Eugene T. Paslov: Innovative charter schools offer hope for the future
For the Nevada Appeal
We are currently in one of the worst recessions in our history. The Nevada Legislature has had to cut spending for the state’s K-12 and university system by millions. We need to be creative about our public schools for the future.
Charter schools are unique public schools, funded by public money, that are sponsored by the State Board of Education, or in some cases by local school boards or the university system. They are governed by appointed policy boards and are independent. The policy boards must have three licensed teachers; the remainder of the board is made up of local citizens. On-site charter school boards hire the administrator and the board is accountable for the school meeting all Nevada legal requirements.
Public charter schools can be effective:
1. They are more personal than traditional public schools;
2. They are governed by an on-site, independent board;
3. They are less expensive to operate. Some are distance learning schools or hybrids. They lease facilities and they use existing local community facilities – universities, libraries, museums and others;
4. Traditional public schools work well for many students and their families, but there are others who do not do well in these schools.
Some students and parents want different choices. Public charter schools are able to integrate career choices with flexible academic requirements that are both unique and rigorous. On-line learning works and many students and teachers are ready to take advantage of this innovative technology.
Considerations for the future:
1. The 2011 Legislature will want to consider an independent Charter School Institute to allow expediting the authorization of new public charter schools;
2. The State Department of Education should be given additional staff to provide quality control monitoring, rule making, fiscal, academic oversight and consultation to support the independent charter school boards and staff;
3. We must hold public charter schools to the emerging international core standards/performance assessments and report student improvement and overall academic progress annually; and
4. We must develop timely procedures to discontinue/reauthorize public charter schools if they fail. The same should be true for traditional public schools.
By expanding effective public charter school models, we will take some pressure off of the traditional public schools and offer innovative instructional programs to students/parents who seek different approaches. Let’s rethink public schools and expand effective public charter schools.
• Eugene Paslov is a board member of the Davidson Academy at the University of Nevada, Reno and the former Nevada state superintendent of schools.