Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Public Education Alternatives
Information about alternatives such as magnet schools and charter schools.

Public School Choice
Public school choice began in the 1960s with a push towards creating magnet schools — schools with special foci, such as the sciences or arts, and the aim of becoming integrated havens in a previously segregated society. Now, however, the concept has been extended to allow students to choose among the public schools within, and even outside, their school district. Despite some of the apparent successes of public school choice, there are many downsides to such initiatives. Allowing parents to decide which public school to send their child has the potential of eroding neighborhood schools and the sense of community that is built around them. As children travel further distances to attend school, parental involvement in the schools is likely to decline. Opponents of public school choice also argue that such initiatives might erode school accountability — if schools are no longer accountable to particular geographic areas, then who will determine to whom the school is accountable? Which school board? Which parents? Which neighborhood associations?

Charter Schools: A New Path for Public Schools?
Charter schools are alternative schools established by teachers, parents, and businesses and non-profit organizations who apply for a charter to operate a school for a specified time Period (usually five years). Charter schools are funded by states and localities through state taxes, appropriation of federal grants for charter schools, discretionary spending of federal block-grant monies, and Title I funding. Approximately 800 charter schools exist, with many more approved and ready to open. In the fall of 1999, more than 350,000 students attended nearly 1,205 charter schools.

On May 4, 2000 President Clinton announced $16 million in support for charter schools during National Charter Schools Week, while he was visiting City Academy School in St. Paul, Minnesota. At City Academy, he participated in an online chat and simultaneous web cast to discuss school reform. President Bush included funding for the construction of charter schools in his 2002 budget plan. We are closely monitoring the charter school movement.

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