Goldwater Institute Files Lawsuit to Protect Charter School Autonomy

Posted on June 25, 2007 | Type: Press Release
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Phoenix--Today five charter schools announced they filed suit to prevent being forced to change the curricula that has helped them rank among the top public schools in the country. The lawsuit is the first filed by the new Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.

The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) has mandated that the schools align their curricula to an ADE-determined grade-by-grade curriculum sequence. These rules would have the perverse effect of dumbing-down some of the most successful schools in the entire United States, said Clint Bolick, the litigation centers director. 

The schools filing the lawsuitBASIS Tucson, BASIS Scottsdale, Veritas Preparatory Academy in Phoenix, Chandler Preparatory Academy and Mesa Preparatory Academy include four of the ten highest-performing public schools in the state based on AIMS test scores. Newsweek has named BASIS Tucson one of the nations ten best high schools for two consecutive years. Mesa Preparatory Academy will open this fall. Veritas, Chandler Prep, and Mesa Prep are part of the Great Hearts Academies network.

In 2003, ADE began requiring charter schools to align their curricula to state prescribed curriculum, despite its lack of authority for such a mandate. Charter schools were able to comply with the alignment requirement until this year, when ADE further mandated that all schools teach U.S. history in the seventh and eighth grades. By contrast, the Great Hearts Academies teach ancient history in seventh grade and medieval history in eighth grade as foundations to U.S. history taught in ninth grade.

We at the Great Hearts Academies must defend the integrity of our curriculum. Families select our schools because they want the very best in a classical, liberal arts curriculum. Our students want to be challenged with greater depth, coverage, and content and to have access to an advanced prep school experience in a public school setting. The increasing pressure from the state to align our curriculum to all other public schools compromises our unique charter and the options offered to Arizona families, said Dr. Daniel Scoggin, CEO of Great Hearts Academies.

The Arizona Legislature created charter schools in 1994 to provide alternatives to traditional public schools. Charter schools are free to implement their own curricula, but their students must still pass the AIMS test. A study of 60,000 public and charter school students in Arizona showed that children in charter schools make faster academic gains on average than children in traditional public schools. Roughly ten percent of Arizona public school children attend charter schools.

The grade-by-grade curriculum alignment requirements impair the ability of public charter schools to carry out their mission, remarked C. Diane Bishop, who served as Superintendent of Public Schools when charter schools were first enacted. Such schools flourish because they are autonomous.

The Goldwater Institute has asked the Maricopa County Superior Court to issue a preliminary injunction against the social studies curriculum alignment edict before schools start in August.

The Complaint, Motion for Preliminary Injunction, and other case documents are available online.

The Goldwater Institute is a non-profit research organization developing policy solutions that foster economic and educational freedom. The Goldwater Institute's work is made possible by the generosity of our supporters.

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