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Charter School Can't Be Denied Based on Location

Charter School Can't Be Denied Based on Location

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OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- Under a new law, state and district school officials may not deny a charter school based on its locations.

John Broberg, director of charter schools for the state Office of Education, said that means districts and the state will have to judge schools only on their merit and not on the effects their location would have.

The law enacted at the 2005 session says a charter school application may not be denied on the basis of its impacts on a public school, including an enrollment decline, a decrease in funding or a modification of programs or services.

State Board of Education member Teresa Theurer, who represents seven smaller and more rural areas, said she always considered impact when making a decision about a charter school

Even though this law clearly says it is no longer allowed, Theurer believes it can't be taken out of a decision.

"I don't know how I could feel good about not doing that," she said. "In small rural areas, somebody has to stand up. It's not the same for districts that are bulging."

The state board denied a school earlier this year because of its impact in a rural area.

The proposed 75-student charter high school, Pinnacle Canyon, wanted to open in Carbon School District. Theurer voted against the school bec ause of the declining enrollment the district already is facing.

"It's a much smaller area up there," she said. "I've had concerns for several years about how charter schools affect rural areas."

Charter schools may be more welcome in large districts with increasing enrollment.

Rachel Howe, organizer and chairwoman of Wasatch Peak Academy, which opens this fall, originally planned for her school to be near her home in Bountiful, so her children could walk to it.

But she agreed to put it in a high-growth area to meet the needs of the Davis County School District. A 1,200-home subdivision is going in near the school's new location in North Salt Lake.

Broberg said some districts with burgeoning enrollment, such as Davis, see charter schools as a benefit. Others, such as Carbon, which are facing declining enrollment and are in rural areas, don't want charter schools.

Theurer said rural areas already have limited funds and a small pool of qualified teaching applicants.

Adding a charter school in such an area strips away those funds generated in the weighted pupil unit, state funding given for each student, Theurer said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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