Thursday, September 20, 2018

Democratic Leaders: If Republicans Now Want Charter School Reform, Let's Start With Our Bills They Killed

September 20, 2018

PHOENIX, State Capitol – In the wake of explosive investigative reporting by The Arizona Republic, Governor Doug Ducey and some Republican lawmakers have recently raised concerns over fraud and rampant profiteering in Arizona charter schools and are now proposing reforms. Deep concerns about charter school accountability and fraud are not new, just new to Governor Doug Ducey and Republican legislators. House and Senate Democratic leaders today called for Republicans to revisit the numerous proposed charter school reforms that they blocked last session and in previous sessions.

"It's nice to see Gov. Ducey has seen the light on charter school reform," said Rep. Randy Friese, House Assistant Democratic Leader, and sponsor of several charter school reform bills. "We have several common-sense charter school bills that have been waiting in the wings during his entire tenure and are ready to be enacted. The public is rightfully outraged over the lack of accountability and we are eager to get to work."

Not only did Republicans block all attempts at charter school reform in 2018, Republicans reduced accountability with a late-session budget amendment from Speaker J.D. Mesnard that removed the requirement that charter schools publicly post their budgets.

“The tough talk on charter schools coming from Governor Ducey and his Republican legislators is nothing but an obvious election year ploy. For years they’ve passed and signed legislation to make the recently revealed corrupt dealings completely legal, all while shutting down debate on Democratic bills to require financial accountability for charter schools. But now that it’s an election year they’re talking tough on charter school reform after their friends and fellow lawmakers got caught making off with millions in Arizonans’ hard-earned tax dollars that were meant to educate our children,” said Senator Martin Quezada (LD29). “Their disingenuous efforts are fooling no one; the people of Arizona finally see through their get-rich-quick scam.”

In the House, charter school reform bills included:
·         HB 2358 (Blanc) charter school board members; conflicts – Prohibited family members of the charter holder from serving on the charter school board
·         HB 2364 (Blanc) charter schools; procurement requirements. requires charter schools to adhere to the same procurement statutes and rules that all district schools must adhere to.
  • ·         HB 2365 (Blanc) charter school governance; meetings; records. – requires all charter schools to adhere to state open meetings and records retention statutes.
  • ·         HB 2141 (Friese) charter schools; lunches; national acts. requires all charter schools to participate in the national free and reduced-price lunch program.
  • ·         HB 2142 (Friese) charter schools; closure; property transfer. Transfers all real property owned by a charter school to the local school district upon the closure of the charter.

And from the Senate:
  • ·         SB 1174 (Quezada) ADE; charter schools; assessments - Requires the Arizona Department of Education to prepare and publish on its website an annual assessment of the impact of charter schools on school districts.
  • ·         SB 1297 (Bradley) charter schools; profit distributions - Requires the State Board for Charter Schools to monitor and approve any distributions in excess of the charter school's net on an annual basis. Approval/disapproval must be done in an open meeting of the board.
  • ·         SB 1299 (Bradley) charter schools; financial information; audits - Requires charter school audits to include compensation of non-instructional personnel in an administrative or ownership capacity. Charter school financial reporting would be required to be shared with and monitored by the Auditor General.
  • ·         SB 1303 (Quezada) charter school omnibus - Adds charter schools to the Auditor General's audit schedule. Requiring charter schools to follow the same procurement rules that district public schools are subject to. Specifies in cases where a charter school closes, requiring those assets to be returned to the state.
  • ·         SB 1304 (Quezada) charter schools; public meetings; records - Requires all charter school board meetings and financial documents to be subject to open meeting law and be available to the public.
  • ·         SB 1305 (Quezada) auditor general; charter schools; audits - Requires Auditor General to monitor charter school classroom spending.
  • ·         SB 1306 (Quezada) schools; teacher omnibus - Requires charter school teachers and superintendents to meet the same minimum standards as public-school teachers.
  • ·         SB 1308 (Bradley) charter schools; financial reporting - Requires annual financial reports to be numerically identical to what is provided in Federal 990. Any inconsistencies must be explained in the audit with specific plans on how to remedy the deficiency in the future.
  • ·         SB 1309 (Bradley) charter schools; accounting; procurement; audits - Concerning procurement, requires charter schools to take the lowest most responsible and responsive bidder. Requires all related-party contracts to be public information.
  • ·         HB 2542 proposed amendment (Quezada) - Removes provisions allowing charter schools to be exempt from the financial and electronic data submission requirements and procurement rules outlined in statute. Removes the State Board for Charter Schools’ ability to authorize an exemption from public bidding requirements for charter schools sponsored by the board.


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