They pose too much extra work for school districts.
The state Department of Education doesn’t have the staffing needed to deal with their growing numbers.
As legislators examine ways to cope with the state’s 22 charter schools and facilitate the opening of new ones, they may consider creating a new entity to oversee what essentially has become Nevada’s 18th system of public schools.
“We need to know where to go from here,” said Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, chairwoman of the Legislative Committee on Education, which met Thursday at Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy.
“The intent of this meeting is to find out how we can make this work for everyone.”
Last year, the state Board of Education placed a temporary moratorium on new charter schools. About 6,000 Nevadans are enrolled in charter schools.
Although the schools receive state funding and operate as independent public schools, they have more freedom in designing curriculum, structuring school days and determining class sizes.
The state board’s moratorium was prompted by similar decisions from the Washoe County and Clark County school districts. With the state’s two largest districts declining to authorize new charter schools, a larger charter school burden fell to the state.
State Board of Education Member Jan Biggerstaff told legislators she supported the moratorium because Nevada Department of Education staff is not sufficient to meet the oversight needs of a growing number of charter schools.
State Board of Education President Marcia Washington said staff is overwhelmed by monitoring responsibilities that charter schools add to their regular workload.
The moratorium on new charter schools didn’t sit well with Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, who said education officials should have asked the Interim Finance Committee for additional positions to deal with charter schools.
State Superintendent of Schools Keith Rheault said the department couldn’t identify a source for funding the positions, so the idea of approaching the Interim Finance Committee was dropped.
The solution may lie in the charter school model used in Colorado. Keith King, Colorado’s charter school administrator, attended Thursday’s meeting to answer questions about that state’s methods of charter school oversight.
King said several entities are authorized to sponsor charter schools in Colorado, including 178 school districts. But the state also created the Colorado Charter School Institute to handle charter school applications.
The idea caught the interest of several Nevada legislators, including Parnell, who said information from the meeting will be used to shape legislation for the 2009 session.
Contact reporter Lisa Kim Bach at email@example.com or (702) 383-0287.