Superintendent: HCS will not become a public charter school authorizer

Published 5:28 pm Monday, August 31, 2015

Hoover City Schools will likely not become a public charter school authorizer, school officials confirmed. (File)

Hoover City Schools will likely not become a public charter school authorizer, school officials confirmed. (File)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

HOOVER—With the deadline coming up tomorrow, schools across the state must decide whether or not to register as a public charter school authorizer. Hoover City Schools will decline to register this year, according to Superintendent Dr. Kathy Murphy.

“They’re asking us to make a decision that can profoundly impact the district and the children in the school district with limited information,” Murphy said.

The Alabama Legislature passed Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act on March 19, allowing for public charter schools in the state. Preliminary guidelines for public charter schools will not be released until October, following the first meeting of the Alabama Department of Education Office of Public Charter Schools, Murphy noted.

Public charter schools are publically funded, independent schools governed by a charter with either a local school board or the Alabama Public Charter School Commission. A governing board for the public charter school, separate from the district board of education, determines the school’s policies and financing.

Students cannot be zoned for a public charter school, attendance is a matter of choice.

“They can provide higher quality options in communities that don’t have great schools,” Emily Schultz, executive director of the Alabama Coalition for Public Charter Schools, said. “They provide education with a lot of flexibility.”

Under the Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act, school systems registered as public charter school authorizers are given authority to “approve or reject applications” for public charter schools. They also must oversee any public charter schools in the district.

In districts not registered as authorizers, applications for a public charter school go directly to the APCSC.

Should an authorizer reject an application for a public charter school, the decision may be appealed to the 10-member APCSC. The school district will be given a seat as an 11th member of the APCSC in the final decision vote.

The law states as authorizers, school districts take an active role to “solicit, invite, receive and evaluate” applications for public charter schools.

“Public charter schools are not something where we wait (for applications),” Murphy said. “The law suggests that we will encourage, promote and solicit charter schools… It’s going to require some human resources, it’s going to require financial support from the district.”

Although other districts across the state have chosen to register as public charter school authorizers, including the Madison City and Athens City school systems, Murphy said she is “reluctant and unwilling” to take on that role.

Murphy noted the personnel and financial obligations, and the ambiguity of the rules regarding public charter schools as important factors in her decision.

“I think of it like this, I always want to be at the table (when it comes to decisions about Hoover City Schools), but when I come to the table, I need to understand the menu and the cost of what’s on that menu,” Murphy said. “We don’t know what’s on that menu.”

Murphy also highlighted the “excellent teachers” and numerous programs, focused academic academies and support options, the Hoover City School System offers students.

“We serve students across the spectrum. If there was a place where I believed we had a gap, I’d be very busy filling that gap,” Murphy said. “I’m not being arrogant, but I have no assumption in my mind that there’s an entity that (educates our students) better than us.”