School & District Management

South Carolina Eyes State Charter District

By Erik W. Robelen — February 21, 2006 3 min read

South Carolina appears on track to enact legislation that would create both a statewide authorizer for charter schools and a new statewide district exclusively for those schools.

The measure stems from concerns that local school districts have not always been welcoming—and sometimes are hostile—to the largely autonomous public schools.

If the measure becomes law, South Carolina will join a small list of states with statewide authorizing bodies, and will be only the second to have a statewide charter district, according to Todd M. Ziebarth, a policy analyst at the Washington-based National Alliance of Public Charter Schools.

Currently, only school districts may authorize charters in South Carolina.

Both the state House and Senate recently approved versions of the legislation, which now must be reconciled in a conference committee. That panel was expected to begin meeting as soon as this week.

24maguirek

Two key differences in the bills are the composition of the charter-authorizing board and measures in the House bill related to funding of existing charter schools.

“It looks like we’re in the home stretch to passing a law that will greatly strengthen the charter school movement in South Carolina,” said Kristin L. Maguire, who was appointed to the state school board by Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican.

During a Valentine’s Day visit to a charter school, Gov. Sanford cited examples of district resistance to charters. “It’s clear this bill is needed to provide another option for people looking to establish these schools,” he said.

South Carolina first enacted a charter school law in 1996, and has just 27 charters. Charter advocates suggest there would be far more if school districts weren’t the only ones authorizing charters.

“Right now, your only option is to go to your local school board,” said Mr. Ziebarth. “So 10 years into the movement, there are 27 schools open, and there just isn’t a friendly climate.”

But Scott T. Price, the general counsel of the South Carolina School Boards Association, suggested that the state authorizing board could become a rubber stamp for charter applications. He acknowledged some tensions between districts and charter schools, but said the answer was allowing other outside entities, such as universities, to become authorizers. In addition, he said, “We have a lot of questions and concerns with creating a whole new district.”

Second in the Nation

If the legislation becomes law, South Carolina will join only Colorado as states with a statewide charter district, Mr. Ziebarth said.

He noted that Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and the District of Columbia also have statewide, independent, special-purpose charter boards.

“It’s South Carolina’s twist on what’s happening in a small number of other places,” Mr. Ziebarth said.

Ms. Maguire said charter advocates sought advice from national experts in devising the legislation’s approach. She argued that there is “an inherent conflict of interest” in the way the charter law operates now, since charters receive some aid from local districts. “It’s the equivalent to going to a local retailer and saying, ‘We would like you to authorize a Wal-Mart to go up across the street, and you need to give us some money to do so,’ ” she said.

Funding for charters in the statewide district would not come from local coffers.

Some charter school leaders pushed hard for changes when the bill reached the House floor. They expressed concerns that school systems might decide to hand off their existing charters to the statewide district to save money.

Those advocates contend that the legislation in both chambers could lead to lower funding levels for charters. But an amendment passed on the House floor Feb. 9 aims to protect existing charters.

“There were some gaps and questions about how [funding] would be calculated,” said Robert E. Bohnstengel, the principal of the 1,500-student James Island Charter High School in Charleston, the state’s largest charter. “[The amendment] made us feel much more assured. ...”

Under the House bill, a decision to deny renewal of a charter would have to be based on the kind of evidence required to revoke a charter prematurely, such as failing to meet accepted standards of financial management.

A version of this article appeared in the February 22, 2006 edition of Education Week as South Carolina Eyes State Charter District

Events

Student Well-Being Webinar Boosting Teacher and Student Motivation During the Pandemic: What It Takes
Join Alyson Klein and her expert guests for practical tips and discussion on how to keep students and teachers motivated as the pandemic drags on.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Holistic Approach to Social-Emotional Learning
Register to learn about the components and benefits of holistically implemented SEL.
Content provided by Committee for Children
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Principals Can Support Student Well-Being During COVID
Join this webinar for tips on how to support and prioritize student health and well-being during COVID.
Content provided by Unruly Studios

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Washington Data Processing Representative - (WAVA)
Tacoma, Washington, United States
K12 Inc.
Software Engineer
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Proposal Writer
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
CCLC Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion New Resource Tracks School System Reopening
The Return to Learn Tracker identifies the current instructional model of all regular public school districts with three or more schools.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School & District Management San Francisco School Board Pauses Renaming 44 Schools, Promises to Consult Historians
The renaming of 44 schools in the San Francisco Unified School District is apparently being put on hold after intense blowback.
Greg Keraghosian
1 min read
A pedestrian walks below a sign for Dianne Feinstein Elementary School in San Francisco, on Dec. 17, 2020. The San Francisco Unified School District put the renaming of 44 schools, including Dianne Feinstein Elementary School, on hold after local and national blowback.
A pedestrian walks below a sign for Dianne Feinstein Elementary School in San Francisco, on Dec. 17, 2020. The San Francisco Unified School District put the renaming of 44 schools, including Dianne Feinstein Elementary School, on hold after local and national blowback.<br/><br/>
Jeff Chiu/AP
School & District Management Superintendent Who Led During COVID-19 School Shutdowns Gets Top Honors
Michelle Reid of Washington state's Northshore district, one of the very first to close schools last March, was named National Superintendent of the Year.
3 min read
Michelle Reid, superintendent of the Northshore district in Washington
Michelle Reid, the superintendent of the Northshore district in Washington, was named National Superintendent of the Year.
courtesy of AASA, the School Superintendents Association
School & District Management Is Lunchtime the 'Weak Link' in School Reopening Plans?
It's risky when students are inside and unmasked, experts say. Here are five ways to mitigate that risk and make in-school meals safer.
11 min read
Elementary students in Brownsville, Texas, eat a socially distanced lunch in the school cafeteria. Experts say there are ways to mitigate the risk of contracting COVID-19 even when kids take their masks off to eat.
Elementary students in Brownsville, Texas, eat a socially distanced lunch in the school cafeteria. Experts say there are ways to mitigate the risk of contracting COVID-19 when kids take their masks off to eat.
Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald via AP