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Utah charter schools get $4 million grant

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New Utah charter schools can breathe a sigh of relief after the state received a $4 million federal grant earmarked for fledgling charters.

The new schools have been holding their breath and hoping that the funding would be available to them as it had been for other charters in past years.

The No Child Left Behind grant, awarded through the Charter Schools Program, will go to help new school purchase supplies, books, furniture consultants and curriculum material, said John Broberg, state charter school director.

Before last year, the federal startup grants were available to all new charter schools. But because of funding cuts the process of getting the money has turned competitive. Utah must compete with 23 other states for the grants, and to date only five other states have been awarded funding.

"We feel very privileged — without it charters don't get much to help with expensive startup costs," Broberg said. "We have just been hoping for the best but preparing for the worst."

New charters that are in their first three years of operation are eligible for startup monies. Utah currently has 27 eligible schools, and leaders predict more than a dozen more will fire up in fall of 2006.

Individual schools receive a $150,000 grant each year during their first few years of operation.

The purpose of the Charter Schools Program is to increase national understanding of the charter school model and to expand the number of high-quality charter schools available to students across the nation.

The monies are meant to provide financial assistance for initial implementation of charter schools and for evaluating the effects of charter schools, including the effects on students, student academic achievement, staff and parents.

Charter schools are independent public schools designed and operated by parents, educators, community leaders and entrepreneurs.

They are public schools operated free of charge to parents and are open to all students.


E-mail: terickson@desnews.com