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Charter school deadline extended

Published (5/6/2011)
By Kris Berggren
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The 63 charter schools seeking new or re-approved authorizers could have additional time to do so.

The House passed HF134/ SF55* 123-6 May 2. Sponsored by Rep. Kelby Woodard (R-Belle Plaine) and Sen. David Hann (R-Eden Prairie), it would extend to Sept. 7, 2011, the deadline for charter school authorizers to re-apply to the Education Department for approval to continue in that role.

Charter schools whose authorizers haven’t re-applied or aren’t re-approved would be allowed to continue operating with their current authorizer through June 30, 2012, but after that could only operate if they have entered into another charter school contract with an approved authorizer.

Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Mpls) successfully amended the bill to require a charter school that ceases operation after the transition period to notify the school district in which it is located, so the district could plan for a possible influx of students.

The bill also would give the education commissioner the ability to terminate an authorizer’s ability to charter a school “for any good cause shown” that provides a legally sufficient reason to do so.

Rep. Mark Buesgens (R-Jordan) unsuccessfully offered an amendment that would have stricken a provision to indemnify the education commissioner or department staff for actions of charter school staff. He said the provision, coupled with the commissioner’s expanded authority to terminate a contract, could give the commissioner too much power while limiting families’ or individuals’ right to redress.

“The authorizer is actually a group that stands between the commissioner and the charter school. Indemnification holds the commissioner harmless for the actions of the charter school staff, with whom they do not have a charter relationship. It is the authorizer that has the contract with the charter school,” Woodard said.

Those allowed to authorize charter schools include a school board; certain sectarian institutions incorporated in Minnesota; colleges or universities; and certain nonprofit organizations. They must demonstrate they have the financial and governance capacity and educational mission suited to enter into charter agreements.

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