A Crash Course in This Week's School Choice News
Here's a national look at the latest news and developments around charter schools and school choice so far this week, with updates on stories we've been covering for the past few months:
• In Georgia, the state supreme court ruled that the Atlanta public school system cannot force the city's charter schools to help pay off the district's teacher pension debt. That means that it's up to the district to pay off all of the $550 million in accumulated debt from pensions, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
• In the District of Columbia, The Washington Post reports that Mayor Vincent Gray is moving forward with a plan that will provide two charter schools with long-term leases for two empty public school buildings—something that local charter advocates have been pushing for as enrollments in those charter schools grew while shuttered district-owned school buildings sat empty.
Last year, nearly 1,800 students applied for 35 open spots in one of the charters that is now being given room to expand, the article says. For more information about charter schools and the search for affordable facilities, here's the story I recently wrote about that topic.
• The Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board has gotten off to a somewhat rocky start, reports the ClarionLedger. The group, formed shortly after the passage of a new charter school law in that state, has decided to try and contract for services in lieu of hiring a director and is now soliciting donations to cover its start-up costs, the article says.
Lawmakers neglected to set aside money for the board, and they will be unable to collect the 3 percent fee from the schools they authorize until the schools are up and running—which can't happen until the board raises the requisite start-up funds. Although there are no charter schools currently operating in the state, the new law allows for the creation of up to 15 charter schools annually.
• The Associated Press reports that the U.S. Department of Justice says it's coming closer to resolving the lawsuit in Louisiana in which the department has filed an intervention aimed at stopping voucher programs in districts there that are operating under desegregation orders. But reports say that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, does not feel the same way, calling the 'breakthrough' "nothing more than a PR stunt" in a press release.
In a letter sent by the Justice Department on Tuesday, attorneys said they were able to obtain information from the state that the department had been requesting about the voucher program since May, bringing the idea of a resolution into view.
But Gov. Jindal argued that the letter was "disingenuous" and that "the federal government is attempting to retreat in name only, but is not backing off its attack on Louisiana parents." He urged the Obama administration (as he has done many times before) to drop the lawsuit. For more background about the case, read my colleague Mark Walsh's story on this topic.