Utah Charter School Board seeks more power to stop closures

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The board that oversees Utah charter schools has asked state lawmakers to give them more authority, saying they do not have the power to intervene before a school fails.

The Utah State Charter School Board made the request after one charter school closed earlier this year and another filed for bankruptcy this week, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Thursday.

If the charter board performed regular checks and analyzed school applications prior to approval, then the schools would not have been in their current situations, some state Board of Education members said. They said granting the charter board more authority would be counterintuitive because they have enough authority to review accounts and raise concerns but wait until it is too late to act.

Charter board members have argued that their early attempts to intervene could be undone by schools.

The state board of education oversees the state charter school board.

Charter board members are requesting that the Legislature grant them authority that clarifies their role separate from the state Board of Education, officials said. They want more formal policies overall, a requirement that all charters be audited before they can be approved, and the ability to remove and replace a school director for up to a year.

“If we see the cliff coming and the executive director can take steps to remedy the problem but refuses, we can put somebody else in,” said state charter board member Jim Moss. “Right now, this isn’t working. And we’re not going to wait until it implodes anymore.”

The American International School of Utah, a charter in Murray, closed this summer with more than $400,000 in debt in misspent special education funds and millions owed to other debtors, officials said. Treeside Charter in Provo filed bankruptcy and a third, St. George Academy is on probation. Capstone Classical Academy is also expected next month to appeal a recommendation for closure.

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