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Sun, Oct. 13

District vs. charter schools: is competition working?

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It is not a new concept: competition. Many years ago, the state of Arizona took the nation's lead in educational alternatives - spearheading the charter school concept.

Charters, like district schools, are public. They get their money from the state. However, they have more flexibility in curriculum - the focus can range from college skills or state standards to equine or computer centered - with the goal of running the school like a business (something we've heard the district schools should do).

My daughter experienced both - charters in Prescott Valley and Prescott, as well as district schools in Prescott.

The attraction to charters was like the concern aired in a Courier story on Monday (see link below). Would the charters be a magnet for the smart kids, draining the district schools?

My family found that one charter was phenomenal, while another one was largely for district castoffs - those kids for whom the district model did not work; and, frankly, the charters did not work for them either.

The difference depends greatly on the school - district or charter. Thus, parental choice should come only after much research, as well as considering which model works best for their/your child.

In the end, my daughter benefitted from both and graduated from Prescott High School. She went on to do very well in college (another choice for another column).

But what about those K-12 choices? Are we hurting the district schools by pitting charters against them? Competition is good, but does it fit in the educational system?

As BASIS Vice President of Financial and Corporate Services Jeffrey Houser said, "The reality cuts both ways."

Your turn: tell me your experiences with district and charter schools. Is the system working?

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