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The Charter School Landscape

The Charter School Landscape

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    The Charter School Landscape
    Book Description:

    Charter schools are publicly funded entities that enjoy freedom from many of the regulations under which traditional public schools operate. There are, however, state and local variations in charter school legislation and implementation.The Charter School Landscapeis the first book to analyze and compare charter school politics and policies across a broad range of jurisdictions.The first charter school opened in Minnesota in 1992. Within nine years, there were more than 2,000 charter schools operating in thirty-four states, Washington, D.C., and Alberta, Canada. Public discourse on the charter school reform is often passionate and politically motivated. Sandra Vergari has assembled a group of experts to present a more reflective and scholarly discussion of the reform, its performance to date, and its implications for public policy.Each chapter focuses on a single state or province, and systematically addresses such issues as charter school laws, the politics of policy implementation, charter school accountability, controversies and trends, and prospects for the future. In addition, the contributors emphasize significant issues specific to each state that offer lessons for analysts and policymakers everywhere. As a whole,The Charter School Landscapesuggests that charter schools are having a significant impact on the institution of public education and how we think about the concept of the "real public school."

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-8083-4
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)
    Sandra Vergari

    During a time of intense interest in how to improve public education, the charter school policy innovation is among the most dynamic and hotly debated education reform issues today. Minnesota adopted the nation’s first charter school law in 1991, and a decade later, thirty-six additional states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) had charter school statutes. The first charter school opened in Minnesota in 1992. In the 2000–2001 academic year, over 2,000 charter schools were in operation across thirty-four states and D.C., with a total enrollment of about 500,000 students, and continued growth was anticipated (Center for Education Reform...

  2. 2 Minnesota and the Charter Public School Idea
    (pp. 17-31)
    Joe Nathan

    It started with people, a napkin, and a pen. “It,” in this case, is the charter idea. This chapter describes how that idea was shaped in Minnesota and how Minnesota has used the charter idea to help accomplish important educational goals. Recently, Harvard University and the Ford Foundation recognized the charter idea as one of the nation’s best public policy initiatives. This chapter also discusses some of the successes, dilemmas, and challenges that Minnesota faced and from which other states might learn.

    The charter idea developed from previous Minnesota experience with public school choice. Since the early 1970s, the state’s...

  3. 3 Charter Schools in California: A Bruising Campaign for Public School Choice
    (pp. 32-53)
    Priscilla Wohlstetter, Noelle C. Griffin and Derrick Chau

    In 1992 California became the second state to enact charter school legislation. By the 2000–2001 school year, California was first in the nation in the number of students enrolled in charter schools, with nearly 115,582 of the national total of about 500,000 charter school students (California Department of Education 2001; Center for Education Reform 2001e). California was second only to Arizona in the number of operating charter schools.

    California charter schools were distributed across many different parts of the state by the beginning of the 2000–2001 school year. Of the state’s fifty-eight counties, thirty-eight had charter schools. Both...

  4. 4 Letting a Thousand Flowers (and Weeds) Bloom: The Charter Story in Arizona
    (pp. 54-73)
    Frederick M. Hess and Robert Maranto

    Arizona is the only state with something approaching an institutionalized free market in public education. Marrying the entrepreneurial and anti-bureaucratic philosophy of the wide open West, a dominant Republican party, relatively weak teachers unions, and an executive branch that at least in the 1994–1998 period aggressively promoted charter schools, Arizona provides a milieu in which charter schooling has rapidly grown into a prominent and discourseshaping feature of the state’s public school system. Arizona is thus a useful laboratory, demonstrating how a large-scale charter school system can evolve and how it affects schooling.¹

    In 1994, Arizona adopted the law that...

  5. 5 Michigan’s Charter School Movement: The Politics of Policy Design
    (pp. 74-92)
    Michael Mintrom

    In Michigan, charter schools—referred to formally as “Public School Academies”—represent part of a broader policy initiative to establish a quasi-market in public education, with extensive parental choice and far-reaching use of nongovernmental entities for the delivery of educational services.¹ In this chapter I review the politics that have accompanied Michigan’s charter school movement. I then discuss the evolution of the charter school community, focusing on the schools and their students, the authorizing agencies and the Michigan Department of Education, and the role played by private management companies.

    For the most part, my assessment of the contribution of Michigan’s...

  6. 6 Colorado Charter Schools: Becoming an Enduring Feature of the Reform Landscape
    (pp. 93-112)
    Eric Hirsch

    Since 1993, when Colorado became one of the first states to enact charter school legislation, the number of charter schools in the state has grown. In 1999–2000, over 2 percent of Colorado’s pupils attended sixty-nine charter schools across the state. During the 2000–2001 school year, seventy-six charter schools were in operation, and an additional seven charter schools were scheduled to open during the following year.¹ These schools appear to be doing well, in most cases outperforming district and state averages on the state standardized test, while managing long waiting lists. Recent legislation and the political climate in the...

