Selected readings on US charter schools
Despite growing interest and enrollment, there are still misconceptions on definition and purpose.
Across Colorado, more than 80,000 students are enrolled in the state’s 190 charter school campuses this school year.
Students who attend charter schools make up 11 percent of the total K-12 public school enrollment, according to the Colorado League of Charter Schools, and about 7 percent of Thompson School District students attend charter schools this year.
But despite growing interest and enrollment, New Vision Charter School Principal Carmella Schroeder said she still often hears misconceptions about the definition and purpose of a charter school.
“I tell people that we’re public schools of choice,” she said.
Before she started the founding committee that would organize the city’s second charter school, Loveland Classical Schools, current board president Trisha Coberly said she had questions as well.
“When I first started the process I just thought you went to your neighborhood school,” she said. “We started figuring our some of these choices.”
Charter schools are part of the school district but independent in administration, finances and operations. Most of the teachers do not belong to a union. Charter schools have their own governing board and are able to have a certain amount of autonomy, choosing not only a focus but other factors as well.
For example, New Vision decided early on to extend its school day, and in the process of creating Loveland Classical, officials decided to split from any model and implement departmentalization — staff there teach one subject and rotate between classes.
Loveland Classical executive director David Yu, who had been a teacher at the Fort Collins school Ridgeview Classical Schools, had the idea to deviate from a traditional model with elementary education, saying that the goal is to have the kids taught in every subject by an expert in the field.
“It’s been phenomenal; it’s blown me away with what the school has done,” Coberly said.
As with any public school, charter schools are tuition free and funding comes from per pupil revenue from the state. That funding is funneled through the school district, and the difficulties are the same.
“One of the big challenges is always finances,” Yu said.
Charter schools often have to pay for their buildings out of per pupil revenue, as was the case with Loveland Classical. The Loveland Classical Foundation became active this school year, Yu said, to supplement state funding. The team focuses on fundraising, grants and donations.
While parents sit on the Foundation board, they’re also relied on heavily for school volunteerism. It’s not uncommon to find parents helping with office work such as copying and laminating, and the Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) calls on dads to volunteer their time in the classroom, in the lunchroom and at dismissal.
With the “Vision for the Future” campaign, New Vision also asks for donations to supplement state funding. In past years, money raised has gone toward iPads for students and student activities.
Schroeder sees parental involvement as key to the school’s success and thinks it contributes to the close-knit feel of the school community.
“It takes a village and we’re in this together,” she said.
Source: Reporter-Herald – by Jessica Maher