Interesting essay in Education Week by Ember Reichgott Junge of Minnesota, who, while in the state senate there, authored the first chartered school law in the nation.
Here is an excerpt. Please read the full piece in Ed Week:
As the state Senate author of Minnesota’s 1991 legislation that authorized the first chartered schools (or charter schools, as most people call them), I am in awe of the number of young lives touched by chartering today: 2 million students in an estimated 5,600 schools across the country.
And yet, I know that some charters are not delivering the quality education we envisioned 20 years ago.
As we look to the future of chartering, it is important to revisit the origins and set the historical record straight. Here are some key facts that may surprise you and dispel a few common myths.
• Legislation for chartered schools came from the conservative right, in opposition to unions. False.
• The proposal for a “charter school” was suggested by a prominent leader of a national teachers’ union. True. It was Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, who challenged attendees at an education reform conference in Minnesota in 1988 to imagine how teachers might partner with the public education “system” to encourage risk-taking and change.
• Chartered schools emerged on the national scene within weeks of passage of the Minnesota legislation. True.
• As the Senate author, I celebrated passage of the first chartered school bill when it passed by a margin of three votes. False. By the time we passed the chartered school law in 1991 in Minnesota, I thought the bill was so compromised that a chartered school would never open. I was bitterly disappointed. Approval to start a chartered school was required from both the state board of education and the local school board; there was no alternate sponsor.
Yet, years later, I realized that had we not compromised on the bill, chartering likely would not have passed the state legislature.
It’s time to ask: What’s working in public chartered schools, and what’s working in public district schools? How can we learn from each other?
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog