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APS To Oppose New Charter Schools

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The Albuquerque Public Schools board voted Tuesday night to oppose the creation of any new charter schools in the Albuquerque area.

There was one dissenting vote from Analee Maestas, who has ties to the charter community and works at the state-charted La Promesa charter.

No charter schools have applied this year to charter through APS, but the state Public Education Commission has received three applications from schools hoping to open in the Albuquerque area. APS cannot stop the commission from approving these schools, but plans to speak against them at a public hearing scheduled Tuesday.

If approved, the schools would be authorized by the state, but APS would be responsible for helping them get into permanent, publicly owned facilities.

Bruce Hegwer, executive director of the New Mexico Coalition for Charter Schools, said APS has a right to speak in opposition to the schools, but that the people pushing to open them must see a need.

“Our attitude is if parents have decided there is a need for a new school, then that’s what charters are all about,” he said.

APS’ charter opposition is not new. The district during the past several legislative sessions has supported a moratorium on all new charter schools until more education funds become available, and has pushed for clarity in the laws that govern capital funding for charters.

Currently, APS has some charter schools incorporated into its capital master plan and is working to build them permanent buildings. Other charters, though, are not participating in the master plan, but still receive per-child funding from APS bond elections.

The proposed Albuquerque-area charters are:

⋄  Indigo Hill, which would serve kindergarten through sixth-grade students and would focus on providing services to students with autism.

⋄  Electus Academy, which would allow high school students to choose “majors” similar to college and to learn through career exploration.

⋄  Health Leadership high school, which would cater to students who have dropped out of high school and help them get diplomas and pursue health-related careers.

APS policy analyst Carrie Menapace said district officials do not believe the proposed charters would serve an unfilled need. Regarding Indigo Hill, she said APS has more than 70 classrooms dedicated to students with autism, and has a “new, multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art autism center” next to Highland High School.

“So we’re not sure if this charter school meets the idea of being an innovative program, when it’s something the local community already has,” she said.

Regarding the other two schools, Menapace said Albuquerque already has numerous charters that serve at-risk students or those who have dropped out. She said career-oriented classes and a nursing program are already available through the Career Enrichment Center, Atrisco Heritage Academy and classes students can take for free at Central New Mexico Community College.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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