A Voice from the State Legislature: Don't Do What Arizona Did!
Arizona has acquired quite a reputation for its charter school movement. Often proponents tout our state as having the strongest charter school legislation in the country. However, critics point out loopholes the size of the Grand Canyon and an increasing number of problems that plague these schools. If I may offer a cautionary note to those of you who are thinking of using Arizona as a model for your own charter school statutes--think twice, then think it through again. Make sure you scratch below the surface and recognize that there is significant tarnish on the bright future of charter schools.
Let me give you a little background on how we got where we are today. The first serious debate on charter schools began during the 1993 legislative session. The chairman of the house Education Committee, now our superintendent of public instruction, introduced a bill that took a meat ax approach to education reform. The bill would have repealed all of the laws regarding schools and replaced them with a handful of statutes out- lining responsibilities of parents, students, teachers, principals, school councils, superintendents, and governing boards. It also contained a small section on charter schools. The uproar over the wholesale repeal of the education laws overshadowed the debate on charter schools. That bill died, and a modest senate bill that dealt only with charter schools passed the senate but was never heard in the house.