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Charter Schools Provide Documents to Albuquerque Public Schools

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APS superintendent won’t revoke the schools’ charters

Four charter schools provided Albuquerque Public Schools with financial documents Wednesday, after Superintendent Winston Brooks threatened to shut them down.

Brooks said he no longer intends to revoke the schools’ charters.

“It’s over, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

Brooks had threatened Monday to close Amy Biehl Charter High School, Southwest Primary, La Luz Del Monte and Southwest Secondary Learning Center. The four schools, which all have track records of high test scores and stable finances, had refused to provide APS with monthly bank statements. This district’s other charters all provided the records.

The conflict bubbled to the surface after years of tension between APS and the charter schools it authorizes. It came to a head last week after a letter from state Auditor Hector Balderas. Balderas pointed to “troubling patterns” among APS’ charter schools, which had a combined 361 findings in a recent audit of 36 schools. State Education Secretary Veronica Garcia weighed in last week on Balderas’ letter, saying that APS and other districts are entitled to closer oversight of charter finances than they are now exercising.

Charters are publicly funded schools authorized by either the district or the state. Funding for APS-authorized charters is funneled through the district, but there is a lack of legal clarity as to how much financial autonomy the schools have. The district does have the power to revoke schools’ charters, closing them down.

Scott Glasrud, who is the director for Southwest Primary, La Luz Del Monte and Southwest Secondary, said Monday that the schools’ chartering documents only compel him to show the district quarterly, not monthly, financial statements. Along with Amy Biehl director Mike May, Glasrud framed his refusal as a school autonomy issue.

This week’s events prompted Garcia to call a meeting Friday between APS officials, charter school leaders and the New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools to discuss and clarify the role that authorizers play in the financial oversight of charters.

Brooks said he is looking forward to that meeting, and also hopes the Legislature will move to clear up the laws pertaining to charter schools.

“I think we’ve at least clarified at this point in time that the local authorizer does have the authority to ask for additional information,” Brooks said.

In a joint statement Wednesday, Glasrud and May said they never intended to hide the records.

“As we have always maintained, this has never been about providing the requested information. It is about clarifying the role of the authorizer, the responsibility of the charter schools, and the way the Albuquerque Public Schools district communicates with the charter schools and operators,” they said in the statement, adding that they are looking forward to Friday’s meeting.

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