Commentary: Charter Schools offer hope to public education

Charter schools offer hope for the future of our public education system. Charter schools promise options and opportunities for students and their parents that include diverse curricula " arts and humanities, career and vocational choices. They have unique delivery systems " distance learning, Montessori programs, special needs, and a mix of accelerated traditional and university courses. All meet high standards; all are accountable; all are independent and are defined as public schools, although with a new, expanded concept of public schools.

There are 25 charter schools in Nevada, two in Carson City, several in Washoe, Douglas and Lyon counties. (Nationally there are over 3,000 charter schools and the movement is fast growing.) Charter school growth has not been as robust in this state as in others, but it continues to receive support from the Legislature. In this legislative session there is a bill (AB489), that if passed will create an 18th school district for charter schools and will enable this new school district to authorize new charters.

I serve on the Silver State Charter High School Board in Carson City. This charter, a public school sponsored by the State Board of Education, is a distance learning school in which students interact with their teachers online as well as meet with them in person. The state has identified the school as "exemplary." It is well managed and has a dedicated, licensed faculty and support staff. This charter school is a life-saver for over 500 kids and their parents.

I also serve on the Davidson Academy of Nevada Board. The Davidson Academy is a public school, but different from other Nevada charter schools. Jan and Bob Davidson, prominent Nevada citizens, developed the concept for the school. They advocated for and secured special legislation authorizing the school with University of Nevada, Reno as its sponsor. The academy, on the UNR campus as a public school, is the fulfillment of the Davidsons' dream to provide unique educational opportunities for gifted students. These young people are receiving an extraordinary public education. It is a remarkable gift to the citizens of our state.

Charter schools are independent and accountable. They provide innovative services to their students and parents. There is currently oversight by the state Board of Education or local districts. All schools must meet Nevada academic and fiscal standards. As individual public schools they operate close to their teachers, their students and their parents.

Charter public schools will truly help us improve traditional schools. We will learn new ways to organize, govern and deliver world-class instruction. These new public schools will make a difference for all of our children.

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