The idea that school districts and charter schools would set aside their differences and start working together isn’t exactly unheard of. It’s happening now in cities around the country. In some cases it’s been going on for years.
But it’s still rare enough that it’s often portrayed as a man-bites-dog story, or as a peacekeeping mission by district leaders.
A new report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education says states can help make collaboration at the local level more common. They can improve charter school rules and laws. They can run political interference for local district leaders, and use their bully pulpit to highlight success stories. And they can offer extra money to help decentralized, charter-heavy school systems work better for all kids.
The report cites Florida, which has been running a competitive grant program aimed at drawing high-quality national charter networks to its inner cities, as “an early leader in state-led stimulus.”
It also suggests “the time is ripe” for other states to follow suit. Among other things, charter schools enroll an ever-larger share of students (more than 270,000 in Florida, or nearly one in ten public-school students). And Congress just overhauled federal school accountability rules and Charter School Program grants.
“Charter schools are a big and growing part of public education: They are here to stay and their role in public education will only expand,” the report says. “This is a time of profound opportunity. Charter schools and districts cannot do all this themselves.”
Under the revised federal education law, states can use federal funding to keep better tabs on charter school authorizers. In Florida, that means school districts, which sponsor all but a handful of the state’s more than 650 charters. Continue Reading →