Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Management Company Issues Discussed at Today's HB 1412 State Advisory Committee Meeting

Today the HB 1412 State Advisory Committee for quality standards for charter schools and charter school authorizers met at the Colorado Association of School Boards meeting room. The morning began with representatives from the charter school management company community providing public testimony and participating in a general discussion about key issues.

EMOs, or education management organizations, are generally for-profit. CMOs, or Charter Management Companies, are generally nonprofit and include schools that replicate, oftentimes under a single governing board. The discussion included both types of management companies.

Since Colorado has more grassroots startup charter schools and fewer management company operated schools than other states, there has been some negative perceptions created over the years. Many of those issues were raised today with very little consensus, if any, on what could be done to mitigate the misperceptions in the future.

Some of the issues were:
* How to prevent a charter school from getting into a contract with a management company that has a "poison pill" that makes it nearly impossible to "fire" the management company and still maintain a charter school.
* Which entity should hold the assets?
* Both the charter school governing board and the management company should have separate legal counsel and negotiate an "arms length" agreement.
* There needs to be more training information available for new charter school boards and charter school authorizers so that people are aware of what needs to be discussed because oftentimes people don't even know what questions to ask.
* Relationships are important and not just for the charter school and the management company, but also the authorizer and the management company.
* A certain level of academic achievement is required by the charter school contract and it implies that the management company is responsible for producing a certain level of academic results or else it's the company's responsibility to make necessary changes.
* Transparency is vital, especially as it relates to financial arrangements.

The next committee meeting will be on Feb. 2nd and there will be a public hearing on online education issues. Today's committee also established a timeline for its work, which primarily is a report to the legislature with recommended legislation or state board of education rule changes. The committee report will also outline a proposed implementation plan for the recommendations.

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