  7. 7 The Massachusetts Charter School Initiative: A Model for Public School Accountability?
    (pp. 113-132)
    Paul Herdman

    Massachusetts has created what many consider to be a model accountability system for charter schools (Finn, Manno, and Vanourek 2000; Hill et al. 1999). States across the nation are creating central assessments and moving toward focusing on schools rather than districts as the unit of analysis; in other words, schools are being given increased autonomy in exchange for more accountability (Fuhrman 1999). Given this trend, the question of balance between local and central control becomes important. Since charter schools are seen as “the country’s most aggressive version of school decentralization” (Odden and Busch 1998, 48), examining the governance relationships between...

  8. 8 Wisconsin: Chartering Authority as Educational Reform
    (pp. 133-154)
    Julie F. Mead

    Wisconsin, with its history of progressivism, has become known as a pioneer state for various kinds of school choice.¹ Although not the first state to introduce charter school legislation, Wisconsin has joined the charter school movement in unique ways. Most notably, Wisconsin was the first state to grant chartering authority to a municipality and the first to use chartering authority to target a specific urban region of educational concern. The following discussion explores various facets of Wisconsin’s chartering environment and the political, legal, and policy questions raised by the Wisconsin case.

    Wisconsin became a charter school state in 1993 with...

  9. 9 Parameters for Choice: Charter Schools in Alberta
    (pp. 155-174)
    Lynn Bosetti and Robert O’Reilly

    The province of Alberta adopted its charter law in 1994. To date, Alberta is the only Canadian jurisdiction to permit charter schools. Alberta’s charter school legislation was introduced to the legislature by a Conservative government with a strong majority in the house. It was adopted in 1994 after minimal consultation with stakeholders and little legislative debate. The minister of education promoted these “term-specific” charter schools as a vehicle to revitalize public education by fostering innovation in the organization and delivery of education. The intent was that successful innovations would be shared with and eventually adopted by the public education system....

  10. 10 Texas: Charter Schools and the Struggle for Equity
    (pp. 175-191)
    Lance D. Fusarelli

    In 1995, with the enthusiastic support of Republican governor George W. Bush, the Texas legislature passed charter school legislation (SB 1) allowing for 20 state-approved open-enrollment charter schools and an unlimited number of district-approved campus charters. In 1997, the legislature increased the cap to 120 open-enrollment charters and unlimited additional charter schools if at least 75 percent of the students served by each additional school were at risk of dropping out. Texas had 192 charter schools in 2001, when lawmakers adopted a new cap of 215 charter schools statewide, with an exemption only for charter schools run by any of...

  11. 11 Charter Schools in Florida: A Work in Progress
    (pp. 192-207)
    Tracey Bailey, Carolyn Lavely and Cathy Wooley-Brown

    Florida’s charter school law was adopted in 1996, authorizing the creation of charter schools as part of the state’s public education system. The original intent of the charter school legislation was to create innovative educational programming by removing the burden of excessive regulation. Since the first legislation passed, the law has been significantly amended to expand the opportunities for charter schools and to provide them with greater flexibility.

    In Florida, a charter proposal can “bubble up” from many sources, such as parents, teachers, and interested individuals or groups of individuals wanting the educational choices provided by a charter school. Cities,...

  12. 12 Charter Schools in North Carolina: Confronting the Challenges of Rapid Growth
    (pp. 208-229)
    Michelle Godard McNiff and Bryan C. Hassel

    While initially reluctant to enter the growing charter school movement, North Carolina legislators adopted a charter school law in 1996 allowing for three types of charter authorizers, noncertified staff, and guaranteed full operational funding. The North Carolina charter school law is typically rated toward the “permissive” or “strong” end of the continuum (Center for Education Reform 2001a). The state’s law has allowed for rapid charter school growth. By May 2001 there were ninety-two charter schools in operation, the sixth-largest number of charter schools in the United States. Among these schools were some of the state’s top performers, some very innovative...

  13. 13 New York: Over 100 Charter Applications in Year One
    (pp. 230-252)
    Sandra Vergari

    Seven years after the nation’s first charter school law was adopted, New York became the thirty-fourth state to permit charter schools.¹ While the state is a relative latecomer to the charter school scene, charter school advocates have been actively making up for lost time. In this chapter, I discuss the charter school law and the dynamics of the implementation process. I also review the challenges stakeholders encountered during the launching and initial two years of operation of the New Covenant Charter School in Albany. New Covenant was the largest of the state’s first three new start-up charter schools that opened...

  14. 14 Conclusions
    (pp. 253-274)
    Sandra Vergari

    Each of the preceding chapters zooms in on particular tracts of the charter school landscape in North America. In this chapter, I provide a panoramic analysis of the findings and insights presented by the authors. My discussion focuses on patterns across the locales and on questions provoked by the charter school policy innovation.

    Statutes structure the policy implementation process through delineation of objectives, selection of implementing institutions, provision of resources, and regulation of opportunities for participation by nonagency actors in the implementation process (Mazmanian and Sabatier 1983, 25). Laws that permit a public entity other than a school district board...