I have been following the communications in the news media about charter schools for some time now and have developed some concern about an element of disinformation about their purpose, character and impact on a school district that might have to deal with the issue. Although not involved in education during my professional years, I do happen to read a very well-designed quarterly educational journal, "Education Next," at educationnext.org, as a matter of personal interest that is sponsored by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
Charter schools have been around for some 25 years now, both as a mechanism to offer narrowly defined educational opportunities to highly talented students and to offer enhanced opportunities to disadvantaged urban students at the high school level. Some have failed (so what else is new?) but the majority have actually done well. Most that failed were those serving the most disadvantaged, as would be expected.
First there is the issue of state funding to a school district being impacted. Charter schools are actually created under and by the school district involved, are to some extent controlled by that school district, and the state funds continue to be received by that school district. So, it is my understanding there is no loss of funding, only a requirement to provide housing for the school. Quality oversight of these schools is provided adequately by the plan that has been proposed, regardless of stated reservations.
The purpose of these schools is to allow the freedom on their part to provide innovative educational processes to the disadvantaged or to the gifted, to their benefit — and to us ordinary students who participate. The process allows the opportunity to work with new ideas that may benefit all in the educational sphere.
The character of these schools is to provide focused and relevant educational opportunities to students, whose background and environment is detrimental to their learning, allowing them to go forward to a productive life, and to those with special talents that need nurturing. The latter are served by "magnet schools" (i.e. music, technology, science), generally found in the urban environment.
The thought that a charter school would be created in a small community, such as Rudyard, and decimate the school district is patently absurd, given the population. Home schooling would be a much greater threat. Indeed, I understand that some rural districts have formed "Charter Districts" to allow innovation or focus.
It is my opinion that there should be enacted legislation that would allow the formation of charter schools in our state, and that such legislation would be beneficial to our students, and even the educational establishment. The benefit would be most important to our large urban districts (schools of excellence) and would offer literally no threat to the mid-sized or small districts.
Stuart A. Reynolds, Havre