How can I enroll my child in a charter school?

We have over 700 children on our wait list, but we only do one information session a year for prospective parents. Our website has a lot of information regarding charter schools in general, as do most charter school websites. Here is a brief overview of the salient facts "for beginners."

  1. Charter schools are public schools and thus free (many have an activity fee which is nominal)

  2. Charter schools are all different — this is the nature of choice in education — we are very different in our model than the Ivy school, Springwater Environmental, or Trillium — it is important to visit and learn about each model. You, as the primary educators of your child, know best which environment would be optimal.

  3. Not all charter schools are wonderful (like we are) — do your homework — look at test scores, but also ask questions about their programs, demographics, talk to currently enrolled parents and students — they are your most honest guides.

  4. Even if there is a wait list, apply for every charter school that is feasible (remenber - charters require private transportation). Even if you get selected it does not mean you must accept. All charters with wait lists must select students via a random lottery, so all children have a chance.

  5. If your child has special needs of any kind, make sure to ask about that as well.

  6. Have a back up plan and wait; be prepared to change mid-year if necessary.

  7. Attend a school function to see the "whole community in action." It might be an upcoming spring concert, a play, a staff — middle school basketball game or a Dr. Seuss Reading Night, all are open to the public generally and will give you a great idea of how you fit as a family. Charter schools engage the whole family so you should feel welcome and comfortable.

  8. Talk to your friends, co-workers, anyone you can. You might be surprised to learn that there are currently almost two million children nationwide receiving their education at a charter school. We have over 150 charter schools in Oregon, even with our very mediocre laws that govern them.

  9. Charter schools receive only a portion of the funding that other public schools do. There is not equity in funding. For instance, as of this writing, we receive about $4200 per student per year. The same child going to a local public school would receive almost $9,000. We also rent our building from the district for $10,000 per month. For that reason, be prepared to help with some fund-raising. We do two fund-raisers a year, our teachers are paid below union scale (and are non union- which you may or may not have concerns about) and we are very resourceful but still have expenses that our state funds do not cover. Each charter school must be "sponsored" by either a local school district or the State of Oregon and that sponsoring entity has control over the funding, the number of students allowed and sometimes other aspects of the school as set forth in their contract. We run on a shoestring, but we are passionate about children and education so it works. Our teachers can teach anything, anywhere because this is where they want to be.

  10. Attend a charter school board meeting. That will tell you a lot, too. Ask to see the financial statements, copy of the charter, etc. You will feel more confident about the school governance if you know what is going on behind the scenes that make it work. You might even offer to serve on a charter school board. All of us are always looking for good board members. Or volunteer in some other capacity; getting an inside track is good because lots of hands are needed to make a charter school work.


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