A new bill by Rep. Jennifer Bacon (D-Denver) and Senator Tammy Story (D-Conifer) — HB21-1295 — threatens the very existence of charter schools, harming their ability to appeal local school board decisions.
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Vega Collegiate Academy is a public charter school in Northwest Aurora, serving a student population that is 91% low income (qualifies for Free and Reduced Lunch), 70% English Language Learners (ELL), and 12% students with disabilities. The school is authorized to operate by Aurora Public Schools.
Vega’s students come from traditional public schools in the neighborhood that have been failing kids for years, with nearly every student entering Vega with academic proficiency below grade level, often far below.
In spite of those challenges, students at Vega are thriving beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
During the 2017-18 school year Vega Collegiate Academy was ranked the #1 school in Aurora Public Schools for academic growth in both math and reading. Even more striking, Vega was the #1 school in the entire state of Colorado for growth in math and the #4 in the state for growth in reading.
Despite this incredible success, Vega was targeted for closure by the local school board. The school district hired a consultant that alleged technical violations of Vega’s charter contract and the Superintendent of Aurora schools recommended the school board vote to close the school.
At the February 2019 meeting of the Aurora School Board, parents of Vega students pleaded with school board members to keep Vega open, telling them of the transformative change they saw in their children and their fear of what would happen to their kids if they could no longer attend Vega.
But the parents’ pleas fell on deaf ears as the Aurora school board voted 7-0 at that meeting to close the school at the end of the 2018-19 school year.
But Vega’s fight wasn’t over.
Colorado law allows charter schools to appeal local school board decisions to the State Board of Education, which the State Board can either send back to the local board, or overturn their decision, when it determines the local board decision was made “contrary to the best interests” of the students, school district or local community.
Vega’s appeal took place in April 2019 in front of the State Board and something magical happened.
All seven members of the State Board of Education – both Democrats and Republicans – joined in a unanimous, bipartisan 7-0 vote to keep Vega open.
Interestingly, after the State Board vote a report by a 3rd party investigator found that the school districts’ allegations of charter contract violations by Vega were largely unsubstantiated or untrue.
The school and its families survived thanks to their right to appeal.
Now that very right to appeal is under attack.
Politicians and powerful interest groups have introduced new legislation to take away the power of charter schools to fairly appeal local school board decisions.
We can’t let that happen.
We need to fight back on behalf of Colorado’s 130,000 students in public charter schools and the families they serve.
Sign up to learn more about the attack on public charter schools and how you can join the fight to protect Colorado families and students.
WHY IT MATTERS TO YOU
School choice is under attack and your voice matters.
The ability for parents to choose the public school that best serves their children is being threatened by legislation that will undermine the ability for public charter schools to open and operate.
However, charter schools and school choice are broadly popular among Colorado voters and legislators are elected by us.
We need you to raise your voice on behalf of the over 130,000 kids in Colorado charter schools and help protect high quality charter schools in Colorado.
Opponents of charter schools are trying to make it easier to close charter schools, no matter how well they are serving kids.
Great schools deserve to be judged by their merit, not by how much opponents of school choice spent to elect the local school board.
Vega Collegiate Academy’s experience should matter to everyone that cares about school choice in Colorado.
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