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Signatures being gathered to get charter schools protected in Colorado constitution

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(The Center Square) – An organization attempting to enshrine charter school rights in Colorado’s Constitution published a report supporting the move as it gathers signatures to get it on the ballot.

Advance Colorado, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization, has until July 25 to gather at least 124,238 signatures of registered voters for Initiative #138 to be on the November general election ballot. It also must get at least 2% of the total registered electors in each of the 35 Colorado state senate districts.

“Protecting Educational Freedom: Why School Choice Must Be Placed in the Colorado Constitution,” is a 15-page report by Michael Tsogt, a policy analyst with Advance Colorado. The report states school choice in Colorado received bipartisan support throughout the last 30 years. However, the report states “an annual barrage of legislative assaults” threaten charter schools.

“The school choice movement in the United States is a rejection of the one-size-fits-all model of education,” according to the report. “In Colorado, which has one of the best school choice statutes in the nation, the next move is to preserve school choice for future generations by cementing it as a right in the Colorado Constitution. This is necessary due to a rising attack against the right to school choice for all.”

The report highlighted House Bill 24-1363, entitled, “Charter Schools Accountability; Concerning measures to address charter school accountability.” The 55-page bill would have made wide-ranging financial and administrative changes to charter schools.

The bill would have repealed a 5% cap and allowed school districts to retain the cost of any services for charter school students, including reimbursements for special education services. It also would have changed regulations on procedural matters with charter schools, school districts and the state board of education.

After an eight-hour hearing on April 11, the House Education Committee voted 8-3 to postpone the bill.

“Given the current anti-school choice makeup of the General Assembly, putting the right to school choice in Colorado’s constitution must be accomplished by a citizens’ initiative,” according to the report. “Because of the recent assaults on school choice, it is only a matter of time before the opportunity to cement this right ceases.”

Continuing support of charter schools also might be influenced by next week’s election for members of the state board of education. Charter school advocates currently have a 5-4 majority, but a race between Democrats Marisol Rodriguez and Kathy Gebhardt will be key, according to an analysis by Forbes. Progressives Supporting Teachers and Students donated $569,594 to the Rodriguez campaign and the Colorado League of Charter Schools donated $125,000, according to the publication.

By adding charter schools to the state constitution, Advance Colorado argues lawmakers would have to get a vote of the people to make changes and the state supreme court would be required to review any law infringing on school choice.

“For the sake of Colorado’s future, we must preserve charter schools, home schools, private schools, trade schools, magnet schools, online learning, open enrollment, and future innovations in education by putting school choice in our state constitution,” according to the report.

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