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How Did Charter Schools Start?

In the 1990s, people began questioning whether traditional public schools were meeting all of the student's needs. Advocates of charter schools felt more innovative approaches to education were needed. Thus, the concept of charter schools was born out of a collaboration between two educators, Ray Budde, and Albert Shanker. Budde offered the idea of giving schools more autonomy in exchange for greater accountability. On the other hand, Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, saw potential in the idea and began promoting it nationally.


The Time Line

According to NCES, in 1991, Minnesota passed the first legislation allowing public charter schools to be established. The first charter school, City Academy, opened its doors in Saint Paul the following year. The idea quickly gained popularity, and by 1995, nineteen states had passed charter school laws. As of late 2019, forty-five states, plus Washington DC, have passed public charter school legislation.


How They Differ

While charter schools operate independently of the traditional public school system, they are still publicly funded and held accountable for student outcomes. They have more flexibility in their curriculum, scheduling, and hiring, but in return, they must meet certain performance standards and report their progress to the state. Charter schools have been controversial since their inception. Some critics argue that they take away resources from traditional public schools and exacerbate educational inequality. Others believe they provide much-needed options for families dissatisfied with their local public schools.


The Advantages

Charter schools have several advantages that set them apart from traditional public schools. Some of the main advantages include a unique learning environment with flexibility in curriculum and school hours. They also often focus on certain areas of study, such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) or the arts. This allows students with a particular interest or talent to pursue their passions and develop their skills in a supportive environment.


Despite the debates, charter schools have continued to grow in popularity. Today, there are over 7,000 charter schools in the United States which serve over three million students. Charter schools have become an integral part of the American education landscape. Offering diverse approaches to teaching and learning, charter schools provide parents with more school choices for their children. Parents can choose the school that best fits their child's learning style and interests and can opt out of a traditional public school system that may not meet their needs. Reach out today to learn more!