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Defining School District



Legislation in four states — California, Florida, Georgia and Michigan — specifically allows “charter districts” or “charter systems.” But as charter school advocacy groups are inclined to point out, that technically is different from a district where all schools are independently run charter schools.

The term “charter district” typically refers to freedoms that are afforded by the state to the district, which then are transferred to the schools.

Alex Medler, vice president for policy and advocacy with the Chicago-based National Association of Charter School Authorizers, says his organization hasn’t studied the charter district movement, but he says skepticism exists over the extent of freedom a school within a charter district can exercise, such as its own hiring and firing of staff, or any other issue tied to a collective bargaining agreement with the teachers’ union.

“It may be a good strategy, but it’s not the same as charter schools in other places that have the latitude to try new and different things,” Medler says.

A fifth state, Colorado, once had charter district legislation, he adds.

According to the Denver-based Education Commission of the States, which tracks state legislative activity, Oklahoma, Hawaii and New Mexico are in various stages of charter district authorization. The ECS state policy database is accessible at http://bit.ly/ecs-state-policy-database.

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