Much discussion has been heard about a need for charter school reform in Arizona. After problems and abuses have been pointed out over a period of years, there was a bipartisan effort to pass a useful bill in the Legislature. But now that has unraveled, and it is unclear why, except for perhaps the strong charter school lobby.
As we have said before, Arizona has been a leader in school choice and the charters have provided good ideas. Those certainly are needed, as many home environments these days are not conducive to education. The industry, however, has been quite profitable for some operators, and they don’t seem to want new legislation.
Senate Bill 1394 had bipartisan support, but Democrats backed out after blocking of an amendment that would have given it more teeth. Still, Senate Republicans advanced the measure on a 17-13 vote. It was headed toward the House, until Speaker Rusty Bowers blocked it, saying that changes meant it could not pass his chamber. Bowers said in a message to The Arizona Republic that because the Senate-passed bill did not achieve its earlier goals of increasing “accountability and transparency,” it lacked support.
Meanwhile, Democrats have said the powerful Arizona Charter Schools Association had ruined the bill.
The measure would have given the Attorney General’s Office more power to prosecute procurement violations, set rules for charter boards and limited family involvement, restricted purchase of goods or services from board or family members, and required information to be posted on a website. Attorney General Mark Brnovich has been critical of some actions by charter operators and has sought to correct those.
The Legislature needs to adopt the ideas in the bill and through that gain more control over charter schools. Perhaps that can be done this year — or next. However, the sooner it happens the better, because some charters have damaged the reputation and effectiveness of the system.