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Independent (!) Charter School RFP: Madison OR Milwaukee (!)

University of Wisconsin System Office of Educational Opportunity, via a kind email:

As home to the nation’s first public kindergarten, Wisconsin has a proud history of visionary educators incubating innovative educational opportunities for students, families, and their communities.

The Office of Educational Opportunity is proud to be a partner in the Badger State’s living legacy of educational innovations. Our role is to connect students, families, professional educators, and community leaders with an opportunity to create a school that meets their needs and interests.

If you have an idea for a school, then we invite you to review and respond to our Request for Proposal (RFP). Details about how we will score applications are provided in the linked rubrics, but for us to “green light” any proposal, it must provide access to new educational innovations, incubate existing educational practices in new ways, and/or increase educational equity.

Selection Process

The Office of Educational Opportunity will begin seeking proposals for public charter schools in Madison and Milwaukee on August 2, 2017.

Phase 1 submissions will be scored on a rolling basis using the reviewer guide shared below.

Applicants with approved Phase 1 applications will be invited to submit a Phase II application (Phase II applications that are submitted without an approved Phase 1 will be returned to the applicant without being reviewed).

The School Selection Committee will score Phase 2 submissions using the reviewer guide provided below. The Committee will make authorization recommendations to OEO’s Director.

Applicants who receive a recommendation for authorization from the School Selection Committee may commence contract negotiations with OEO’s Director – subject to the Director accepting the Committee’s recommendation for authorization.

If mutually agreeable contract terms are reached, then the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents must approve of the contract for any school to be officially authorized by OEO.

Some history on (aborted) independent charter schools in Madison, including:

the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School and

the Studio School.

2009: “An emphasis on adult employment“.

Unfortunately, Madison continues to support a non diverse K-12 Governance model, this despite spending far more per student than most districts and tolerating long term, disastrous reading results.

Much more on Gary Bennett’s office of Educational Opportunity.

The RFP respondents need not conform to Madison or Milwaukee’s legacy organization structure – that is, they would be a “non instrumentality” school.

This is positive. I hope and pray that we see interesting proposals and schools.

Commentary On Charter School Climate And Madison’s Non Diverse Governance

Alan Borsuk

These reasons feed my thought that the forecast for creating independent charters outside Milwaukee isn’t strong, no matter what state law says.

Under Gary Bennett, the UW System charter office has moved carefully. It does not want to create angry politics around schools in Madison or elsewhere. With the exception of plans to open a special charter school for up to 15 teenage opioid addicts somewhere in Wisconsin, the first charter schools created by the UW office are unlikely to arrive before 2019, if any come at all.

What’s likely to be in the state budget for charters? Not much different than for any other schools — increases of about $200 per student in funding in each of the next two years. That would raise the per-student amount in 2018-’19 to a bit over $8,600, which is less than conventional public schools get.

And the Milwaukee scene, in broad strokes? Chartering by city government has pretty much come to a halt. The UWM charter list includes some very good schools, but the prospects for new charters are iffy.

‘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.

Recovery School Request for Proposal (Draft)

Office of Educational Opportunity (PDF):

Identifying Information

Name of Organization:

Year Founded:

Revised 5/31/2017, 11:30 a.m.

Recovery School Request for Proposal

First and Last Name of Primary Applicant:

Mailing Address:
Preferred E-Mail Address
Preferred Phone Number:

Attach the names, professional affiliation, and role in the proposed school for all school leaders and board members.

Summarize the purpose and brief history of the organization. (For instance, is this a new non profit created for this proposed school, or is it an existing nonprofit seeking to expand or replicate its portfolio?)

Evidence of Incorporation in Wisconsin and IRS status

Organizational Background

Do you currently operate a school, if yes where for how long and how is it operated (public district, private, other)?

Is your proposal a fresh start campus, replication campus, or a conversion campus?

If it is a conversion campus, why are you seeking to reorganize your operations into a public charter school?

Have you applied for charter status before? If yes with what authorizer, what was the outcome, and what reasons were given for the outcome?
May we contact the authorizer to discuss your prior application?

Much more on Gary Bennett’s Wisconsin – non traditional government school district – charter school authorizing body.

Related: A majority of the Madison School rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School. Also rejected: the Studio School.

This University of Wisconsin system office has the authority to authorize Charter schools in Madison and Milwaukee.

Despite spending more than most, now nearly $20,000 per student, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

Note that charter and voucher schools must operate on less than half of Madison’s per student spending. They receive only redistributed state tax dollars, nothing from local property taxes or other typical government sources.

On Madison’s lack of K-12 Diversity and choice

Karen Rivedahl:

“The best thing my office can do is increase access to educational opportunities and increase equity,” he said. “The worst thing it can do is create fights for fights’ sake.”

Independent charter schools, while funded by state taxpayers, operate outside most traditional public school rules in a way that supporters say make them more effective and perhaps better able to address long-standing challenges, such as raising test scores for low-income and minority students.

