Alabama may very well have its first-ever charter schools next year. The approval process, which has already hit snags in other parts of the state, will go through a state commission or through local school boards that have elected to become authorizers. Birmingham City Schools is one of just two authorizers in the state, and last night, school leaders held the second of two meetings to explain exactly what that means. Birmingham Superintendent Kelley Castlin-Gacutan told more than 100 people at Parker High School that “we have the authority to first approve or deny any interested party.”
Being an authorizer, or, as many called it, “having a seat at that table,” does not guarantee the district will approve charter schools. Even so, the meeting brought out several speakers who worried charters would siphon money and good students from traditional schools. But parent Jewel Taylor thinks charter schools would be good for Birmingham, as long as city school leaders keep communicating about them.
“I think some people came with a preconceived notion that all Birmingham City Schools are going to be charter schools,” she said. “This is not about all city schools being charter schools. This is about us raising our hands in Birmingham City and saying we would like to [be in position to] authorize those schools.”
A district spokesperson says the school system is still ironing out criteria for charter school applications, and that would-be charter school operators will have 30 days to apply once those are released.