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Published in Print: November 29, 2006, as Calif. Group Pushes Access to Charters

Calif. Group Pushes Access to Charters

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The California Charter Schools Association has launched a public-awareness campaign and grant-making initiative designed to significantly increase the number of parents who have access to charter schools in their neighborhoods.

As part of its “My School” campaign, the Los Angeles-based association this month announced efforts to seed and support new charter schools in cities around the state. The High-Quality Charter Grant program will provide $8 million in private money to community groups wanting to open charter schools in the Fresno, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, and San Diego school districts.

That money, most of it from the Bentonville, Ark.-based Walton Family Foundation, is on top of $3.9 million that the state recently received from the federal government to launch charter schools statewide.

Next month, the association also plans to launch the California Charter Building Fund, which will provide below-market loans to help 25 charter schools buy facilities. The fund was started with $10 million in federal money the association received, and so far has grown to $50 million.

The public-awareness initiative includes an interactive Web site featuring a map of California that displays the state’s roughly 600 existing charter schools, which are publicly financed but largely independent schools that serve about 220,000 students statewide. The site is designed to help parents find charter schools near their homes. The association’s goal is to reach more than 300,000 parents through the campaign.

Workshops Planned

The association will also offer a series of “How to Start a Charter School” workshops and direct assistance to communities. That work will support the start-up of 65 new charter schools. A “quality institute” is to provide expertise and mentoring to 40 newer charter schools.

The campaign, organizers say, grew in part out of a survey the association commissioned last year that showed that 78 percent of likely voters said giving parents the chance to choose the best public school for their children would improve the overall education system in the state.

California voters approved a $10 billion school bond issue Nov. 7 that will provide funding for additional charter schools. Gary L. Larson, the executive director of the association, said he expects about 30 new charter schools to be set up with some of that money.

Vol. 26, Issue 13, Pages 18-19

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