Parent Complaints to the Charter Board
Parents are able to file complaints with the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools through an online system launched in 2015. According to a Board spokesperson, “All complaints received are reviewed to determine whether the complaint is within the Board’s jurisdiction.” If so, it forwards the information to the charter holder and gives the charter holder a small timeframe to respond. The board staff then reviews the response and decides if it warrants further action from the Board. As of March 2017, nearly 120 complaints had been filed and processed. Here are a few that dealt with enrollment issues:
Bright Beginnings School
A parent filed a complaint with the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools in June 2016. In his complaint, the parent said he and his wife received an email in January 2016 notifying them that their son was selected from the lottery to attend Bright Beginnings School’s all-day kindergarten program for the 2016-17 school year.
The parent said they “promptly” accepted the offer and paid the school $400, which covered a student activity fee and the first month of tuition. The school charges tuition for the second half of its full-day kindergarten program, which it is allowed to do since the Arizona State Legislature only provides funding for the first half of full-day kindergarten in public schools.
The parent said he and his wife were also told their son had to take a mandatory “Kindergarten Readiness” test to determine what the child could work on over the summer. But he said they were never told the test would “hinder acceptance.” He said the school “reneged” on its acceptance of their son into the kindergarten program and kept the $400. The family filed a lawsuit, alleging that the school kept the money for a service it promised without delivering that service.
Responding to the complaint, Bright Beginnings School said even though the school had a non-refundable policy in place, it refunded the parent the full $400. However, the school didn’t admit to any wrongdoing.
Heritage Academy Gateway
A parent filed a complaint with the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools in June 2016. The parent tried to enroll her daughter, who was entering 7th grade, for the 2016-17 school year. The school required her to take a placement test as part of the enrollment process.
A few days after her daughter completed the placement test, the parent said she received a call from the school’s registrar. “She called to let me know that the school wouldn’t be a good fit for [my daughter] because she didn’t score high enough,” the parent wrote in her complaint.
She said she asked if her daughter could participate in an organization and leadership class that the school offered to help students with the need for additional instruction. She said the registrar told her the class was only for students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The parent then asked if she could set up a meeting with the school to create an IEP for her daughter. The registrar, however, declined “and again said that she didn’t think the school was going to be a good fit,” according to the complaint.
Eventually, she said, the registrar told her that if she still wanted to enroll her daughter, she would need to attend summer school first.
The school responded to the complaint, saying it never denied admission to the student. The school stated it requires potential students to take a placement test and uses the test results to determine if students should attend summer school. The school said summer classes help students prepare for the school’s rigorous curriculum but is not mandatory.
In addition, the school denied that it told the parent her daughter couldn’t participate in the organization and leadership class. The school said students who wish to take part in the class must first be evaluated for special education eligibility. However, the school didn’t address the allegations that the registrar stated the school was not “a good fit” for the complainant’s daughter.
Veritas Preparatory Academy
In a complaint filed with the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools in September 2016, a parent states she enrolled her son at Veritas Preparatory Academy and paid the required fees, including a $175 deposit for the use of books, $130 to buy 19 books and $45 for a camping trip.
She said that three weeks after enrolling her son, the school’s director of academics informed her that her son would be placed in 8th grade instead of 9th grade, where he belonged, because of his level of English proficiency. She said she was also told the school did not have a program for English language learners, which she said surprised her “because of the level of education that school indicates they have.”
She withdrew her son, whom she said felt like he was not well accepted at the school, and took him to another school. She added that she felt “discriminated” against because the school made its decision to move her son down a grade level before testing her son’s English skills.
In its response to the complaint, Veritas Preparatory Academy stated three teachers had told the school’s director of academics, at the end of the first week of the new school year, that the complainant’s son lacked academic preparation for 9th grade. As a result, the director of academics spoke to the mother about the possibility of moving him to 8th grade.
The school also noted it did have a program for English language learners and that the complainant’s son was scheduled to take a test on August 25, 2016, to see if he was eligible for it. But, according to the school, he never took the test because his mother withdrew him from the school a day before he was scheduled to take it. The school added, “The issue was not his English skills but rather he would be more likely to enjoy academic success in 8th grade.”