Detractors counter they are a financial drain on the public school system with no guaranteed ability to offer students any better education.

The Madison School District, which already has the power to authorize independent charter schools but so far has not done so, remains in the detractors’ ranks.

“Gary knows how I feel about his office — that I think it’s unnecessary, that our board, like any school board, ought to be making decisions about how to serve students,” Cheatham said. “Our goal is to make that office obsolete

Much more on Gary Bennett, here.

Madison has continued to support non diverse K-12 governance despite long term, disastrous reading results and spending more than most, now around $18,000 per student.

A majority of the Madison school board rejected the proposed Madison preparatory academy IB charter school and the studio school.

University of Wisconsin System Charter School Opportunities, including Madison; Draft Recovery School Legislation

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, via Gary Bennett:

The University interprets its responsibility to authorize charter schools as a part of a larger attempt to improve education for children and in this instance, the education of children in the City. Charter schools must have programs that provide quality education to urban students and address the critical issues of today’s urban education environment. The academic achievement of children who are viewed as at-risk should be the central focus of the charter school application. Substantive outcomes must be given priority over process experiences if academic achievement is to serve as the central focus.

Being granted a charter to operate a school requires thought and planning as well as a committed organization that can sustain the development and operational requirements of a charter school. Potential applicants must be able to commit eighteen to twenty-four months of planning time before a charter school can become a reality.

The University and SOE consider the following principles to be essential to the development of charter schools authorized by the University. These principles are as follows:

Draft Wisconsin Recovery School Bill (PDF):

This bill authorizes the director of the Office of Educational Opportunity in the University of Wisconsin System to contract with a person to operate, as a four-year pilot project, one recovery charter school for no more than 15 high school pupils in recovery from substance use disorder or dependency. Under the bill, the operator must provide an academic curriculum that satisfies the requirement for graduation from high school as well as therapeutic programming and support for pupils attending the charter school. The bill requires a pupil who wishes to attend the recovery charter school to apply and to agree to all of the following: 1) that the pupil has begun treatment in a substance use disorder or dependency program; 2) that the pupil has maintained sobriety for at 30 days prior to attending the charter school; and 3) that the pupil will submit to a drug screening assessment and, if appropriate, a drug test prior to being admitted. The operator of the charter school may not admit a pupil who tests positive for the presence of a drug in his or her system. In addition, a pupil who enrolls in the school must receive counseling from substance use disorder or dependency counselors while enrolled in the charter school.

The contract between the operator of the recovery charter school and OEO must contain a requirement that, as a condition of continuing enrollment, an applicant for enrollment in the recovery charter school submit claims for coverage of certain services provided by the recovery charter school to his or her health care plan for which the applicant is covered for mental health services. The bill also requires the director of OEO to, following the fourth year of the operation of the charter school, submit a written report to the Department of Health Services regarding the operation and effectiveness of the charter school.

A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School several years ago.

Related: An emphasis on adult employment.

Wisconsin’s Charter “Czar”

Doug Ericsson:

Gary Bennett wants to assure you he’s not out to destroy the Madison School District.

The former legislative staffer leads the new Office of Educational Opportunity at the University of Wisconsin System. That makes him the unofficial “charter czar,” the guy who now has the ability to bypass local school boards and authorize independent charter schools in Madison and Milwaukee.

It’s a controversial idea, deemed by opponents as unnecessary at best, poisonous at worst. Critics believe independent charter schools siphon money and resources from traditional public schools. Supporters contend they’re needed to stimulate innovation and correct failures in the current system.

In an interview, Bennett acknowledged that his new role is viewed negatively by some, but he suggested he’s not the enemy. At times, he spoke rather kindly of the Madison School District.

“We have good schools here,” said Bennett, 33, who has lived in Madison since moving to the city in 2008 to attend UW Law School. “We just need more good schools in more areas.”

Related: Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.

Madison schools grudgingly submit to public education they can’t control

Chris Rickert:

I guess when you risk losing your monopoly over publicly funded education, you’re not likely to roll out the welcome mat for anyone chosen to oversee the creation of non-district-controlled charter schools — no matter what his credentials.

As the man who will establish and lead the new Office of Educational Opportunity for the University of Wisconsin System, Gary Bennett will have a lot of influence over what kinds of independent charter schools Madison and Milwaukee students and their familieswill be able to choose from in the future.

K-12 Diversity May Arrive In Madison

Doug Erickson:

Gary Bennett, a former public school teacher, will begin April 1, according to the UW System.

He will establish and lead the new Office of Educational Opportunity, an entity proposed by Darling and other Republican legislators and approved last year as part of the state’s biennial budget process.

The office will have the ability to bypass local school boards and directly authorize new charter schools in districts with more than 25,000 students. Currently, that’s just Madison and Milwaukee.

A majority of the Madison school board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school several years ago.

Unfortnately, Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending more than $17k/student during the 2015-2016 school year.