July 2, 2013

Maine tightens virtual charter school laws

Among the specific requirements now required is weekly face-to-face time between students and instructors.

By Noel K. Gallagher ngallagher@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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"We take our job very, very seriously, so to go slowly is important to us," she said.

Lapoint said she thinks Maine is taking the right path in spelling out rigorous standards for virtual charter schools, even if other states haven't had the same expectations.

"Philosophies differ. I think we're going to lead the way on virtuals," she said.

The commission had discussed not accepting any charter school applications next year, citing a limited budget and a heavy workload monitoring the progress of the five charter schools that have been approved.

But Lapoint said she met with Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen, who agreed to make Education Department personnel available to help commission members on a case-by-case basis. For example, she said, the commission could ask that the department's staff review an application to assess an academic plan, or special education plans, and provide written feedback to the commission.

Bowen was firmly against slowing down the charter school process, she said.

The state budget that took effect Monday increased the commission's budget from $28,000 a year to $150,000 a year. The commissioners are unpaid volunteers, and the paid two-person staff, an executive director and an assistant, work 30 hours a week.

Executive Director Bob Kautz has noted that the upcoming year will include direct oversight of the operating charter schools, and a need to create procedural rules to flesh out the two-year-old law authorizing charter schools.

Among the needed rules are policies on charter revocation and renewal, charter school expansion and closure, and charter school replication -- if a school wanted to open another campus in another town.

Kautz noted Tuesday that only one application had been received for a position on the commission, which faces two vacancies: William Shuttleworth has submitted his resignation effective Aug. 31, and Vice Chairman Richard Barnes has said he intends to step down.

The board voted to reappoint Lapoint as chairwoman for another year. The new vice chairwoman is Shelley Reed.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:


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