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Friday, June 3, 2011 - 1:03pm

Lawmakers Mull Keeping Charter Schools Open

Lawmakers and education officials gathered Friday to mull options for the 16 state-approved charter schools invalidated last month by the state Supreme Court. Officials said the schools have two short term options: Get approval from local school districts that originally rejected them, or become state special schools.

State School Superintendent John Barge said local approval is the best option because without it, the schools will lose half their funds.

"We’re encouraging local districts to honestly consider these charters, to talk with them and to give them full consideration as local-approved charters," Barge said.

But districts are unlikely to take on the burden of the charters that draw students from around the state. Cheryl Weathersby of the Pataula Charter Academy in Edison said her school has submitted applications to all five districts who send her students. One has already said no.

"The only way I think that local districts would approve us is for all five of them to approve us. I think it would be financial suicide for only one of them to approve us," Weathersby said.

All of the affected charters have also applied to be state special schools. The State Board of Education will vote on those applications at the end of the month.

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