November 10, 2014

You Need a Lawyer!

By Bellwether

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One sentence sums up this great new piece by Melissa Junge and Sheara Krvaric on lawyers and education reform:

Policymakers and leaders ignore the complexity and impact of the law at their own peril.

But you should still read the entire piece, in which Junge and Krvaric, two of the smartest lawyers advising school and district leaders, offer lots of compelling examples of how this plays out in practice.
I’d just add that having a great lawyer is also critical for charter school authorizers. There’s been a lot of chest-pounding over the years about the need for charter authorizers to “get tough” about closing low-performing schools. While it’s certainly true that some authorizers need to get better about accountability, this is not simply a matter of intestinal fortitude. Ultimately, charter agreements are legal contracts that exist within the context of a state’s charter school law, and authorizers’ ability to address under-performing schools is heavily dependent on legal issues: the quality and provisions of their contracts with schools, the provisions of the state’s charter law related to closure, and the ability of authorizer staff to build a case for closure that meets the requirements of both the contract and the state law. It’s no coincidence that charter authorizers that are regarded as high-quality also tend to have great lawyers. (As a member of the DC Public Charter School Board, I know I am incredibly grateful for ours).

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