New Law in Connecticut Requires New Levels of Transparency, Accountability from Charter Schools

By Michael Klazema on 7/29/2015
Following an investigation that revealed corruption, nepotism, and little to no accountability at a Connecticut charter school, the state is fighting back with a new law. On the last day of the state's most recent legislative session, Connecticut lawmakers passed what is being called the "charter transparency bill." Now, the legislation has been officially signed into law by Governor Daniel Malloy, which means that charter schools have a few new guidelines and regulation to learn for the new school year.

According to a report from West Hartford News, the new law makes several brand new demands, including the requirement of background checks for all charter school employees who have direct contact with students, the auditing and monitoring of one charter school per year by the state education commissioner, and the adoption of "anti-nepotism and conflict of interest policies."

Since most states already have laws on the books calling for background checks of teachers and other school employees that have contact with children, it may seem surprising that such screenings had to be mentioned in this bill. But it's always been relatively unclear how charter schools should be regulated in that regard: they receive public funding, but operate independently of established school districts, and typically make their own rules about curriculum and other things. Smartly, this new law makes sure that Connecticut charter schools are taking the same precautions to protect child safety as public schools.

The other stipulations of the new bill will help to increase the accountability of charter schools, as well as the overall quality of the education provided therein. The audits will hopefully work like a "random background check" or "random inspection" policy would, encouraging charter schools across Connecticut to follow all state laws and policies, and provide the best education possible, in case of an audit. The anti-nepotism rule, meanwhile, will seek to solve a common charter school problem, where the governing councils behind the schools hire friends or family members instead of executing a full employee search to find a fully qualified teacher or employee.

Overall, these new rules are strong ones that should help to make sure that charter schools in Connecticut are being held to the same standards (in terms of safety, education, employment, and more) that other schools are. Generally, the best charter schools are praised for their unique approach to learning, their innovative and passionate teachers, and a greater level of teacher-student one-on-one engagement than is possible at public schools. The "charter transparency bill" should be able to add a bit of structure and accountability into the system without sacrificing what makes charter schools an attractive option in the first place.

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