Education committee weighs charter school bills


Two charter school bills have been set aside for possible inclusion into an omnibus education bill.

However, Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul), chair of the House Education Policy Committee, deemed one more problematic than the other.

Sponsored by Rep. Linda Slocum (DFL-Richfield), HF2010 attempts to tighten the charter school application process by placing a deadline in the turnaround process between charter school applicants and the Department of Education.

While education commissioners must now approve or disapprove charter school proposals within 60 business days, there is no deadline on how quickly the commissioner must respond to attempts by applicants to correct the flaws the commissioner detected in the original application. The bill would now give commissioners 10 days to accept or reject applicant replies. Slocum intends to change that to 15 days.

Applicants have complained to her, Slocum said, that it can take an inordinate amount of time.

Eugene Piccolo, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools, said the lack of a deadline one can be vexing for charter school advocates.

Assistant Education Commissioner Kevin McHenry said while the department strives for quickness, some applications take longer and there are staff considerations.

But if the department has staffing issues, perhaps that can be addressed, Mariani said. “In the real world there are consequences to delay.”

Mariani indicated Slocum’s bill might advance, but he was more cautious about a proposal from Rep. Mary Murphy (DFL-Hermantown).

HF1964 would require that a charter school located in a township serving pre-kindergarten through sixth grade students give enrollment preferences to students and their siblings residing within a 5-mile radius of the school.

Neither bill has a Senate companion.