90's, and nobody's tried it as far as I know (I've certainly thought about it, but at the time Providence was stuck at the charter cap).

    This is almost certainly not what parent trigger advocates have in mind, in part because I think the law still keeps the teachers as part of the PTU. I don't think an outside CMO would touch it with a 10 foot pole, so at worst you'd get a unionized community "mom and pop" charter out of it, which isn't so bad.

    I'd say there's not a lot of reason to suspect that teachers wouldn't support this in a given school, considering what a mess the PPSD tends to be.

  • An independent charter now needs a sponsoring independent non-profit or higher education institution. That's an additional wrinkle and complication, although maybe at this point someone like RI-CAN could do it, although that undermines the whole "grass roots" messaging. Otherwise it'd be hard to find a random non-profit that would want to take on this kind of controversy. Also, RI's charter application process now requires a prospectus as the first step over a year and a half before the school opens, which would be a difficult hurdle, although RIDE is clearly willing to waive their application regulations whenever they feel like it.

    The biggest issue is again, the labor regulations, which give teachers more rights than outside CMO's are comfortable with.

  • So then you have the mayoral academy option, which has the CMO-friendly labor provisions, but makes no sense in this context. Parents are going to petition to turn their failing neighborhood school into a multi-district urban/suburban mayoral collaboration, with the charter held by a separate non-profit and run by a CMO? It is Rube Goldberg on steroids.

Of course, there's no particular reason that the underlying charter law couldn't be changed at the same time the trigger was added, particularly as such things tend to happen at 4:00 AM the last day of a legislative session in RI, but it definitely makes it a tougher sell. Also, the RI reform community has spent the past 3 years praising RI charter law and adding tougher regulations, not laying the groundwork for changes.

I'd like to thank Dan McKee's massive ego for creating this mess.

No comments: