Charter schools are, by definition, unique. Free from many of the regulations applied to traditional public schools, charter schools can pave the way for educational innovation in our communities.
However, no matter how unique, no school can be a perfect solution to educational disparity. Despite the value of innovation, charters are (like any school) subject to educational shortcomings. They're also responsible for educating some of our most vulnerable student populations–these are students who could benefit from alternative approaches to education, but also can’t risk falling any further behind.
At the charter school where I teach, there are many hardworking teachers and administrators determined to provide students with a quality education; however, they can’t always overcome the lack of resources and structure that seems to plague many charter schools in the Twin Cities area. Unfortunately, the freedom that sets charter schools apart also leaves some charter schools falling behind. State laws need to ensure a fair balance between the innovation that charters thrive on, and the regulation that some desperately lack.
MinnCAN has identified greater accountability, flexibility and support for charter schools as one of its primary 2013 policy goals, a necessary and valuable step toward ensuring that charters continue to hold valuable positions in Minnesota’s educational landscape.
According to the 2013 MinnCAN 'State of Minnesota Public Education' report, local authorizers aren’t currently required to submit reports summarizing charter schools’ outcomes. Minnesota also doesn’t provide charters with funding and facilities equivalent to traditional public schools. I'm glad to see that legislators addressed some of these issues during the 2013 legislative session.
Minnesota has long been ahead of the curve in terms of charter school policy and still ranks top in the nation for its charter school law. Meanwhile, charter schools continue to increase in number nationwide. Now is Minnesota’s chance to set the tone for the new wave of charter school reform: increased regulation and support.
According to MPR, about 40,000 students attend charter schools in Minnesota, while more than two million students attend charter schools nationwide. These two million students deserve the same access to a high-quality education as students at any other school. Requiring stronger accountability for our state’s 40,000 charter school students is an important step toward ensuring that all two million and counting get there too.
Christina Salter is a School Reform Blogging Fellow.