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Last reviewed September 2014

Resources on Minnesota Issues
Charter Schools

This guide is compiled by staff at the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library on a topic of interest to Minnesota legislators. It is designed to provide an introduction to the topic, directing the user to a variety of sources, and is not intended to be exhaustive.

The charter school movement began in 1988 when Albert Shanker, American Federation of Teachers President, called for the reform of the public schools by establishing 'charter schools'. The basic charter concept is simple: a group of teachers or other would-be educators apply for permission to open a school. The school operates under a charter, a contract with the local school board or state. Exempt from most state and local laws and regulations, the school must prove that students have gained the educational skills specified in that initial contract in order to renew the charter. The funding for charter schools parallels that of public schools.

In 1991, Minnesota was at the forefront of the nation in passing legislation to create the first legislated charter school. (Laws of Minnesota 1991, chapter 265, article 9, section 3.) This ground breaking Minnesota law allowed the formation of eight results-oriented, student-centered public schools. The first, City Academy in St. Paul, opened its doors in 1992. According to the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools, there are more than 150 operating charter schools in Minnesota. Nationally, there are more than 6,000 charter schools enrolling over 1.9 million children, according to the Center for Education Reform.

In 2008, several analyses of Minnesota charter schools raised questions about the schools' administration and performance. In May, the Minnesota Department of Education issued a report based on a site visit of the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy. The review was completed after media reports questioned the school's compliance with Minnesota law requiring charter schools to operate in a nonsectarian manner. In June, the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor issued, Charter Schools: Evaluation Report. The report recommended strengthening oversight and accountability requirements in Minnesota law. Finally, the report, Failed Promises: Assessing Charter Schools in the Twin Cities, issued in November 2008 (and since updated) by the Institute on Race and Poverty, found that Minnesota charter schools perform worse on average than comparable public schools and that they have intensified racial and economic segregation in Twin Cities schools. The 2009 Minnesota Legislature responded to these concerns by passing a law that provided additional oversight of charter school administration, operations, and finance. (Laws of Minnesota 2009, Chapter 96).

2011 marked the 20th anniversary of Minnesota's charter school law and in 2012, Zero Chance of Passage: the Pioneering Charter School Story, was published by the law's chief author and former Minnesota Senator, Ember Reichgott Junge.

Legislative History

The Minnesota Legislature established outcome-based/charter schools as a part of the 1991 Omnibus K-12 Education Finance Bill (House File 700/Senate File 467, Laws of Minnesota 1991, chapter 265, article 9, section 3). Prior to being incorporated into House File 700, this issue was discussed in hearings on House File 773/Senate File 630.

The 2009 legislature amended Minnesota's charter school law to provide additional oversight of charter school operations. (Laws of Minnesota 2009, chapter 96, article 2, section 41.)

Over the years the law has been amended numerous times. These amendments are referenced in the history section at the end of Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.10.

Significant Books and Reports

Charter School Laws Across the States: Ranking and Scorecard. Washington, D.C.: Center for Education Reform, 2014.

Charter Schools: Evaluation Report. St. Paul: Office of the Legislative Auditor, 2008. (LB2806.36 .C42 2008)

Charter Schools in the Twin Cities, 2013 Update. Minneapolis, MN: Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity, University of Minnesota Law School, 2013. (LB2806.36 .F35 2013).

Evaluation of Charter School Impacts. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Dept. of Education, 2010.

Failed Promises: Assessing Charter Schools in the Twin Cities. Minneapolis: Institute on Race and Poverty, November 2008. (LB2806.36 .F35 2008)

Financial Trends of Minnesota School Districts and Charter Schools For the Period 2001 to 2005. St. Paul: Office of the State Auditor, 2006. (LB2826.M6M563 2006)

Fitzgerald, John. Checking in on Charter Schools: An Examination of Charter School Finances. St. Paul: Minnesota 2020, 2009. (LB2806.36 .F58 2009)

Hopes, Fears & Reality: A Balanced Look at American Charter Schools in 2011. National Charter School Resource Center and the Center on Reinventing Public Education, 2012.

Junge, Ember Reichgott. Zero Chance of Passage: the Pioneering Charter School Story. Edina, MN: Beaver's Pond Press, 2012. (LB2806.36 .J864 2012)

K-8 Charter Schools: Closing the Achievement Gap. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Education, 2007. (LB2806.36 .K2 2007)

Larson, Lisa. Minnesota's Charter School Law. St. Paul: Minnesota House of Representatives, House Research Department, 2011.

