Selected readings on US charter schools
In Pinal County, charter schools are climbing into the public consciousness. About 30 charter schools now operate in the county.
The seven Coolidge Unified School District schools compete for students with charter schools Imagine Prep High School and Imagine Elementary School and the Academy of Excellence.
Florence Unified School District has more than 10 public schools in a district which spreads across Florence proper and into San Tan Valley. Three schools in the San Tan Valley also belong to Coolidge Unified. But, the public districts compete with charter schools in San Tan Valley and part of the Phoenix metro area.
The Casa Grande elementary and high school districts boast a combined 16 schools, and a handful of charter schools are in the city.
With so many traditional public schools, some people have questions about why charter schools are so popular.
While charter schools have proliferated in the last 10 years, the privately run, publicly funded schools have been around for more than 20 years.
Arizona was part of the growing movement to give people alternative educational opportunities. The idea grew mostly because people believed the state education system needed to improve.
In 1994, the Arizona Legislature passed laws that established charter schools. To help level the playing field, charter schools received, on average, more than $1,000 per student to help them compete with traditional public schools and become a strong alternative to traditional schools.
The money was given to charter schools because law prohibits charter schools from holding override elections as school districts can, and they do not have taxing authority.
What separates charter schools from traditional public schools is that a charter status exempts the schools from certain selected regulations and rules, but the standards must be met within the school’s charter guidelines. Two components that separate charters from traditional schools are charters are not required to have a lunch facility or offer lunch programs and teacher qualifications and training are not the same.
Contracts for a charter school last 15 years and they are put under the microscope every five years.
Charter schools are like traditional schools in that they are free. Charter school officials may not discriminate against any student because of race, disability or gender.
According to the Arizona Department of Education, charter schools are obligated to serve the needs of special education students and may not kick students out. But, charter school officials can cap class sizes.
Charter schools are funded by tax dollars and are accountable to the presiding government body that grants them charter status. Charter schools are not governed by an elected board but are managed by the agency or board of directors that grants them charter status. Most day-to-day decisions are made at individual schools.
All public schools have to follow the guidelines set by the state and must use the guidelines as a strict framework to teach students.
And, public school educators are evaluated by how well students do on state standards.
Traditional schools receive funds for state-required transportation and books, while charter schools can receive donations and other aid.
The latest education trend is district public schools seeking charter status.
Public school districts with charters in Arizona can continue to hold bond elections and override elections.
Source: TriValley Central – By Robby Gal