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Charter school figures down in Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- Since 2010, the number of charter schools in Kansas has declined by two-thirds, according to new figures from the state Department of Education.

Only 11 of the schools, which receive public funding but are usually managed by outside boards or private companies, remain now. Last year, there were 15, and in 2010, there were 33, The Lawrence Journal-World reported (http://bit.ly/15lSUvq ).

Supporters say the schools are intended to compete with the public school system, offering an alternative educational and management approach.

Supporters of traditional schools say that while charter schools are beneficial for some students, they also siphon public funds that could be used to improve all schools.

Jessica Noble, who coordinates charter and virtual school programs for Kansas, recently presented the new data to the department and said many districts are choosing to convert the charter schools back into regular schools.

Other districts that had been operating virtual schools as charter schools have decided to fold those schools into existing schools and operate them as virtual "programs," she said.

Under Kansas law, petitions to open a charter school must be approved by the local school district. The applications then must be approved by the Kansas State Board of Education, and the local school district retains control over the charter school.

Kansas has one of the most restrictive charter school laws in the nation, charter school supporters say, and such schools elsewhere generally are more independent.

"The problem you're seeing in Kansas is they're not real charters, because they're still run and managed by the school district that has not done the greatest in running their own schools," said Kara Kerwin, spokeswoman for the Center for Education Reform in Washington, D.C., a nonprofit organization that promotes charter schools.

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com