Twenty-one charter schools have been proposed for next year, and next week the Public Education Commission will hear public comment on the applications and consider whether to approve them.
New Mexico currently has 83 approved charter schools, two of which will open for the first time this fall. The schools, which are publicly funded but privately run to allow parents more flexibility and choice, enroll more than 14,000 students statewide.
If approved, 10 of the schools would be in Albuquerque. Others are proposed for Las Cruces, Santa Fe, Española, Columbus, Gallup, Moriarty, Peñasco and Taos.
Albuquerque Public Schools also received one application, bringing the total number of applications to 22. Would-be charter schools have the option to charter either through the state or through their local district.
The charter schools span all grade levels and include some unique education concepts. One school proposes to separate boys and girls, while another proposes to start teaching students Latin as early as kindergarten to strengthen their reading and vocabulary skills.
The application to charter with APS is for the Kenny Thomas Preparatory School. If approved, the school would emphasize math and science, as well as healthy living. Thomas, a former Lobo who went on to play professional basketball, has previously expressed interest in starting a charter school but has never formally applied.
The charter school movement has been expanding in New Mexico since it began in 1999. Charter schools are championed by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as a way to encourage innovation. Critics contend they lack oversight and siphon resources from traditional public schools.
Last year, only two charters were approved out of 13 initial applicants. Six were rejected and five withdrew their applications. Some of last year’s applicants are trying again this year. Among those back in the running are Sage Montessori, which would be a K-8 school in Albuquerque; and Uplift Community School, which would be a K-8 school in Gallup. Both schools were rejected last year.
The commission will only hear comment at next week’s hearings, and is expected to vote on whether to approve the schools at the following meeting on Aug. 26.
— This article appeared on page C2 of the Albuquerque Journal