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New charter schools would no longer need the approval of the Utah Board of Education to open their doors under a bill that gained committee approval Thursday.

Under SB223, the State Charter School Board would continue to review and authorize new charter applications.

But once an application is authorized, the state school board would have the option to either consent to the charter board's decision, or return the decision to the charter board for further consideration.

"It's not just a flat-out denial necessarily," said bill sponsor Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish fork, "they can remand it back if they don't consent."

Henderson, who previously served on the governing board of a Utah charter school, said the bill is intended to clarify the division of authority between the Utah Board of Education — the state's primary governing body over public education — and the State Charter School Board — an advisory body and charter authorizer appointed by the governor.

Rather than weigh in on the qualities of individual charter applications, as the board does now, SB223 directs the Utah Board of Education to evaluate the State Charter School Board's approach to granting and denying new charters.

"This bill says the state school board would consent and they would oversee the actual process," Henderson said, "make sure the charter board is following the appropriate process."

The State Charter School Board is one of several entities empowered by law to authorize new charters, including school districts and institutions of higher education.

But SB223 only alters the Utah Board of Education role in approving charter authorized by the State Charter School Board, with charters approved by other authorities still subject to approval or denial by the state school board.

"I don't think this takes away power from the [school] board," said Kristin Elinkowski, the charter board's chairwoman. "In some ways, it gives them more power."

The Senate Education Committee voted unanimously to advance the bill to the full Senate for consideration.

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