A cautious start to Carson charter schools
Nevada in general, and Carson City in particular, have been slow to embrace charter schools, but now that the first has been approved here – a Montessori school for elementary students – school district officials will have an opportunity to assess the real impacts of school choice.
Just 14 charter schools are operating in Nevada seven years after legislation was enacted to allow them. The state’s laws on charter schools, revised in the last two legislative sessions, remain rather restrictive.
The approval this week of a Montessori school, to be run out of the existing Educare School, is actually the second time a charter school has been approved for Carson City. An earlier attempt by Rite of Passage to serve troubled boys never got off the ground.
Part of the reason Carson City has not rushed into the charter-school business is that the district has been responsive to the needs of students and parents over the years. Not only does the quality of instruction in Carson schools remain high, programs such as the alternative high school and beefed-up vocational curriculum offer a number of choices for students who don’t fit well in the more traditional classrooms.
Cooperation with Western Nevada Community College also provides a great deal of flexibility for high-school age students and beyond, and private schools do an excellent job for families who can afford them and want to embrace their religious philosophies. In short, while there may be gaps in Carson City’s education system, they aren’t large.
Still, charter schools are about choice – a choice funded by taxpayers’ dollars at $5,000 a student. So the Carson City School Board has been conservative in its assessment of the proposals.
It rejected a college-prep charter school two years ago, and it again this week turned down a proposed online high school for at-risk youth.
The Montessori school seems like a good start, and the more experience school officials get with it, the more comfortable they will be with charter schools in their midst.