While the state of Alabama has seen incremental reform in the realm of public education in recent years, one major component of the national education reform movement has remained elusive. Despite rapid and often successful growth nationwide over the last twenty-five years, Alabama has been slow to embrace charter schools.

One of the reasons for this reluctance may be a fundamental misunderstanding by lawmakers and the public of the nature of charter schools. Just like traditional public schools, charter schools are schools that are funded by the public and offered free of tuition. They are granted permission—or, a charter—to operate from a sponsoring body such as a local school board or state body. Where charter schools begin to differ from traditional public schools is that they are largely free from state education regulations and are able to create their own structure for everything from teacher hiring to class curriculum and organizational structure. These schools are evaluated on a regular basis to ensure they are in compliance with their charter.

Wherever innovation and growth is to be found in education around our country, charter schools are part of that process. The same changes should be embraced in Alabama, for the betterment of our students and our state.

Given the localized nature of public education in our state, any discussion of reform raises understandable concerns. The purpose of charter school expansion is not to upend traditional public school systems, but to create additional opportunities for parents and students to find the best education possible. It is the belief of many that charter schools can accomplish this goal.

— Converting older schools into charters allows local systems to make adequate use of their buildings, while providing new options for students and parents.

— A growing number of successful charters in our state would improve education for all students— charter, public and private.

— The state of Alabama should continue to eliminate the remaining barriers to school choice.

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