Nevada Superintendent James Guthrie has launched a push for more state-run charter schools, applauding their ‘record of success,’ and claiming that charters are easier to regulate and manage.
“If they don’t produce results, and they don’t satisfy parents and they can’t provide a sense of hope for students, we will close them down,” says Guthrie. “With conventional public schools, that does not happen.”
But Steve Canavero, director of the board charged with evaluating the quality of new charter schools, calls the superintendent’s plan for a total of 60 schools “ambitious.”
“We have never recommended that the authority specifically have a goal of a certain number of charter schools being opened,” says Canavero. “We can’t control the pipeline of high-quality applications. We can simply review those applications and approve those that have a high probability of success.”
Canavero points to the recent closing of Renaissance Academy as one example of a charter that failed. It was shut down, he says, because of poor financial record keeping and inadequate governance.
“They weren’t keeping track of the pupils, there was no integration with their curriculum platforms that they were using and the governing body didn’t provide the necessary oversight to the school,” says Canavero.
Nevada residents may soon have more charter school options, however, as Rocketship Education, a prominent charter school company that focuses on low-income students, eyes the Nevada market for possible expansion.
“In the coming weeks, we’re starting our community development in Las Vegas,” says Kevin Bechtel, Manager of National Development at California-based Rocketship. “Nevada has recently come on to our radar. We’ve had a lot of conversations with Dr. Canavero and we’re looking forward to exploring future community partnerships in Las Vegas.”
Rocketship also must consider whether the state has the facilities available and a friendly general operating environment. But Bechtel says Nevada’s large population of low-income students makes the state a strong candidate for a Rocketship school.
“It’s all about choice,” says Bechtel. “There is not a very large charter presence in Las Vegas. From Rocketship’s perspective, we really have a great opportunity to lead the charge in adding high-quality choice options to students and families in Las Vegas.”