Minutes ago, Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray introduced a bill containing several changes to charter school oversight, the School Reform Amendment Act of 2008—-as LL reported in his column last week.

The legislation, as described in comments by Gray and co-sponsors Tommy Wells of Ward 6 and Harry Thomas Jr. of Ward 5, contains several components. The first is to change the process by which members of the Public Charter School Board are nominated; currently the mayor selects nominees from a list provided by the federal education department. The bill proposes making the members direct mayoral appointees with a District residency requirement, a move likely to attract congressional scrutiny.

Other parts:

  • A requirement to match quarterly payments to charters to enrollment figures, making sure money better follows the movement of students between schools
  • A required 15-month planning period for new charter schools. Virtually every charter school has followed this to date; the grand exception, of course, is the pending Center City application, which would convert seven Catholic schools to charters in only three months.
  • A requirement to open only a single campus upon a school’s initial chartering (also a poke at the parochial schools), and, as a corollary to that, a requirement that a charter school meet certain academic benchmarks before expanding.

In his remarks, Wells made the point that charters schools were intended to be places of “innovation and best practices” in educational methods. “Failure to make adequate yearly process in five years is not a best practice,” he said.

Members Marion Barry of Ward 8, Mary Cheh of Ward 3, Ward 7’s Yvette Alexander, plus at-large members Kwame R. Brown and David A. Catania, signed on as co-sponsors, giving the bill immediate majority support.