Frontier reform

Charter schools are hot in urban districts, but parents in the hinterlands are warming to them, too. Take Sterling, Colorado, population 12,589, where a group of parents has spent two years trying to open one. But the school board thrice rejected their petitions to launch Sterling Charter Academy, saying the parents' applications were too vague about operational details. That's what they say. The real hang-up seems to be the district's financial woes. Sterling has lost 400 students over the past four years, and the district has been forced to consolidate its schools. Losing still more money and pupils to a charter school isn't something they favor. School board president Carol Brom defends the rejections this way: "I'd love to have an Applebee's or a Chili's... but they won't come to Sterling because we don't have an adequate population base." Presumably she means that the demand for a charter school isn't high enough to justify its expense. But a group of parents has been willing to apply three times over two years to open such a school in Sterling. If that's not demand, what is? For whose benefit are public schools run, anyway?

"Charters vs. small communities," by Berny Morson, Rocky Mountain News, May 7, 2007

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