‘Charter czar’ prepares launch as charter popularity plateaus

Chris Rickert:

It can be easy to forget about the “charter czar.”

More than two years after his office was created within the University of Wisconsin System and more than a year after he was hired, the czar has yet to authorize a single charter school. His office doesn’t even have a website.

Education reformers can have some confidence he hasn’t just been loafing around these last 16 months, even as state education data suggest the popularity of charters could be waning.

The czar — also known as former legislative staffer and elementary school teacher Gary Bennett — said the website is slated to go up next week, as are two requests for proposals. One will be for a so-called recovery school aimed at letting teen addicts continue their education while getting treatment; the other will be for straight-up charter schools in either Milwaukee or Madison.

Bennett acknowledged getting familiar with the recovery school concept took some time. Among the funding models he’s looked at are those used by Hope Academy in Indianapolis and Insight Recovery School in Minnesota. To cover the $12,000 to $24,000 per-student cost generally seen at recovery schools, they have used city and district money, respectively, to augment state funding.

Recovery School District RFP.