Originally Published: October 16, 2003 6:10 p.m.
Arizona has shored up rules governing charter schools, thus making the field more level for public institutions educating our children.
Heretofore, charters have not had to meet some of the same rigorous guidelines as traditional public schools. Just about anyone with a "plan" could set up shop in a building of his or her choice, hire teachers and other necessary staff and call it a school. Money to operate charters comes from taxpayers' pockets, yet accountability has been lacking.
The Arizona State Board for Charter Schools has come under widespread criticism for lax oversight over charters, including an Auditor General's Office report that said the body "lacks a systematic and coordinated approach" to carry out its oversight duties. The report also said the board failed to follow up on problems and complaints about charter schools.
Tuesday, the state board reacted and revamped its monitoring system with a new set of tougher rules.
These new rules that the board decided it must comply with include following up on problems and complaints about charter schools in yearly independent audits of existing charter schools. When schools commit serious violations, such as fraud or failure to rectify safety problems, they can face penalties ranging from losing state money to closure.
In addition, people who want to open a charter school will have to undergo in-depth background checks by an independent consultant who will verify employment history, education, financial background and credit worthiness of applicants.
Choices among educational options sparks spirited and healthy competition that pressures schools into wanting to excel in the programs they offer children.
Parents will feel more assurance now that more safeguards for charter schools are in effect.