South Carolina charter schools are getting an economic shot in the arm in the recently ratified state budget as funding for the “brick and mortar” schools in the district will almost double.
Charter district school superintendent Dr. Wayne Brazell says the funds are desperately needed, because schools in the statewide charter school district receives no local funds. The district has been in operation for three years. There are currently 11 schools in the district: 6 brick and mortar schools and 5 virtual schools that offer online instruction. Brazell says the virtual schools received $700 per student a year ago. That funding has been bumped to $2400 per student.
Brazell says it is important to note that, when a student enrolls in a public charter school in the statewide district, the local money for that student remains in the local district. There six brick and mortar schools are located in Charleston, Rock Hill, Spartanburg, Lake City, Bishopville, and Calhoun Falls.
Unlike magnet schools, charter schools are public schools open to any student that may want to enroll. Brazell says there are limitations to enrollment at individual schools. He says there are also funding ceilings for brick and mortar and online schools that may affect enrollment numbers. Like traditional public schools, charter schools do not charge tuition and must address the entire state curriculum for all grade levels offered.
Brazell says students and parents are attracted to charter schools because they sometimes have offerings that may not available at the traditional public schools in their area. Brazell cites one example of a new Chinese-language immersion elementary school opening this fall in the Midlands.
Charter schools are required to administer all state standardized testing, which is conducted live under monitored conditions. For charter schools that feature high school classes, students are required to meet all state graduation requirements.
Brazell says there are many reasons that youth chose the virtual school option. Some may have discipline problems or problems with bullying; other may have medical conditions, others like a few athletes that are in the program travel all over the country and have to have flexibility in order to fit schooling into their demanding schedules.
Brazell says he expects the interest in virtual schools to grow. He believes the existing six schools should be able to meet the growing demand for slots.