Nearly 20 years ago, the Colorado Legislature authorized the Charter Schools Act. Lawmakers declared that with it, they intended "to create a legitimate avenue for parents, teachers, and community members to implement new and innovative methods of educating children that are proven to be effective and to take responsible risks and create new and innovative, research-based ways of educating all children within the public education system."
As of the 2009-10 school year, more than 150 charter schools were operating statewide, with 30-some housed in El Paso County. They offer a range of emphases, from Core Knowledge curriculum to creative arts to college prep.
Charters vary so widely because any individual or group with a vision may submit an application to the local school district — or, with district approval, to the Colorado Charter School Institute (csi.state.co.us). If the program meets a list of provisions, it will be approved to start teaching students.
Of course, charter schools do receive public funding, and therefore students must participate in Colorado Student Assessment Program testing. Programs also must complete a state accreditation review. You can find details on how each school performs through the Colorado Department of Education's website (cde.state.co.us).
It's important to remember that application deadlines for the 2012-13 academic year vary from school to school. Learn more about charter options by visiting each local district's website, or the CCSI website.