Rhode Island threw open its doors to charter-school operators last year, lifting a statewide cap and securing two federal grants to aid their ambitious expansion.
But few applicants have stepped through the threshold.
Massachusetts, which also took steps to encourage charter school growth, has been swamped with scores of applications. In mid-February, education officials approved 17 new alternative public schools to open this fall and next.
But despite Rhode Island’s welcome mat, just three organizations have sent letters of interest or applications to the Rhode Island Department of Education to open charter schools in 2012-2013.
This is attributable to mixed messages on at least three levels:
- The election of charter-skeptic Gov. Lincoln Chafee in November.
- The collapse of the Rhode Island Mayoral Academies/Democracy Prep relationship in December, calling into question just how welcoming RI reform advocates actually are to outsiders.
- Deb Gist's attempt last May to abruptly and arbitrarily shut down the Highlander Charter School.
We may manage to destroy our school districts and stunt our charter school development at the same time. That's quite a trick.