Minnesota District/Charter K-12 Enrollment Trends 2001/2002 - 2011/2012. St. Paul: Center for School Change, 2012. (LB2806.36 .M566 2012)

Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States. Stanford, CA: Center for Research on Education Outcomes, Stanford University, 2009. (LB2806.36 .M85 2009)

Principles & Standards for Quality Charter School Authorizing. Alexandria, VA: National Association of Charter School Authorizers, 2009.

The Quest for Accountability: The State of Charter Schools in 2003. (LB2806.36 .Q47 2003) (Compiled from 73 financial audits of Minnesota Charter Schools - Fiscal Year 2002.)

Special Education Primer for Charter Schools. St. Paul: Minnesota Dept. of Education, 2009. (LB2806.36 .S64 2009)

Supporting Charter School Excellence Through Quality Authorizing. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Education, 2007. (LB2806.36 .S87 2007)

Survey of America's Charter Schools. Washington, D.C.: Center for Education Reform, 2014. (LB2806.36 .A56 2014).

Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy: Findings Report From MDE Staff Site Visits, April 24 and May 2, 2008. St. Paul: Minnesota Dept. of Education, 2008. (LB2806.36 T37 2008)

Update of "Failed Promises: Assessing Charter Schools in the Twin Cities". Minneapolis: Institute on Race & Poverty, 2012. (LB2806.36 .F35 2012)

Wohlstetter, Priscilla. Choices and Challenges: Charter School Performance in Perspective. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Education Press, 2013. (LB2806.36 .W64 2013).

Significant Articles

Boldt, Megan. "Charters Face More Stringent State Rules: Concerns About Money, Oversight Make Schools a High Legislative Priority". St. Paul Pioneer Press, January 19, 2009.

Boyd, Cynthia. "Twin Cities Charter Schools Fail to Deliver Promised Gains, Study Claims". MinnPost, February 24, 2012.

Budde, Ray. "The Evolution of the Charter Concept." Phi Delta Kappan, September 1996, p. 72(2).

"Charter Schools: The Experiment Continues - As It Should". St. Paul Pioneer Press, July 1, 2008.

Draper, Norman. "Legislators Plan to Overhaul Charter School System". Star Tribune, January 22, 2009.

Hawkins, Beth. "Ember Reichgott Junge Confronts Seven Myths and Misconceptions About Charter Schools". MinnPost, July 17, 2014.

Hawkins, Beth. "From 'Zero Chance' to New Collaborations: 20 Years of Charter-School Risk-Taking". MinnPost, June 18, 2012.

Johns, Emily and Patrice Relerford. "Minnesota's Charter Schools Fall Short of Expectations". Star Tribune, December 1, 2008.

Magan, Christopher. "20 Years On, Have Charter Schools Met Their Goals?". St. Paul Pioneer Press, June 3, 2012.

Mahmoud, Eric and Joe Nathan. "Replicate Rather Than Restrict Minnesota's Most Successful Charters". Minnesota Journal, January/February 2009, p. 11-12.

Pheifer, Pat. "ACLU Reaches $1.4M Deal With TiZA Trustee". Star Tribune, March 6, 2012.

VanderHoff, James. "Parental Valuation of Charter Schools and Student Performance". Cato Journal, Fall 2008, p. 479-493.

"What State Policymakers Need to Know About Funding Virtual Charter Schools". The Progress of Education Reform, February 2014, p. 1-6.

Significant Internet Resources

Center for Education Reform, Charter Schools - Provides information about the concept of charter schools and links to charter school data. Includes Charter School Law Rankings and Scorecard (2014).

Edweek.org: Charter Schools - Links to current articles.

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools - A wide variety of information including a "Dashboard" linking to extensive data on charter schools.

National Charter School Resource Center - "Resources to build top-notch charter schools"

Additional Library Resources

For historical information, check the following codes in the Newspaper Clipping File and the Vertical File:
E12.6 - Education-Administration and Organization of Schools

For additional reports at the Legislative Reference Library, use these Library catalog searches:
Charter Schools

Groups Involved with this Issue

Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, 645 State Office Building, Saint Paul, MN  55155