Do charter schools ever kick out students whose parents fail to honor volunteer commitments?

A charter school administrator sent me a note that an ed group opposed to the November charter school amendment “posted a piece of serious misinformation on their Facebook page and web site alleging that charter schools remove students if their parents don’t fulfill the obligations they take on when they enroll their children, such as volunteer hours….It is illegal for any public school to remove a student without due process (commonly known as expulsion).  I challenge them here…to name any Georgia charter school that has removed a student without due process, ever, for this reason.”

It’s a fair question.

Can anyone cite an instance where a student was kicked out of a charter school because parents failed to honor the volunteer commitment in the school’s attendance policy?  (Here is a good story on the role of parent volunteers in charters.)

I know parents who have withdrawn their children from charter schools, even very good ones. They cite the same reasons that parents unhappy with any school usually cite: Their kids weren’t doing well or the parent had a beef with a teacher or administrator.

I get frequent emails and calls from parents upset with their schools, traditional, charters and privates. Typically, the calls speak to problems with class size, discipline, grading policies or gifted/special ed programs.

But charter school parents — especially those using online programs — often pose an additional question: Where do they go to complain? Charter parents are sometimes confused about their routes of appeal when they are unhappy and can’t get satisfaction at the school level. I explain that they can go to the local school board if their kids attend a locally approved charter, but that it’s unclear where they can turn if they are state approved. They may find someone to listen to them at the state level, but the question is finding someone who can also act.

A member of the state Charter Schools Commission — the now defunct commission that would be revived if the constitutional amendment passes next month — told me that parents in commission-approved charters can come to her and other commission members if stymied at the school level.

However, another commissioner told me that the commission was never supposed to act as a court of last resort for individual parent complaints, that they weren’t set up to counsel parents or arbitrate disputes between parents and charter school administrators. Nor is the state board of education interested in charter school parents lamenting how their child is not faring well or received an unfair punishment. Or whether they met their volunteer commitment.

Anyone shed any light on these issues?

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

53 comments Add your comment

Pride and Joy

October 4th, 2012
5:14 pm

Ron and others make a point that even at charter schools, most parents aren’t involved….
but that undermines the argument Ron and others make — they say the reason charter schools outperform traditional public schools is that the parents at the charter school are more involved…
so there you have it…in their own anti-charter school words….
There is no difference in the level of parent involvement in charter schools and traditional public schools — so the difference in performance can be explained by BETTER teaching.

CharterStarter, Too

October 4th, 2012
11:23 pm

@ Prof – Charters do not have authority to remove children if parents violate the contract/compact. As part of the culture though, it is expected. Call it “positive peer pressure.” And in my experience, most comply.

@ Sneak Peak – Parents should be valued and an integral part of schooling. For the economically disadvantage students’ parents, many had bad schooling experiences themselves, so you have to refoster relationships and make schools a safe and welcoming place to engage them. Hard work, but possible.

@ 3schoolkids – The Commission would not have made decisions regarding retirement plans – it would have left it up to the school to select the state retirement system or another retirement option, as there are many. The Commission would have the authority to approve an application with this choice. I do not imagine very many schools would get out of TRS. Because charters are given waivers from state mandates other than a very few exceptions (accountability, health and safety, etc.), allowing them the OPTION of choosing a retirement investment plan as part of their compensation package would be appropriate.

CharterStarter, Too

October 4th, 2012
11:33 pm

You know, I think the biggest difference with charter schools (aside from the ability to use waivers and the strict accountability) is their cultures (which of course, almost always encourages strong parent and community involvement.)

Could the districts not see some positive in the work of charters and perhaps find some ways to capitalize on what IS working and is replicable? Frankly, it was 5 years before any district official ever visited the charter where I worked, and district teachers never have visited. Charters have always been intended to be labs of innovation and should be viewed and used for that purpose.