1 charter school in AL, another opens its doors Monday

Why aren’t there more charter schools in Alabama?

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - State lawmakers made charter schools legal in 2015, but there is currently one school operating.

The process to become a charter school can be tedious and lengthy. The Alabama Public Charter School Commission approves the applications.

"It's an emotional decision," said Commissioner Melissa McInnis. "I mean, you're looking at the lives of children. They can be impacted forever."

To start a charter school, part of the process includes filling out an application and presenting to the commission.

"And it's not just something that we can look at and willy nilly approve this school approve that school," McInnis said.

The school needs to detail the classroom curriculum, how they will fund their school and the plan to start it. The commission will then spend time reviewing the applications.

"We're very measured, very meticulous," she said. "We look at these applications seriously."

McInnis said one main reason schools are denied a charter is because they lack sufficient funding. Charter schools do receive federal and state dollars, but only after the doors are open. The schools need to have money to get the doors open.

"The thing we want on the commission is quality over quantity and so we are dedicated to only approving schools which we believe have a good chance of succeeding. We don't want to approve a school and five years later have to shut it down. That doesn't send a confident message to the people of Alabama," she said.

University Charter School in Livingston is opening its doors Monday. The school was dependent on the community to open its doors.

"Our community just really rallied around what we were doing. They knew it was a need and something that the families wanted and we just did lots of fundraising and those dollars are what got our doors open," said University Charter School head Dr. JJ Wedgworth.

The commission approved four charter schools for 2019. They will be located in Montgomery, Birmingham, Huntsville and Chatom.

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