As the number of students in Hawaii’s charter schools grows, so has concern about oversight of these diverse campuses that rely on public money but are exempt from many state regulations.
Designed as laboratories for innovation in public education, charter schools now educate 9,000 children across the state, a nearly 50 percent jump in the past three years. Many of the state’s 31 charter schools are in rural areas, tucked largely out of sight and out of mind. Other than their devotees, few people know much about them. But that might soon change.
The spotlight is shifting to these “schools of choice” that now educate about 5 percent of Hawaii’s public school children under “charters,” or contracts with the state. Sixteen years after Waialae Elementary became Hawaii’s first charter school, the state auditor is conducting a performance audit of the charter school system, due out this summer.