Changes may be coming to Mobile County just days before the first school bell rings. The school board today discussing whether or not to become a charter school authorizer—that would give them the power to approve or deny any applications for charter schools in the county.
“Really have a little bit more control over what will be done with charter schools in their district,” says Mobile County School Superintendent Martha Peek.
A state bill was signed into law this year allowing charter schools—privately run schools that receive public money. Charters would operate autonomously with their own board of directors with some oversight from the county school board. That’s a concern for Board Vice President Don Stringfellow
“Are we going to be able to monitor that with the existing administrating staff or are we going to have to add additional staff? That’s yet to be seen,” says Stringfellow.
Board member Dr. Reginald Crenshaw is staunchly against charter schools—believing the money would be better used in public schools, but wants to see the board become an authorizer for control reasons.
“And one of the ways that we can have some input in who actually becomes a charter is to be an authorizer. So, in giving in to the fact that we need to do some monitoring, be able to evaluate it, make sure they’re using the standards that the school system uses, we need to become an authorizer,” says Crenshaw.
Now while Peek says it would be a very expensive venture, the school board itself would not be liable for any debts or obligations of the charter programs as long as those charter schools keep to the standards of the National School Association.
“And that’s one thing that we will be meticulously careful about because we won’t want to inherit any debts from those schools,” says Peek.
If the board decides not to become an authorizer, that person could still present to the state’s school board. Now, Mobile County has magnet schools and signature academies meant to compete with charter schools but Peak says that just offers parents more options when it comes to educating their child. Peek was asked to come up with budget numbers to present to the board at their next work session. The board will vote on the matter July 27th.