Recommendations for the Arizona Department of Education
- Create standard enrollment paperwork for use by charter schools statewide that includes information about how parents can challenge enrollment decisions. This paperwork should comply with all state and federal laws and not contain exclusionary language, as outlined in this report.
- Revise the PHLOTE form to make explicit the information it collects will not be used to decide whether a student can enroll at a school.
- Educate charter school operators and authorizers of their obligations under Arizona’s public records and open meetings laws. Compliance with these laws allows for greater transparency, accountability, and oversight.
- The Department of Education should make clear to schools that the only time place of birth information is needed from an enrollee is when the enrollee is a foreign exchange student.
- Issue formal guidance informing all charter schools and authorizers in Arizona that charter schools may not: bar admission to students who do not meet academic minimums; exclude English learners; select students based on their performance on entrance essays or interviews; require students or parents to submit Social Security numbers, U.S. birth certificates, or other citizenship information to enroll; or require families to volunteer at or provide payment to the school.
- Take appropriate action, including immediate and effective steps, to ensure that the charter schools identified correct their illegal and exclusionary policies, including investigating the schools’ relevant policies, sending individualized notices to the schools providing guidance about the law and their obligations, providing technical assistance where appropriate, and following up to ensure that the schools have come into compliance with the law.
- Investigate the charter schools in Arizona that did not respond to the ACLU of Arizona’s requests for public information to determine if any are engaging in illegal or exclusionary policies.
- Revisit enrollment policies and practices annually to assess whether charter schools are complying with the law. If certain charter schools are not, take further steps with greater penalties at that time to abolish the practice.
- Ensure parents and students have an easy way to file a complaint about unlawful or exclusionary enrollment policies or practices and that these complaints are investigated and resolved.
- Require yearly training on civil rights laws and best practices for charter school board members and administrators.
- Make clear that charter school authorizers must review new applications for charter schools for compliance with all state and federal civil rights laws.
- Require authorizers to conduct regular reviews of charter schools for compliance with state and federal civil rights laws.
- Require authorizers and operators to collect data about applicants, including whether they were enrolled. If they were not enrolled, a record should be kept identifying the reason why they were not enrolled. These records should be regularly audited to determine if a particular authorizer or operator is engaging in unlawful or exclusionary enrollment practices.
The ACLU of Arizona is interested in hearing from schools and charter authorizers that make changes to their enrollment policies and practices in response to the findings in this report. Please contact the ACLU of Arizona at firstname.lastname@example.org. Parents or students who have faced enrollment difficulties at charter and district schools should email email@example.com.