Overhaul of Education Act includes provision to license private schools


A bill to overhaul the Education Act of 1988 was tabled yesterday after House lawmakers heard concerns from private school officials over provisions that essentially vest the CNMI State Board of Education with oversight and licensing powers over private schools.

During a public comment period yesterday morning, Mount Carmel School president and Coalition of Private Schools’ Galvin Deleon Guerrero asked for time to review and comment on these provisions in House Bill 19-10.

According to Deleon Guerrero, the coalition scheduled a 3:30pm emergency meeting yesterday to discuss the bill.

Not one private school was consulted on the proposed mandate before it was adopted and set for action on yesterday’s calendar, Saipan Tribune learned. The coalition is not necessarily opposed to the mandate but would like to comment, as a lack of consultation with major stakeholders would be indefensible, it was learned.

The provisions have been described as a shotgun or shock approach to get private schools that fall outside the curriculum—set by either the board or the private school coalition, a self-policing body—to fall in line with standard.

The House Committee on Health, Education and Welfare had recommended the passage of the bill, which repeals and re-enacts the Education Act of 1988.

In their committee report, lawmakers note that the CNMI State Board of Education has taken issue with amendments to the House bill but that a compromise was reached with all stakeholders.

The bill’s most recent amendments grant power to the Education Board in the establishment of nonpublic schools in the CNMI. It also provides how these nonpublic schools can get government assistance.

Any person or institution that wants to establish or operate a nonpublic school—be it pre-school, elementary, or secondary—must submit an application for a charter to be approved and issued by the Education Board, the bill states.

The application will entail name, location of school and program, language and course of instruction, and the summary of school or program financing, and other necessary information that the board may require, the bill states.

The nonpublic school applicant must satisfy the board’s curriculum, building safety, health, sanitation, and any other standards required by the CNMI or state board.

The bill gives the board no more than three months from date of receipt of application to approve or disapprove a charter. Failure to act grants approval of the application, and the bill gives the board authority to monitor the charter school.

The bill also vests the board with power to suspend or revoke the charter of any nonpublic school after notice and public hearing—if in its judgment the charter holder has violated its terms of charter or does not provide the education required.

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at dennis_chan@saipantribune.com.

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