Kudos to Colorado Governor Jared Polis for recently speaking out against a federal attempt to bypass the country’s groundbreaking charter schools.
Polis is the first, last, and still a charter school champion. It has been part of his signature throughout his more than two decades in politics, beginning with his first elected position on the National Board of Education in 2000. He even founded a charter school and co-founded another. .
That puts him in line with a lot of Colorado parents. Our state was one of the first to adopt the nation’s charters, and today more than 260 publicly funded, independently operated schools serve more than 131,000 students statewide. That’s 15% of all public school enrollment in the state.
It also gives the Democratic governor a bridge between the two political parties. Colorado Republicans have generally supported charter schools since their inception under a GOP-led legislature in the early 1990s. Many of the state’s most prominent elected Democrats have also adopted charters since the start. ; it was three-term Democratic Governor Roy Romer who signed Colorado’s first charter law.
But that leaves Polis at odds with some members of his own party in the state — as well as in Washington. As reported last week, the governor wrote a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona denouncing the Biden administration’s proposed changes to federal rules that could make it harder for schools to get start-up grants. chartered. He also wrote a comment amplifying his concerns in The Washington Post.
The grant program, Polis writes in the commentary, “is the only source of dedicated federal funding to support the growth of high-quality charter schools, and we need to ensure that the program can meet the clear demand of these schools. that transform life”.
Under the program, new charters can apply for funding for one-time start-up costs such as equipment or teacher training. The pending proposal, for which the Department of Education gathered public feedback before its implementation, sets new criteria that charters must meet before qualifying for a grant. Criteria include completing a community impact analysis to show that there is “sufficient demand” for the candidate school and that opening it would not increase racial or socio-economic segregation in the community.
Wrote Polis, “The rules would place major, sometimes unworkable, hurdles on how charter schools seek…funding. For one thing, they would require a federal “community impact analysis,” giving anonymous grant reviewers in Washington the ability to veto parent, community, district, and state efforts. to open a new school. This second assumption is absurd and goes against common sense.
Polis deserves praise for pushing back against the administration of a president of his own party on an issue so crucial to Colorado’s children.
In the meantime, he should take the opportunity to warn the anti-charter school elements of his party here in Colorado — state lawmakers and local school board members who have been elected as henchmen and spokespersons for the teachers‘ unions. Polis should impress upon them that he will also confront them if they continue to auction off organized labor — instead of students — with legislative and school-based attempts to limit charters.
It’s actually a great opportunity for Polis to remind his party base that Democrats have been some of Colorado’s most prominent charter supporters over the years. They include every Democratic governor since Romer as well as former Senate Speaker Peter Groff and former House Speaker Terrance Carroll. It is time for his party to return to its roots.