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Board becomes authorizer for charter schools

In response to Alabama Senate Bill 45 (SB45), Madison Board of Education approved a resolution to the Alabama State Department of Education to function as an 'authorizer' of charter schools. (CONTRIBUTED)
In response to Alabama Senate Bill 45 (SB45), Madison Board of Education approved a resolution to the Alabama State Department of Education to function as an ‘authorizer’ of charter schools. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – At its Aug. 20 meeting, Madison Board of Education approved a resolution to the Alabama State Department of Education to function as an ‘authorizer’ of charter schools.

The resolution is in response to Alabama Senate Bill 45 (SB45), Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act or ‘Charter School Law.’

The Madison board acted to meet the Sept. 1 deadline for Alabama city and county school boards to designate their districts as an authorizer. Districts that do not respond will relinquish their authority to a state-appointed charter school commission.

The board will define the scope of a proposed charter school that opens in a community. However, charter applicants can appeal any local system’s decision to the charter school commission.

Functioning as an authorizer “gives us control over our own destiny,” Madison City Schools Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler said. The board now can interface with the community about reasons to reject a character or if a proposed charter might fill ‘gaps’ for students.

“This leaves it in the hands of the community,” Fowler said.

SB45 includes a lengthy definition of “public charter school” and stipulates several requirements: A public charter school “has autonomy over key decisions including … finance, personnel, scheduling, curriculum, instruction and procurement.” An independent governing board for a public charter school must be a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization.

Madison board members expressed frustration about the Charter School Law. Local school boards accepting authorizer responsibilities must deal with administration obligations that the state has not funded. The requirement for open enrollment will allow students from anywhere, even outside Madison City Schools, to attend a charter.

However, board members accepted the obligation to confirm that any education decisions that they make, whether for public or charter schools, will be in the best interest of Madison citizens.

“It’s very burdensome but decisions are best left up to local leaders,” board president Dr. Terri Johnson said. “We know it will cost money and resources but our community wants us to make such decisions.”

The resolution calls for at least one public forum.

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