BEYOND THE SCHOOLHOUSE DOOR:
WE HAVE identified four stages in the traditional education system's typical reaction to charters. The first ("stop them cold") and second ("keep them few and weak") of these were the subject of the previous chapter. Now we turn to stages three and four:
The effects . . . reach beyond the schools themselves. Traditional public schools have had to respond to the presence of charter schools as students leave one system for another.
Lisa Graham Keegan, Arizona State Superintendent of
Public Instruction, Senate testimony, March 1998,
|•||Outdo them: successfully compete with them so as to minimize the number of children leaving district schools for charter schools; and|
|•||Accept them: embrace the charter idea and use it for the system's own purposes.|
We first visit two districts powerfully affected by the charter movement. Douglas County, Colorado is home to six charter schools enrolling 5 percent of its students. It illustrates a "stage three" response. Kingsburg, California is one of a few "charter districts" in the nation and demonstrates how the charter idea can be used by a district to do things differently (a "stage four" response).
Douglas County, Colorado: From Sideshow to Friendly Rival
1998-99 DISTRICT ENROLLMENT: 30,000
FIRST CHARTER SCHOOL: 1993-94
Douglas County is one of the fastest growing places in America, a vast tract of prairie south of Denver that is rapidly turning into a sprawling upper-middle-class suburb.