Moratorium on Approval of New Nevada Charter Schools Imposed

A state panel has imposed a temporary freeze on the approval of new charter schools in Nevada, citing inadequate staff to monitor a growing number of such schools.

The Nevada Board of Education took the action on an 8-0 vote Friday, despite pleas by some lawmakers and a bipartisan group to hold off on any type of moratorium.

Board members said the freeze was necessary because the state
Education Department is being overwhelmed by applications to create
charter schools, which offer alternatives to traditional public schools.

The department expects a surge in applications because the Clark
County School District decided in October to end sponsorship of new
charter schools because of the time and expense involved.

Under state law, school districts have a choice whether to sponsor charter schools. The state department has no such flexibility.

Board member Cindy Reid of Henderson said the freeze will allow
time to consider how to provide adequate staff to monitor the growing number of charter schools.

Officials are unable to handle the workload from as many as 11 new charter school applications submitted for possible startup in the 2008-09 school year, she said.

"I really like charter schools," Reid said. "I think they play a valuable role in our state. But it we don't take a pause now, we will hurt the program more by not running it responsibly and efficiently."

Reid said the freeze will be maintained only until adequate staffing becomes available.

Board President Cliff Ferry shared Reid's concerns: "We are not
against charter schools. What we do want is good charter schools."

Ferry stressed that any moratorium would not affect schools now
in line to gain approval.

A handful of speakers said the state needs more education choices and more charter schools, not more restrictions, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

In separate letters to the board, state Sen. Maurice Washington,
chairman of the Human Resources and Education Committee, and
Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee, noted the legal requirement for the department to
process charter school applications.

A majority of the members of the Nevada State Charter School
Leadership Team, made up of lawmakers, state education officials
and charter school operators, asked the board to delay any action on a moratorium.

The group, which is considering ways to improve implementation of the state's charter school laws, is expected to come out with recommendations by January 2009.

Nevada has 23 charter schools. Five are sponsored by the state
Education Department, with two more expected to open next fall.
Others are sponsored by school districts.
Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal,

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)