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There are so many policy proposals in the budget presented by Governor Walker
that is is difficult for the press to address all of them. One of the most neglected is the
proposal to create a board to authorize the creation of new charter schools.
Below is the governor's proposal regarding charter schools that I extracted from
the budget. The paragraphs in bold italics are my comments. Further below are links
to newspaper articles from states that have already adopted this proposal. Please
note the rapid growth of problematical for-profit charter school chains.
Under current law, a school board may enter into a contract with a person to establish a charter school,
which operates with fewer constraints than traditional public schools. Current law also permits UWMilwaukee, UW-Parkside, the Milwaukee Area Technical College, and the city of Milwaukee to
operate charter schools (independent charter schools) directly or to contract for the operation of
such charter schools. In general, only pupils who reside in the school district in which an independent
charter school is located may attend the charter school.
This bill creates the Charter School Oversight Board (CSOB), attached to DPI, and authorizes it to
approve nonprofit, nonsectarian organizations, or consortia of such organizations, to contract with
persons to operate independent charter schools. The CSOB consists of the state superintendent of
public instruction and ten other members. The bill prohibits the CSOB from promulgating
administrative rules and provides that any policy or standard adopted by the CSOB is exempt from
the rule-making process.
Note that the schools are not operated by non-profits, who merely contract with
persons (generally for-profit corporations). In other states that have adopted this
law, the non-profits are set up by the corporations and exercise little oversight.
The membership of the board is not designated. In the ALEC model legislation
from which this proposal is extracted, the governor appoints the board. In AB1 a
similar board is appointed by a variety of officials, but members are selected from
categories that insure a pro-charter board.
I have no idea what the rule-making
provision means.
For any charter school established on or after the bill's effective date, the bill eliminates the authority of
the entities specified above, and of any approved nonprofit organization, to establish an independent
charter school directly. Under the bill, a charter school may be established only by contract and must be
operated by a charter school governing board, although an existing independent charter school
authorizer may continue to operate a charter school established before the effective date of this bill. The
bill removes the restrictions that limit who may attend an independent charter school.
It is unclear whether the provision above eliminates new instrumentality charter
schools set up by school districts. Districts are among the entities specified above,
but the paragraph uses charter and independent charter seemingly at random.
The restrictions removed are primarily residence restrictions requiring that students
live in the school district where the charter is located (and is financed).
A nonprofit, nonsectarian organization or consortium of such organizations that wishes to contract with
a charter school governing board to operate a charter school must submit an application to the CSOB

in accordance with certain specified requirements. The CSOB must approve or deny an application
within 90 days.
The bill provides that the contract between an authorizing entity and the independent charter school's
governing board must allow the authorizing entity to charge the governing board a fee. The contract
must also allow the charter school governing board to open additional charter schools if the charter
school governed by the contract is in one of the top two performance categories on DPI's most
recent school accountability report. The bill makes this provision applicable to existing contracts with
independent charter schools as well.
This replication provision seems to make educational sense, but is in fact just a
bonanza for for-profit operators. The backgrounds and attributes of the students far
outweigh any strategy or competence of a school to raise scores. Almost all upper
middle class schools will fall into the higher performance categories, thus creating an
advantage not for better schools, but rather for richer schools.
The bill allows a charter school contract to provide for more than one charter school, and allows a
charter school governing board to enter into more than one contract. The bill allows a school board to
prohibit a pupil who resides in the school district from attending an independent charter school unless
the school districts enrollment is at least 4,000 and at least two schools in the school district are in
one of the lowest performance categories on DPI's most recent school accountability report.
Under current law, in the 2014-15 school year, DPI pays the operator of an independent charter school
$8,075 for each pupil attending the school. Beginning in the 2015-16 school year, for each pupil
attending an independent charter school DPI pays the per pupil amount in the previous school year plus
the per pupil payment adjustment. Under the bill, DPI will not begin applying the per pupil
payment adjustment to per pupil payments made to operators of independent charter schools until the
2017-18 school year.
Thank you for your attention,
William Smeltzer