If parents and teachers can vote to convert their school into a charter school, shouldn’t they also be allowed a vote to take their charter school back?
That’s the argument for a proposal being discussed by Memphis school board members who want to accelerate the return of state-run charter schools to Shelby County Schools.
Several members discussed the idea Tuesday evening as the board worked on a legislative agenda for next year at the state Capitol.
Board members floated the possibility of a new state law that allows parents to drive decision-making on governance of underperforming charter schools, including a vote to return state-run schools back to the local district.
“It’s the parental choice they always talk about,” Board Member Teresa Jones said of state officials.
The push for a new law to convert charter schools into district schools perpetuates the district’s resistance of the state’s growing role in local schools. Shelby County Schools has used increasingly aggressive tactics to retain students and related funding, including reconfiguring schools, zoning students out of the Achievement School District’s jurisdiction and telling students they are assigned to district-run schools when they were actually zoned to state-run ones.
The state’s school improvement plan under the new federal education law gives the Achievement School District 10 years to get its schools off the state’s list of low-performing schools or be returned to the local district. The state law board members want would allow that to happen before that time period is up.
The existing state law to convert a school into a charter (not necessarily a state-run one) requires 60 percent of parents and teachers to vote for the conversion. Rodney Moore, the district’s top lawyer, said the legislative request could replicate that percentage. The district’s legal team is still working on finalizing the language.
“If we mirror that language it’s harder for them to say it’s an unfair process,” said Board Member Chris Caldwell.
A version of the legislative agenda is scheduled to go before the school board at its work session on Tuesday, Nov. 28. A vote would likely come the following week.
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The Chicago Police Department doesn’t adequately screen and train the officers it assigns to Chicago Public Schools, and their roles in schools are poorly defined, according to a sharply critical report released today by the Office of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.
The report lists a litany of failings, including basic administration: There is no current agreement between the police department and the district governing the deployment of school resource officers, or SROs, and neither the schools nor the police even have a current list of the officers working in schools this year.
The inspector general’s report also mentions several sets of SRO resources and best practices created and endorsed by the federal government, then notes that Chicago hasn’t adopted any of them. “CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” says the report.
Chalkbeat reported in August about incidents in which SROs used batons and tasers on students while intervening in routine disciplinary matters.
Scrutiny of SROs is nothing new, and is part of the broader CPD consent decree brokered this week between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That agreement calls for better training and vetting of SROs, as well as a clearer delineation of their roles on campuses—including a prohibition against participating in routine school discipline — beginning with the 2019-20 school year.
But the report from Ferguson’s office says that the consent decree doesn’t go far enough. It chastises police for not pledging to include the community in the creation of its agreement with the school district, nor in the establishment of hiring guidelines; and for not creating a plan for evaluating SROs’ performance, among other recommendations. In addition, the report criticizes the police department for delaying the reforms until the 2019-20 school year. A draft of the inspector general’s report was given to the police department in early August in hopes that some of the issues could be resolved in time for the school year that began last week. The police department asked for an extension for its reply.