Roy L. Williams
Hoover School Board
The school board considers authorizing charter schools.
Groups wanting to open charter schools in the city of Hoover will have to wait a bit longer before finding out whether they can get the approval of the Hoover City School District.
After an hour-plus discussion on the pros and cons of becoming an authorizer for charter schools in the city, the Board of Education during a special meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 18 voted to table a decision until Superintendent Kathy Murphy can do more research and discuss the issue with superintendents of other state school systems.
Under the charter school legislation approved by the Alabama legislature in March, public school districts have until Sept. 1 to decide whether they want to be an authorizer, or support charter schools opening in their local districts. Public school districts that choose not to be an authorizer will leave decisions up to the 10-member Alabama Public Charter School Commission in Montgomery.
The Board of Education received an in-depth update from Murphy and Assistant Superintendent Ron Dodson on the pros and cons of becoming an authorizer. Murphy told the board she has some concerns about the commitment of resources, including personnel and money, it would require should the school district decide to become an authorizer.
”You become a strong advocate for charter schools should you become an authorizer,” Murphy said. “Aren’t those resources better spent on educating our own children?”
Murphy said she was also concerned about possible liabilities the school district would face as an authorizer should the charter school not meet expectations or face lawsuits.
The legislation allows two types of charter schools: conversions of existing public schools into charter schools or start-up charter schools that gain authorization from local school boards or the Alabama Public Charter School Commission. Murphy said the plus of authorizing a charter school is that it gives public school systems a seat at the table in deciding what type of charter school comes in. But the downside, Murphy said, is that the rules regarding charter schools still haven’t been finalized.
As of Aug. 18, no organizations have approached the Hoover school district about opening a charter school in the city yet, Murphy said. With the decision on authorizing charter schools still two weeks away, the superintendent said she doesn’t want to rush into a decision.
The school board agreed, and unanimously voted to delay a decision on whether to become an authorizer until Murphy gathers more information to present to the board of education.
“I’m going to have some conversations with some of my colleagues, other superintendents,” Murphy said. “I think several of us will probably get together before this week is over. We’ll bounce questions back and forth. I certainly may reach out to Alabama Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice and the Alabama Public Charter School Commission.”
Murphy said once she gets her questions answered, she may call for another special meeting to make a recommendation to the Hoover Board of Education.
“There are still a few lingering questions that need to be answered, so our next steps will be continuing to research and perhaps ask our board to come back to the table for a vote,” Murphy said. “There is significant flexibility for the charter school and significant liability potential for the school board if we become the authorizer. There are human and financial resources that would be required of us.”
City schools would have to handle the requests for proposals and oversight of charter schools as well as obligations that could take money away from educating its nearly 14,000 students, Murphy said.
“It’s big and we need to proceed with caution and get this right,” Murphy said.
School board President Derrick Murphy said it was a smart move to delay a decision. He said mandating public school systems to decide on authorizing charter schools so quickly without giving them enough information is “not the right thing to do.”
“Regarding the charter school bill, we don’t have all of the facts to make an informed decision,” he said. “We in Hoover have a good school system. Our public education system works, and we want to have an opportunity to do above and beyond. I’m not the type to make a rushed decision just because of a date, without having enough information on how it will affect our system.”
Carlissa Cunningham, whose son is a junior at Spain Park High School, said the money and personnel required by the Hoover school system as a charter school authorizer “would be better spent educating our own students. “
Derrick Murphy agreed.
“With financial woes continuing to effect education funding in the state, we can’t continue to take public dollars and resources and put into personnel for charter schools and not take care of the kids in our district,” he said. “With Dr. Murphy’s vision, I have no doubt we will continue to see students performing beyond expectations. I want to wait on her guidance on this before we make a decision on this.”
Advocates of charter schools have long sought the legislation approved this year so that parents can have an option to get their kids a better education. Murphy said her goal as superintendent of Hoover city schools is to make the district so good "that there isn't even a need for anyone to consider putting their children in charter schools" in Hoover.