EDITORIAL: Break charter school barriers


Demand for alternatives to neighborhood Clark County public schools continues to exceed the valley’s supply of them. Thousands of students are on wait lists for charter schools and Clark County School District magnet programs.

Parents might have another option come August. On Nov. 1, a new charter school won the unanimous approval of the state Public Charter School Authority. The Founders Academy is expected to launch as a K-10 campus and add 11th- and 12th-grade classes in its second and third years. According to Rich Moreno, Founders Academy board president, the school will offer a classical education in affiliation with Hillsdale College, a private school in Michigan known for its free-market curriculum. The school plans to teach Latin, emphasize the country’s founding documents, require additional credits for graduation and push students beyond their comfort level, Mr. Moreno said.

The process of opening a charter school is perilous. The Founders Academy has cleared merely one of many steps, and now must come up with the resources to secure classroom space. Although charter schools receive roughly the same amount of per-student funding from the state as public schools, they do not receive tax funding for construction or building leases.

That’s one reason Clark County has just 17 charter schools, and that includes virtual schools and distance-learning programs. Neighboring Arizona, meanwhile, has 540 charter schools.

Steve Canavero, director of the Public Charter School Authority, has made a point of emphasizing that it’s not enough to open charter schools. They have to be good schools. On Friday, the authority board also rejected three charter school applications because of deficiencies in their plans. The applicants can re-apply.

Nevada needs more experimentation in education. Charter schools are uniquely positioned to do that. The 2015 Legislature could help that cause greatly by allowing failing public schools to be converted into charters. A bill that would have accomplished that died this year.

There should be fewer barriers to opening charter schools. Southern Nevada families are demanding as much.

 

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