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Superintendent: Federal Charter School Rule Blues for MT

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009   

HELENA, Mont. - Federal "Race to the Top" education grants may speed right by Montana and other rural states. The grants require the creation of charter schools; Montana doesn't have a single charter school, nor have there been any requests to establish charters in 20 years.

Montana State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau has written a letter to the U.S. Department of Education asking for a reconsideration of the guidelines so Montana and other rural states don't miss out. She says about half of the state's school districts have fewer than 100 students and some have as few as 20; these are situations that don't make sense for a charter school.

"Where does that money come from? How are those communities going to support a separate system? There's just a lot of issues I don't think have been thought out on the use of charter schools in rural states and rural communities."

Juneau says there are many other kinds of innovations besides charter schools that Montana schools are using to improve student learning.

She says most of the state's schools are meeting student improvement goals; for those that aren't, plans are underway to boost student outcomes, and federal grants would help the process.

"We're going to find out what their strengths are, we're going to help the school board, and the superintendent, and the other leaders in that school, create a system of academic success. "

The grants are part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and are promoted as a way to improve student achievement, increase high school graduation rates and prepare students for college and the work force.

More information on "Race to the Top" is available online at:
www.ed.gov


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