Charter school plan could be key for Carson-Douglas proposal
CARSON CITY – State Sen. Ernie Adler, D-Carson City, says he is one of several lawmakers who think the bill introduced last week to try the idea of charter schools should be loosened up.
If the bill is properly written, he said, charter schools could allow for special facilities such as a science and technology center at the Stewart complex and could provide an alternative to creating a new school district in the Lake Tahoe portion of Douglas County.
“This does away with the need to split up school districts because if people are really dissatisfied, they can take over a public school’s job in an area,” he said, pointedly referring to Stateline and Zephyr Cove in the Tahoe Basin.
“Under this concept, you don’t have a school board that controls the school. You run under a charter, which is a contract with the school district,” he said.
Adler said he and other senators, including fellow Democrat Valerie Wiener and Republicans Maurice Washington and Jon Porter, will introduce an amendment this week to make a series of changes in SB220 that will accomplish those goals.
Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, said he also backs charter schools as a way to provide more flexibility in meeting educational needs. And he said it would give districts a way around the growing difficulty in getting voter support for school bond issues to build new schools.
The science and technology center would serve Carson City, Douglas County and the surrounding area.
“The most realistic charter school would be at Stewart,” said Adler.
“And the beauty of it is that we don’t have to build buildings,” said Hettrick.
But Adler said SB220, which was produced by an interim study on Nevada’s public schools, is too restrictive. That measure allows only for six charter schools in the state and limits them to elementary- and middle-school levels.
“One of the strong objections we’ve heard is that it doesn’t allow charter high schools and that’s one of the best arguments for charters – specialized high schools.”
He said elementary schools teach mainly the same basics to get students started, while students in upper grades have growing needs for more specialized courses of study.
Adler said in addition to a science and technology center, other ideas for charter schools include a vocational center being considered by the Associated General Contractors and several labor organizations.
“This way, you could do an apprenticeship high school with the math and history and citizenship,” he said. “The intent is to have these as public schools but as really a different kind of public schools.”
Adler said there are a number of other concepts being talked about, but that they all need the law broadened to permit creativity and experimentation.
“I agree,” said Hettrick. “More flexibility is better. We need to quit mandating a lot of these programs and give more flexibility – and then require the accountability. If it gives the flexibility for programs they couldn’t do otherwise, then it makes sense.”
That sentiment was echoed by Jim Parry, deputy superintendent of the Carson City School District, who said the only caveat is that “they run under the same rules of acceptance as we do.”
“That means whoever you’re accepting, you take everybody that walks through the door,” he said.
“We don’t think of enough creative ways to make school a real relevant place for all kids,” he said. “I really dislike this monopoly that the public schools have. It’s not healthy.”
Charter schools are part of the public school system but are organized by individuals who want to provide a different approach or specialized emphasis for students. While they can concentrate on a vocational need or areas such as science or the arts, they cannot discriminate who can attend. They are funded by the same per pupil distribution of state and county district money that regular public schools receive and they must meet the same testing requirements in reading, writing and math.
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