Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien Highlights Colorado Charter Success to Congress

Updated for accuracy (6/9)

For 15 years we’ve had charter schools around in Colorado. By giving strong accountability along with a new level of freedom, our state has been one of the leaders in fostering innovation through charters.

Going along with that, charter schools have now established themselves with strong bipartisan political support. Witness our own Democrat lieutenant governor Barbara O’Brien, who offered testified before a Congressional committee on Thursday. Denise at Colorado Charters highlighted the factors O’Brien pointed out as reasons for charter school success.

But I thought this was the most interesting part of what Lt. Gov. O’Brien had to say:

But the successes far outweigh the failures, as evidenced by the growing charter school enrollment and waiting lists in Colorado. In the 2007-2008 school year, 56,000 students were enrolled in more than 140 schools, while another 38,000 students were on waiting lists.

While I’ve been addressing the issue of charters and at-risk students, large concentrations of which are found in major urban centers, federal policy makers should also consider and support the role of charters in boosting the achievement of suburban students with a lower risk profile, yet similar needs for improved educational outcomes. We as a country should not be complacent about our best schools as other developed countries accelerate the academic achievements of their students.

Charter schools for poor, at-risk students in the inner cities. Charter schools to promote excellence among suburban and rural kids, too. Parents demand them. At least one major school board in our area is listening.

Lt. Gov. O’Brien’s testimony came at the same time as the Denver Public Schools board looks to approve a dramatic expansion of successful charter school models. Two of the expansions — West Denver Prep and Denver School of Science and Technology — were highlighted specifically by name in O’Brien’s address.

Having heard all that, I guess you could say charter schools have found a “special place” here in Colorado, just not the sort of “special place” espoused by an ever shrinking number of state lawmakers.