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Utah Board of Education approves rules for 8 pilot charter schools

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The Utah Board of Education approved rules Fridaiy to govern how eight pilot charter schools will proceed.

The rules, drafted by a task force of legislators, parents and educators last month, aim to fill technical gaps left in the law, set safety nets and maintain flexibility.Charter schools are public schools with increased autonomy, specializing in areas such as fine arts or technology in addition to the basics. They offer parents choice in public education, along with increased involvement.

The schools may be set up within existing schools or at a separate location, but only a handful of Utah's districts report a few classrooms to spare.

The Legislature passed charter school legislation last March. Since, the State Office of Education has received many calls from entities, including the University of Utah and Utah Valley State College, seeking information on forming a charter school, said associate superintendent Steve Laing.

Applicants will be asked to map the school, including its budget, mission, activities and teacher qualifications. School must meet the state core curriculum, participate in state-mandated tests and file monthly budget and performance reports as local schools do, among other items.

Pilot charter schools will share $500,000 in state startup funds based on need. They also receive state per-pupil and ongoing funds as other public schools do, plus one-time funds for textbooks and other items. But that money will not flow to the charter schools until September, when a more accurate headcount can be taken.

Three proposals will be approved from applications coming in by July 17. Another five will be approved following a Nov. 30 application deadline. Applications are available at the State Office of Education Web site and via mail. The office address is 250 E. 500 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84111.