Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Charter Schools Rising: The Beehive State Variant

It has been said that public charter schools tend to serve minority populations. Apparently, such is not necessarily the case in Utah:
Around 15,000 students will be enrolled in more than 50 charter schools in Utah next year. And though a national study says U.S. charter schools serve a larger percentage of minority and low-income students than do traditional schools, Utah's charter enrollment demographic doesn't reflect that trend.

This school year minority students make up 13 percent of Utah charter school enrollment, while minorities at traditional schools number 18 percent statewide.

Last school year — the most recent figures available — 25 percent of charter students were from low-income families while 34 percent of traditional-school students were from poor homes.

And last year special education students made up around 9 percent of state charter enrollment while traditional schools had around 14 percent special-education students.

Whether Utah charter schools will soon reflect the national data is yet to be seen. With the rapid growth in charters, the demographics can change dramatically from year to year.

Currently Utah has 36 charter schools with nearly 12,000 students in 12 different school districts.

But next year another 15 schools are expected to open, meaning charter schools will be serving an estimated total 15,000 Utah students.

Charter schools are tuition-free public schools created on the basis of an agreement or "charter" between the school and the community. They are free, public schools but are dedicated to offering choice in education, and tout innovation.

The schools offer programs ranging from performing arts, dual language immersion and early college to film, high-tech and service learning programs.
Here in the backwater that is California's "Imperial" Valley, there are no charter schools of any kind. A few years ago, a large group of parents put forward a proposal to one of the local school boards in an attempt to at least have serious discussions about the idea of opening such a school.

Their proposal got nowhere. Acting upon the recommendation of the district's superintendent, the board rejected the it out of hand.
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