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Charter School Growth Slows In Oklahoma

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The pace of new charter schools opening in Oklahoma has slowed after a spurt of growth over several years.

Santa Fe South Schools Superintendent Chris Brewster said charter schools posted a nearly 4 percent growth rate in 2016 after enrollment increased by nearly 10 percent in 2014 and by more than 17 percent in 2015.

“I think you have seen some communities become saturated with (charter schools) to a point where it might be a little harder to open new ones,” Brewster said.

Twenty-seven traditional charter schools opened in the state from 2011 to 2015 compared to just one opening in 2016.

Two more are scheduled to open this year, and several more charter schools are expected to open in the coming years.

Potential reasons for the recent slowdown include funding challenges and access to facilities, The Oklahoman reported. 

Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, said the slowdown in charters could be a natural cycle of growth.

“I’m hoping the slowdown is just because people are taking their time in producing a good charter school that is helping kids,” Stanislawski said. “We may not be seeing growth like in other states. ... because we are not seeing these national charter companies coming in and trying to get our state money.”

Stanislawski authored a bill this year that would’ve clarified the rights of charter schools to access school bond financing, but it wasn’t enacted.

“Finding or building a facility is a big challenge for charter schools,” Stanislawski said. “If charters can access school bond dollars they can benefit greatly.”

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