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Thu, March 21

Charters get $1.6M in U.S. grants

PRESCOTT – Tri-city charter schools are receiving more than $1.6 million in U.S. Department of Education grants to help them develop and expand and to promote the exchange of information regarding methods that improve student performance among charter schools across the nation.

The grants are part of an unprecedented $182 million in support for charter schools, which expand options for parents and children in 19 states, including Arizona.

In announcing the grant package, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige said nearly $89 million of that is new grants going to Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Rhode Island and Texas for the first year of three-year grants. Indiana, which recently passed charter school legislation, is receiving funds for the first time.

Unlike the other states, Arizona's $10 million will go to 65 schools that receive funds directly from the department, including 14 schools that will share information on best practices. One of those 14 is Franklin Phonetic Primary School, of Prescott Valley, which is getting a $61,250 dissemination grant.

Cindy Franklin, principal of Franklin Phonetic Primary School, welcomed the grant and said it will set up a summer school program, which other charter holders can visit. Also, it will buy equipment to make instructional videos that schools elsewhere may access.

"I don't necessarily believe in year-round schools, but this is a way to provide a free summer program to parents who want one for their children," Franklin said. "It will provide classes for students needing remedial work or for those who want to get ahead."

Tri-city schools receiving program planning, design and implementation grants are: Ann Clare Learning Academy, Inc., $150,400; Center for Creative Education, Inc., $150,000; Paulden Elementary School, $150,000; Acorn Montessori Charter School, $150,000; Groenig Education, Inc., $150,000; Tri-City Vocational Technical High School, $150,000; Kestrel Schools, Inc., $168,000; Painted Pony Ranch Charter School, $150,000; Tri-City Prep, $150,000; and Mountain Oak Charter School, $200,000.

Also, Paige announced that Arizona State University received a $348,547 grant to establish a two-year leadership training program for charter school leaders and educational entrepreneurs to help train them in education and business.

Tri-City Prep Director Mary Ellen Halvorson said she'd use the stimulus grant for enhancing science and technology classes and to emphasize fine arts.

"Without the help of this federal grant, it would be difficult to provide the high level of education which the students are receiving here," she said.

The department estimates that about 2,100 charter schools are operating this school year around the country. Arizona leads the nation in its number of charter schools, with 303 charter holders operating at 430 sites statewide.

Charter schools are public schools operating with a contract, or charter, from a public agency. They are free of cost to parents and open to all students, but exempt from most statutory and regulatory requirements in exchange for performance-based accountability.

They must meet standards set forth in their charters for students and the school as a whole, or else the chartering agency can close them. Charter schools must be non-sectarian and abide by civil rights, health and safety laws.

Contact Louise Koniarski at lkoniarski@prescottaz.com

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