Baby steps

Karen Gray

A step in the right direction!  Whether considered baby steps or leaps and bounds, August 2008 has brought movement in the right direction for school choice in Nevada. 

It is no secret; Nevada is not a charter school friendly state.  The laws are vague.  Applicants are often met with subjective, arbitrary criteria and expectations.  And, the local school boards and State Board of Education, who clearly are not happy to sponsor charter schools, severely limited school choice growth when they placed a moratorium on new charter school applications in 2007.

However, August 2008, has been a month of change and opportunity.  The early weeks opened the door to future applicants when the State Board of Education lifted its ban on new charter school applications.  The State Board also put into place new regulations to outline criteria for denying a school's application. And, while it is yet to be seen how these regulations will affect the denial of applications, it is a move towards a more objective and defined application process-that is to say, it interferes with some of the existing arbitrary and capricious practices.   

But, perhaps, the most significant step came on August 21st when the Interim Legislative Committee on Education, which is bipartisan, with members from, both, the State Senate and Assembly, voted to accept a bill draft request which would establish an independent charter school institute to serve as a local education agency for its sponsored charter schools.  The Committee had several options for consideration, including leaving laws as they are and creating a subcommittee to study the current method of sponsorship.

The bill draft, as discussed, would essentially establish an 18th school district and provide the institute with full  autonomy, allowing the new school board to establish its own policies and best practices. The board would have authority to accept, approve, deny and revoke charters.  Institute funding would derive from administrative fees paid by each charter school.  The institute board would also be authorized to accept and expend gifts and grants for institute operations.

Now, whether these August events are the necessary leap onto the path of Nevada being recognized as a charter school friendly state remains to be seen-October brings the Committee's adoption of the final bill draft language, and, the 2009 legislative session brings the debates and final votes.

But, regardless of whether August 2008 turns out to be just another baby step, school choice in Nevada has moved forward.  The moratorium is lifted, giving opportunity to new schools.  Regulations have been clarified, bringing objectivity and guidance to the application process.  And, law-makers are engaging in open, progressive discussions regarding the advancement of charter schools in Nevada.


*Read about other charter school reforms suggested by NPRI.