The Utah State Office of Education Web site says this about charter schools: "The goal of charter schools is to provide additional educational options with quality outcomes for students and parents. Charter schools are public schools open to all students . . ."
It would appear from our vantage point that Pinnacle Canyon Academy of Price is doing precisely that. Price-area parents are so impressed with the fledgling charter school that many of them have placed their children's names on a waiting list with the hope they may someday attend the school.
For now, that option of choice has been curtailed. The Utah State Board of Education has tabled a request by Pinnacle Canyon to double its enrollment. In doing so, the state school board raises serious questions about the state's commitment to choice in public education.
As surrounding states were experiencing remarkable successes — and a few notable failures — with the charter schools, Utah was slow to adopt the concept. When the first round of charters were granted in the late 1990s, the schools faced an uphill battle. They received full state funding but only half the district allotment.
Considering a school's substantial start-up costs, the initial funding strategy put charter schools at somewhat of a disadvantage from the start. Fortunately, policymakers have since rectified that inequity.
Now, it appears that Pinnacle Canyon Academy is again hobbled because it has succeeded in a community that not only is feeling the pinch of the nation's economic slowdown, it also is coping with the loss of a significant number of coal jobs.
Carbon School District officials say if the traditional public school loses more enrollment, it loses a proportional amount of state funding yet retains most of the same upkeep costs.
It strains logic to think that the only solution to a shrinking budget due to children who would leave traditional classrooms in favor of a public charter school is to reject a successful school's request to expand its enrollment. If the charter school is doing a good job educating its students, it should be encouraged, not punished.
Legislators who embrace school choice to the degree that many support tuition tax credit proposals ought to be able to devise some means to enable successful charter schools to flourish, yet protect cash-strapped small rural school districts.
A state fully committed to the concept of public school choice, which has been many Utah leaders' mantra in their fight against the tuition tax credit concept, needs to provide for that public choice or perhaps abandon the charade that it entertains choice at all.