Charter movement bids to restore public trust
California's scandal-plagued charter schools have announced plans to put their house in order.
They have joined forces with the state's leading education standards body to set up an inspection and accreditation regime which they hope will restore public faith in their alternative state schools.
The move has been billed as the most ambitious bid for legitimacy so far by the publicly-funded experimental schools which have sprung up across the country.
The California Network of Educational Charters (CANEC) - representing most of the state's 436 charter schools - has forged an alliance with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which inspects schools and universities in California.
CANEC's Susan Bragato said that charter schools would be held to higher standards than mainstream schools under the policing scheme, which is voluntary and will be offered from next year. As well as satisfying inspectors that teaching is up to scratch, charters must show that their books are in order.
Critics say the pact smacks of self-policing and warn that it will do little to bolster charter schools' credibility.
"It's like any company hiring an independent auditor, but telling it you can only audit certain things," said Luis Huerta, professor of public policy in education at Columbia University's Teachers College.
It could also make the schools more bureaucratic and hamper them in their mission to innovate.
California has the highest number of charter schools in the US, but their reputation has been badly tarnished by a series of scandals.
These include the diversion of taxpayers' money to bankroll lavish lifestyles for staff, hiring untrained teachers and convicted criminals and violating the religious instruction ban. The state recently introduced legislation to crack down on abuses.
Barely 9 per cent of California's charter schools have been independently vetted to date.