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IDEA charter system still point of contention at AISD

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TWC News: IDEA charter system still point of contention at AISD
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More than three months into the school year, dozens of parents have pulled their kids out of IDEA Allan Elementary School, the Austin Independent School District’s first IDEA-branded charter school.

The district partnered with the charter network to improve academic performance in East Austin.

Araceli Ribera has a daughter and son at Allan Elementary. She doesn't live in the area, but says she drives them to school every day because the charter school is a good opportunity.

"My daughter, she loves the school, she learns really fast," Ribera said. "More teaching about everything, about respect to other people. They have more discipline, it's good for him."

On the other hand, dozens of East Austin parents decided the school wasn't good for their kids or their neighborhood.

Some parents organized protests against IDEA, saying Austin ISD wasn't listening to them.
They opted out before the school year even started.

IDEA official Larkin Tackett says another 42 students have withdrawn since then—15 cited transportation as the reason and 14 said they were moving.

"We're not happy with the number of students who have left, but it is important to note that that is about the same rate of students who leave other schools in this neighborhood, but no one would agree that that's acceptable," Tackett said.

While a quarter of the school's 544 students come from the area, Tackett says he knows there are families nearby who are against the school.

"We're starting to build bridges, but there is a lot more work to do to clear up some of the misconceptions that exist," he said.

With charter schools popping up all over the country, advocates say people will get used to the alternative style of education.

Attendees to the 2012 Texas Charter Schools Conference say charter schools give parents more options.

"Charter schools have some additional flexibility that traditional school districts don't have,” David Dunn with the Texas Charter Schools Association said. “So they are able to tailor their educational programs to meet the needs of individual students, and there is a high demand for that, and parents like that."

AISD's board will review IDEA's contract at Monday’s work session.

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