EDITORIAL: Charter school growth

Thousands of Nevada families are done waiting for the turnaround of the state’s public schools. And thousands more would bolt their neighborhood schools if they had the chance.

As reported last week by the Review-Journal’s Trevon Milliard, charter school enrollment grew 25 percent this year, from 16,000 statewide to a record 20,000. And enrollment should explode again next year because the State Public Charter School Authority is considering applications for eight new schools that want to open next fall.

But the numbers would be even higher if the existing 21 charter schools under the state authority’s umbrella had the seats to accommodate more students. Many charter schools have hundreds of children on their waiting lists. The Coral Academy of Science, which has 1,455 students at three campuses across the valley, has 3,200 kids on its waiting list, including 1,900 just for kindergarten through second grade, Executive Director Ercan Aydogdu said Thursday.

Charter schools are not private schools. They’re public schools. They don’t charge tuition. They receive roughly the same amount of per-student funding from the state as public schools, but charter schools have the freedom to innovate, operate under a specialized educational focus and function outside a school district bureaucracy.

That goes a long way toward explaining why more and more Nevada families want out of underachieving traditional public schools and into more accountable charter schools. Whatever approach state lawmakers take next year to improve K-12 education in Nevada, charters should be a central part of it. Authority Director Patrick Gavin intends to ask lawmakers for $300,000 in annual incentives to develop quality charter schools, and $24,000 per year to recruit proven charters to the state. Good.

Charter schools are also part of the solution to the Clark County School District’s crowding problem. How many more portable classrooms would have to be placed at over-capacity schools if charter students were enrolled there, instead? More charter schools — which receive no facility funding from taxpayers — means fewer new school district campuses need to be built.

Nevada parents want school choice. The state must give them more.

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