Why Charter Schools?
In 1991 Minnesota passed the first charter school law, with California following suit in 1992. By 1995, 19 states had signed laws allowing for the creation of charter schools, and by 2003 that number increased to 40 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Charter schools are one of the fastest growing innovations in education policy, enjoying broad bipartisan support from governors, state legislators, and past and present secretaries of education.
In his 1997 State of the Union Address, former President Clinton called for the creation of 3,000 charter schools by the year 2002. In 2002, President Bush called for $200 million to support charter schools. His proposed budget called for another $100 million for a new Credit Enhancement for Charter Schools Facilities Program.
Since 1994, the U.S. Department of Education has provided grants to support states' charter school efforts, starting with $6 million in fiscal year 1995. President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have made it clear that expanding charter schools is a critical part of successful education reform. Teachers, parents, community groups, universities and other nonprofit entities can create charter schools. Charter schools are exempt from many state and local regulations. As such, they are essentially autonomous in their operations. Charter schools are attended by students whose families have voluntarily chosen to send them to a charter school, and they are staffed by educators who are also there by choice. Charter schools are held accountable for their results and are liable to be closed if they do not meet established performance standards.
Minnesota’s Law states that the purpose of charter schools are to:
(1) Improve all pupil learning and all student achievement (primary purpose);
(2) Increase learning opportunities for all pupils;
(3) Encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods;
(4) Require the measurement of learning outcomes and create different and innovative forms f measuring outcomes;
(5) Establish new forms of accountability for schools;
(6) Create new professional opportunities for teachers, including responsibilty for the learning program at the school site