Friday, February 18, 2011

Bob Schaffer Addresses Charter School Conference

State Board of Education chair, Bob Schaffer, addressed the League of Charter Schools' 17th annual conference. In his remarks, Mr. Schaffer spoke about the struggles he and his wife, Maureen, encountered with enrolling their own children in public school before helping to start Liberty Common School.

Mr. Schaffer also told about the origins of the charter school movement in the state, when he was a State Senator. In 1992 Rep. John J. Irwin, of Loveland, introduced a charter school bill that died in the House. The following year, in 1993, then-State Senator Bill Owens (R-Aurora) introduced the Charter School Act, which was co-sponsored by Rep. Peggy Kerns (D-Denver). The bill ultimately passed by a narrow margin in the Senate and went on to be signed by then-Gov. Roy Romer. Mr. Schaffer reminded everyone that initially charter schools were viewed as an experiment and that only 50 charter schools were permitted in the first legislation. In 1998 when the sunset provision was lifted, the cap on the number of charter school was lifted.

Mr. Schaffer also spoke about proposed budget cuts for K-12 public education. He said that because of charter schools having control over their own budgets, their nimbleness and flexibility to respond to budget cuts will afford charter schools a better opportunity for creativity. He noted that the State Board of Education grants waivers to public schools, in addition to charter schools, and suggested that more districts may look at the waiver process as a way to handle drastic budget cuts. Schaffer noted that the Governor's proposed budget cuts meant about $470 per student in the Poudre School District, where he's the Principal of a charter school.

Schaffer also talked about national assessments and their impact on public school choice, especially in regard to academics. He noted that standards drive assessments and then those assessments can become the only measure to determine if a charter school is successful. Instead, Schaffer said that the success of a charter school should be determined by the cash flow generated because parents choose the school for their children.

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