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NEW MEXICO: New charter school approved in Taos despite opposition

charter-school-approvalDespite opposition from the Public Education Commission and district superintendent, a new charter school is set to open in Taos next school year.

In September 2012, the Public Education Commission voted to deny the Taos International School’s charter application.

According to minutes from that meeting, Jeff Carr, a commissioner who also teaches at Taos High School, argued that the Taos area already has five charter schools. He said the abundance of charter school options creates de-facto segregation among students in the district, because families who opt to put their children in the charter schools are predominantly of Anglo descent and are more affluent than the families of children that go to the regular district schools.

Public Education Commission chair Andrew Garrison said that as it stood, charters schools made up 27 percent of total district enrollment.

“So Taos is unique, in that you don’t see those numbers anywhere else in New Mexico,” Garrison said.

Following the commission’s denial of the charter, Nadine Vigil, the charter applicant, appealed the decision to state education secretary-designate Hanna Skandera, who overturned the commission’s denial.

The Public Education Commission then appealed the reversal in February of this year.

During the summer, the case went to district court, and a decision was handed down to uphold Skandera’s reversal and accept the charter.

In an interview with The Taos News, Vigil said her school will be unique in that it will be the only one to adopt the International Baccalaureate Program. It will also have a dual-language program, although it won’t be the fist in Taos to have such a program.

Vigil, the former principal at Enos García Elementary, argued that there is a need for an additional charter school in Taos, despite comments to the contrary from the Public Education Commission, because many of the families who want dual-language instruction for their children aren’t receiving it due to limited space in those programs.

Her school will eventually have space for 360 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, and will offer an additional option for parents struggling to get their students into other area charter schools, such as Taos Charter School, which constantly keeps a 200-student waiting list.

Superintendent Rod Weston wrote a letter to the Public Education Commission in February urging it to appeal Skandera’s reversal, The Taos News reported.

“The report cards for the three existing elementary charter schools reveal a disturbing demographic, belying a return to pre-1954 divisions across America,” Weston wrote. “The three existing charter schools are a reverse mirror image of the public non-charter elementary schools in regards to ethnicity, economic status, language and special education.”

Vigil said the dual language component of the Taos International School will attract a diverse population. She said the school offers the Taos community a unique alternative to the other schools because of with its baccalaureate program, as well as its sports program, which will feature tae-kwon-doe, and its after-school enrichment program, which will allow students to learn about mariachi music and folklorico.

“The ‘international’ piece says it all,” she said.

Now that the charter has the green light, Vigil said her struggle is finding money. She’s applied for a number of private grants, but has yet to hear back from any of the foundations to which she has applied. She will receive money from the state, but can’t apply for it until July. She also has yet to find a building to house the school.

Source: The Taos News – by Elizabeth Cleary

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This entry was posted on November 15, 2013 by in Authorization, Charter Schools, New Mexico and tagged , .

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