DENVER - People hoping to form a charter school in Colorado Springs School District 11 have one choice: Get approval from the district. The state Board of Education on Monday gave exclusive chartering authority to D-11.
That means proposed charter schools can’t head straight to the state Charter School Institute for approval. The institute was created by the Legislature in 2004 as another way for charter schools to be approved. After Monday’s meeting, Suzanne Snyder, a senior contracting officer in the district, said the D-11 board might still decide to allow a proposed charter school to go to the institute for approval. Schools approved by the institute receive almost no district oversight, said Chief Financial Officer Glenn Gustafson. Generally, the district has a much closer relationship with charter schools approved by the district, he said. District employees help review financial statements and budgets, for example. Also, test scores and school-accountability report ratings for district-approved charter schools reflect on the district. Test scores and school ratings of schools approved by the Charter School Institute are not connected to the district. One of D-11’s charter schools, GLOBE, objected to the district’s request for exclusive chartering authority and sent a letter to the state Board of Education. School officials were concerned because the district, when voting to renew GLOBE’s charter this spring, discouraged the school from enrolling students in high school grades, the letter said. No one from GLOBE attended Monday’s hearing, but the school’s technology coordinator, Glenn Russell, said after the meeting that the district seems to want to control charter schools even though their purpose is to be able to do things the district doesn’t do. Limits on enrolling students affect a charter school’s budget and its ability to provide programs and opportunities for students, Russell said. Monday’s ruling shouldn’t affect Colorado Springs Charter Academy, the only charter school inside the district’s boundaries that has been approved by the Charter School Institute, Snyder said. That school might not be opening its doors this fall if not for the institute. The school applied for a charter through D-11, but the school board voted not to continue negotiations with the Colorado Springs Charter Academy, effectively denying its application. Because D-11 did not have exclusive chartering authority last year, Colorado Springs Charter Academy officials looked to the Charter School Institute for approval. School districts decide annually whether they want the institute to have authority to approve charter schools in their districts or whether they want that exclusive right themselves, Snyder said. After the hearing, Lisa Miller, one of the founders of Colorado Springs Charter Academy, said that having another office for approval of charter schools is a good thing. When the district has a monopoly on approving charter contracts, charter school officials lose negotiating power, she said. “I think it would be better if the environment were more open and allowed more competition,” Miller said. Because it was approved by the Charter School Institute, Colorado Springs Charter Academy is not considered a D-11 school. CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0394 or firstname.lastname@example.org