3,000 Charters Proves a Hard Nut to Crack
In the fall of 1998, when he signed a bill to encourage states to open more charter schools, then-President Bill Clinton confidently predicted the U.S. would have 3,000 charter schools by the year 2000. But it’s 2004 already, and the U.S. still doesn’t have 3,000 charter schools.
According to figures reported by the Center for Education Reform, there are 2,996 charter schools operating in the 2003-04 school year, up 297 from the previous year’s figure of 2,699. As shown in the accompanying figure, the annual increase in the number of charter schools has been dropping since 1999-2000, and this year’s annual increase is the lowest since 1996-97.
In February, the Center for Education Reform published the 2004 edition of “Charter School Laws Across the States,” which provides a comparative analysis and ranking of each state’s charter school law. The report is available for purchase through the Center’s Web site at http://www.edreform.com.
Washington Finally Gets a Charter School Law
After a decade of effort by citizens and legislators, Governor Gary Locke on March 18 signed into law a charter school bill for Washington State that would permit the creation of 45 charter schools over the next six years. The bill was passed by a vote of 651-46 in the Democrat-controlled House and 27-22 in the Republican-controlled Senate.
“Even though it’s only a modest bill and will create only a handful of new charter schools, some of these schools will prove that you can do it better with any amount of money by giving educators more freedom,” charter school advocate Jim Spady told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Spady and his wife Fawn are co-directors of the Education Excellence Coalition, which has campaigned for charters since 1994.
The campaign for charters still isn’t over. A week after Locke signed the bill, the state’s largest teacher union committed itself to overturning the new law. The Washington Education Association voted to collect almost 100,000 signatures for a November ballot initiative to reject charter schools. If the signatures are collected by June 9, the creation of charter schools will be put on hold until after the November vote.
Weir Agenst Charta Skuls
Apparently encouraged by school officials, public high school students in Marlboro, Massachusetts wrote to state Board of Education members to try to persuade them to vote against awarding a charter to the proposed Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School in their community. But the letters were so badly written–with missing punctuation and incorrect spelling of words like “school”–that the plan backfired.
“If I didn’t think a charter school was necessary, these letters have convinced me the high school was not doing an adequate job in teaching English language arts,” board member Roberta Schaefer told the Boston Herald.
The charter school application was approved.