SBE Tie Vote on Classical Academy Means BVSD Decision Stands

Today, Ascent Classical Academy Flatirons lost its second appeal to the State Board of Education on a three to three party-line vote. The Boulder Valley School District’s decision to deny the charter stands. In the first appeal to the SBE, Democratic member Val Flores crossed party lines and voted in favor of the school. It has been said that her vote upset many in the Democratic Party. She was not there today, and her absence disappointed hundreds of families.

The Colorado home-grown Ascent Classical Academies Network currently has two successful charter schools. The network is led by seasoned individuals who are trying to answer the demands of community members residing in or near the Boulder Valley School District. About 650 students are on the waiting list for what was an anticipated opening this fall.

The first and second appeal process to the SBE was a provision in the 1993 Charter Schools Act. Democratic Governor Romer, a strong proponent of the 1993 legislation, supported both the first and second appeal to a school district’s decision. It was an extremely controversial provision in the legislation for obvious reasons. Through opposition to the bill, the school board, school executive, and teacher associations tried to stop community members from opening their own autonomous public schools.

Boulder currently has five charter schools. Though today Denver Public Schools (DPS) can boast of about 60 charter schools, it wasn’t always supportive of charters. A DPS middle school teacher Cordia Booth and a group of citizens filed a charter application to DPS in late 1993. Believing the opportunity to appeal a district’s decision was unconstitutional, DPS refused to open the school after the charter won two appeals at the SBE. A lawsuit was filed, and it resulted in the 1999 unanimous decision from the Colorado Supreme Court that it is constitutional for the State Board of Education to order a school district to open a charter school.

We hope that the parents who have requested a classical education program will continue to demand that their elected Boulder Valley School District board create such a program.

Unfortunately, as is the case with so much in public education, charter school authorization is very political. Policymakers should revisit how charter schools are authorized and provide additional routes for charter authorization. Although Colorado has a state chartering authority, its ability to charter schools is still ultimately controlled by the school districts.