The US Charter Schools web site summarized comments by charter school leaders about relationships with their districts. The comments are very interesting--from very positive to very pessimistic.
As I've looked at two districts in Colorado Springs, I've found that charter school relationships can be very good. Our school, The Classical Academy, is in Academy School District 20. Our district is one of the top school districts in the state of Colorado. We are a suburban district. Approximately 51% of adults have a bachelor's degree or higher. Approximately 55% of households have incomes of $75,000 or greater. I say "we" because in our case, our charter school functions very much as a partner with our district. District 20 is a choice district, and we view ourselves as one more choice in the district. For example, one of the district high schools is an IB school. Other schools have extensive AP course offerings as well as some distinct technology and other tracks. We don't (and can't afford to) offer those extended offerings. We are a school focused on specific methods of instruction and a narrowly focused college preparation. So, it is good that our district has excellent offerings for students who can't get into our school or don't want the option we provide.
Falcon School District (District 49) in northeast Colorado Springs also appears to have a reasonable relationship with their district. The district has diverse demographic characteristics. It has about 50% more students representing racial minorities, and it crosses into more rural areas. Approximately 30% of households have a bachelor's degree or greater. Approximately 40% of households have incomes of $75,000 or greater. Although the western portion of Falcon is developing, there is a huge area that is still less developed in terms of housing and business. Even with the difficult challenges, some of which are financial due to the difficulty of passing a bond issue, Falcon strives to maintain good relationships with its charter schools. Falcon also has schools that are rated average or above, which is about the same rating as their charter schools. Falcon strives through its own offerings and its charter offerings to provide choice. It has a night school option as well as Career Academies to help students focus on particular vocational areas.
While there are reasons that districts can be negative about charter schools, districts that view charters as a good way to increase choice can maintain good relationships if they choose to. There are issues of balance and financial responsibility to consider, but in these two examples, we can see that a healthy relationship is not only good for charter and district leadership, but also for the kids.