- Charter School Governance
Authors: Paul T. Hill, Robin J. Lake
National Conference on Charter School Research
Charter school law drafters probably did not require internal governance arrangements in order to make charter schools better providers of instruction. Framers of the laws understood that governance arrangements can prevent some bad outcomes, like abuse or neglect of some group, but they cannot create organizational effectiveness. However, as it has turned out, the prescribed internal governance effects work against school effectiveness while doing little to prevent abuses or protect stakeholders. Though some early supporters hoped charter schools would operate like private firms in a competitive market for students, the internal governance arrangements prescribed by state law limited school heads’ freedom of action and created a good deal of internal friction by demanding too much of individuals who agree to sit on the boards, and also hamstringing school managers. The requirement that every charter school be governed by a nonprofit board has created internal stresses that take time, amplify conflicts that might otherwise be minor, and de-stabilize school leadership and program offerings. Charter schools’ internal governance arrangements help take away the freedom of actions that their external governance arrangements are supposed to promote. This paper argues that nobody had thought through charter schools’ external and internal governance arrangements before they were enacted into law, and that the key parties have still not learned to play their roles well. The conclusion suggests ways that external governance, essentially oversight by public authorities that approve and monitor charter schools, can be improved and internal governance can be simplified and made less a barrier to school performance.