One way to provide more children with an opportunity to go to a great school is to approve only those charter applicants that have demonstrated that they are ready to succeed. The Maine Charter School Commission appears to have implemented a process to do just that.
Yet a few weeks ago, Governor Paul Le Page told the Maine Charter School Commission to “go away” after they approved only one of the five charter applications they received. Le Page suggested that the commission’s decision was the result of intimidation by charter school opponents, rather than thoughtful decision-making.
When authorizers set a high bar for approval, it is not unusual for only a small percentage of applicants to be approved–particularly in the initial stages of charter growth within a state. Applicants often have a learning curve when rigorous expectations are in place. Capable applicants will often come back with stronger plans which are subsequently approved. In Louisiana and New Jersey, where there have been significant improvements in educational outcomes through charter schools, charter approvals were initially low as each state implemented more rigorous approval standards. Both states have seen an increase in the rate of approvals as more applicants recognize and rise to meet those high expectations.
We hope the governor will give quality a chance in Maine. See Greg Richmond’s Letter to the Editor in support of the Maine Charter Schools Commission.