Two bills introduced in the Legislature would give charter schools greater freedom to open and operate in Kansas, where the schools have struggled to find a foothold.
Kansas currently has 15 charter schools, which are publicly funded but generally operate independently of school districts. The state had 37 charter schools just three years ago. Most of those that closed cited financial difficulties.
The bills before the House and Senate are strongly influenced by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, sometimes quoting word-for-word from its model legislation, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (http://bit.ly/ZSQKMX ).
Charter school proponents say they offer parents a choice to send their children to schools that offer innovation and options and introduce competition into education.
Opponents contend charter schools aren't held to the same standards as public schools and often turn away or expel difficult students, who become the responsibility of public school districts.
The legislation proposed in Kansas would allow lottery admissions and bar charter schools from discriminating, although they would be able to turn away special-education students if they don't offer the services those students need.
The legislation also would allow independent groups, such as a university or county government, to create a charter school and monitor its progress, while the schools are run by other groups. It also would give charter schools exemptions from state laws and regulations, including graduation requirements and curriculum standards.
Charter schools also would no longer need school boards to receive funds. Instead, they would receive a portion of state aid that would otherwise have gone to the local board but wouldn't receive local funding, meaning that charter schools would have lower budgets. However, they could accept grants and donations.
The schools also would be exempt from professional negotiations laws involving teachers and would be allowed to offer different themes and specializations, including single-sex schools, but not religious schools.
Kansas Policy Institute, a free market group, supports the legislation, although it would prefer that charter schools have access to more public education funds, lobbyist Dave Trabert said.
The Kansas Association of School Boards, however, believes the legislation is unconstitutional because the state Constitution requires the State Board of Education to oversee public schools and elected school boards to operate them, the Capital-Journal reported.