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Confusion surrounds charter schools

By Mary Richards | Posted - Nov 29th, 2010 @ 4:19pm

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's charter school law is earning a "B" grade from the Center for Education Reform, putting the Beehive state's laws ahead of the national pack. But a recent national poll shows many Utahns still don't know what charter schools are all about.

According to the Utah State Office of Education, "Charters schools offer parents and students additional choices about where students attend school and the school's curricular emphasis. They allow educators freedom to try new strategies ... and to experiment with innovative ways of educating students."

"Charter schools have an emphasis, a specific area that they want to concentrate on," explained Kim Frank, executive director of the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools.

Frank said the 80 charter schools in Utah have been started by parents who saw a need.

Some charter schools focus on math, science or the arts. One is for kids with Asperger's, another for refugees, and another for dropouts, but anyone can attend. They also must have certified teachers.

In the 10 years that charter schools have been in Utah, one question still bothers Frank: People ask her how much it costs to go to a charter school.

The State office of Education says that "on the whole, charter schools are funded much like traditional districts with taxpayer dollars... funded on the principle that state funds follow the student."

"Charter schools are public schools, so they are free to the public like other public schools," Frank said.

charter schools do not take money from the district schools around them, Frank said, because they are funded from a different pot of money. If a child moves from a district school to a charter school, that money stays with the district school.

Four out of five respondents to the Center for Education Reform survey thought charters can charge tuition or hold religious services, but neither are true.


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