New charter school law provides greater accountability, transparency to parents, taxpayers

House Bill 1375 requires charter schools make information available online about waived state requirements, additional revenue beyond taxpayer funds

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 1375 into law, June 2, at the Rocky Mountain Prep Southwest Elementary School, a Denver charter school, opening a new chapter in transparency and accountability for charter schools in Colorado.
 
The law requires school districts to create a plan with their charter schools and other stakeholders on how local money will be distributed based on student needs, not the type of school a student attends. These plans will take effect for the 2019-20 school year.
 
The Colorado Education Association is proud to have worked with a coalition of community partners including AFT-Colorado, Padres & Jóvenes Unidos, NAACP CO-WY-MT state and local chapters, Colorado AFL-CIO, 9to5, Common Cause, and FRESC in shaping this legislation.

“HB-1375 is crucial as it gives parents and taxpayers, for the first time, a chance to get an honest look at the school they are considering for their children,” said CEA President Kerrie Dallman. “Our work with this coalition was instrumental in bringing a new era of accountability and transparency to charter schools that our parents and taxpayers have never had.”

Beginning July 1, parents can access and download the waivers their charter schools have been granted, and replacement plans for non-automatic waivers, by going to the charter school’s website.

“Although we still have more work to do, going forward, parents have a clearer view of the schools they’re sending their children to and that is a good thing,” Dallman added. “In fact, for the first time ever, parents at Rocky Mountain Prep, where HB-1375 was signed, will finally be able to go to the school’s website and easily see the school’s 22 statutory waivers, including the school's waiver from the requirement that classrooms have licensed, certified teachers. Currently, Rocky Mountain Prep's website provides no information that this school does not have to follow laws in the same way as traditional neighborhood schools.”

Next year, HB-1375 will require charter schools to post comprehensive tax forms online, such as the federal form 990, that will show how much money they receive from outside sources including gifts, grants and donations.

Also included in HB-1375 are provisions that eliminate two automatic waivers around gifts, grants and donations, and competitive bidding. This may prevent no-bid contracts from being awarded to for-profit vendors connected to a taxpayer-funded charter school. The law also requires charters have a named contact in place at the school, available during business hours, to answer questions about all waivers.