Lawmakers on the legislature’s Education Committee have decided not to take a position on whether new charter schools should open in the state over the next two years.
The committee instead decided Friday to leave the question up to the General Assembly’s budget-writing Appropriations Committee.
In a near-unanimous vote, committee members also decided that the management organizations that run charter schools should not automatically be considered public agencies in law and subject to the public disclosure requirements of the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
Twenty-one state legislators had co-sponsored a bill placing a moratorium on new charter schools until the State Department of Education reviews existing ones and crafts a plan for the role of charter school in the state. At present, 22 charter schools enroll nearly 8,000 students.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said he opposes a moratorium. “It’s much ado about nothing,” the Democratic governor said during an interview on WTIC radio earlier this week.
Now that question moves to the Appropriations Committee. “The question of whether there will be funding for charter schools — and how much —that’s before the Appropriations Committee and will be appropriately determined by that committee,” said Rep. Andy Fleischmann, a West Hartford Democrat and House chairman of the education committee
It’s unclear whether the Appropriations Committee will provide the $4.6 million needed for two new charter schools to open in the fall.
The FOI bill was aimed at bringing additional transparency to the operation of charter school management organizations.
In June 2014, the Hartford Courant began revealing a series of problems with Hartford’s Jumoke Academy. The leader of Jumoke, Michael Sharpe, had a years-old criminal record for embezzlement, and his charter management organization had hired family members and people with criminal backgrounds.
Sharpe’s charter organization and two others in the state have declined to release public information when requested, maintaining they are not public agencies. Those cases are pending before the state’s Freedom of Information Commission.
The lapses revealed by the Courant have caused some legislators and local education leaders to lose confidence in the state education department’s ability to oversee charter schools.
Fleischmann said he was concerned the FOI bill, “was just not well crafted” and could have made a lot of nonprofits that work with schools subject to the act.