Separation of GDOE and charter schools tackled

GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez supports Bill 196-35, which would allow GDOE to seek alternative sources of energy at a discounted rate.

Education leaders gave their testimonies in support of Bill 106, which would separate the budget and operations between the Guam Department of Education and the island’s charter schools.

During the public hearing held on the bill Wednesday, it was clear that the Guam Department of Education and the Guam Academy Charter School want a separation.

Bill 106 seeks to clearly separate the authority and responsibility of the Guam Department of Education from that of the Guam charter school.

During the public hearing, stakeholders from both testified in support of the bill.

“I want to separate GDOE budgetarily and operationally from the charter schools by doing the following: removing the superintendent from the appeals board, removing the requirement of the Guam Academy Charter School to submit reports to the superintendent and the Guam Education Board, and removing the superintendent and board from the budget process and expenditure removal process,” GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez said.

Fernandez also wants to ensure there is clearer language indicating separate appropriations for GDOE and for the charter school.

The GDOE superintendent also wanted to address another area where the separation could be made clearer, which is to remove the part of the law that requires GDOE to manage a charter school in the event that the school’s charter is revoked.

“I think the Guam Academy Charter School is more equipped since they issued the charter initially and are in charge of monitoring the school to be able to manage that school’s transition,” Fernandez said.

Lastly, Fernandez is requesting that charter schools or the charter school council be subject to an annual report that will be made available to the public for accountability and transparency.

Representing the Guam Academy Charter School, Dr. Judi Won Pat supports the bill as well but said: “I would like to see language that would allow remaining funds at the end of the year to be either carried over or to allow for the current fiscal year budget to address any previous obligations.”

Won Pat said that if this is allowed, the charter school would be able to address many debts owed to vendors, rather than going through a longer process to receive funding. She also requested that the deadline to submit school data be pushed later than June 15.

Amanda Blas, chairwoman of the Guam Academy Charter Schools Council, raised another concern.

“The bill fails to highlight the council’s resources, which, in turn, affects the council’s ability to fully perform its duties and responsibilities and support the charter schools,” Blas said.

Blas asked the Legislature to consider their budget request for 2020 administrative staff, dedicated office space, and needed supplies to better support the charter schools.

After all the testimonies, Telena Nelson, who introduced Bill 106, says they will take a look at the bill again to make sure it is fair and equitable across the board for all agencies.

Also discussed was Bill 107-35 (LS) relative to accreditation and the renewal period for charter schools.