PHOENIX, AZ — School funding was a defining issue in the 2018 election. Reforming charter schools was part of the promise candidates struck with voters. That promise will have to wait.
On Monday, Arizona Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers announced he would not assign a charter reform bill, passed in the Senate, to a committee. The decision effectively kills the charter reform this session of the legislature.
Speaker Bowers told ABC15 the bill, known as SB 1394, "was intended to be a meaningful, bipartisan bill to increase accountability and transparency in charter schools. Unfortunately, because the bill the Senate passed failed to achieve those goals, it doesn't have the support needed for passage in the House."
The bill's sponsor, state Senator Kate Brophy McGee (R-Phoenix), knew charter reform was on life support after Democrats who had initially signed on backed away. It passed out of the Senate on a party-line vote.
"Without democratic votes on my bill," Brophy McGee said, "my bill will not pass."
Brophy McGee said her charter reform measure focused on three areas: governance, transparency and procurement. Her bill would have required charter schools to account for every tax dollar spent, prohibited governing boards from being made up primarily of family members and made charter schools follow the same procurement rules small school districts follow.
"Reform can and must go further in providing greater transparency and oversight," Hoffman said. "The primary responsibility of charter schools is to educate students not profit at the expense of our communities."
House Minority Whip and state Representative Reginald Bolding Jr. (D-Phoenix) echoed Hoffman's sentiments. Bolding said fellow Democrats have problems allowing publicly-funded charters to keep offering lucrative no-bid management construction deals to insiders as well as hide the pay of their executives.
"From Day 1 Democrats have asked to have a seat at the table, have asked for substantive amendments to solve real-life problems. What we've seen is a deflection of Democratic bills and ideals in favor of the charter school association," Bolding said.
Senator Brophy McGee countered her bill was a first step toward reforming charter schools.
"If I put in this bill every single issue that people wanted to see addressed, it would have never gotten out of committee," she said, emphasizing that her vision of charter school reform would take more than one fix-all bill. "It's going to take more than one bite at the apple to vet this."
As for the apparent demise of her bill, "It is a textbook case of perfect to impossible being the enemy of good."