>>WHAT'S A CHARTER SCHOOL
Charter schools are, by definition, exceptional institutions. Charter schools accept the challenges that face all public schools and embrace a unique and demanding burden of proof in the accountability inherent in a five-year charter. Charter schools are built on the philosophy that success is possible for all children. In writing [a charter] and in reporting its progress against it, a school embraces a commitment to both success and transparency. The [charter] allows a school to set goals that reflect its uniqueness and autonomy while giving substance to a school’s commitment to parents and citizens.
From the NEA (National Education Association) Charter School web-page:
NEA believes that charter schools and other nontraditional public school options have the potential to facilitate education reforms and develop new and creative teaching methods that can be replicated in traditional public schools for the benefit of all children. Whether charter schools will fulfill this potential depends on how charter schools are designed and implemented, including the oversight and assistance provided by charter authorizers.
NEA's Policy on Charter Schools
State laws and regulations governing charter schools vary widely. NEA's state affiliates have positions on charter schools that are appropriate to the situation in their states. NEA's policy statement sets forth broad parameters, and minimum criteria by which to evaluate state charter laws. For example:
> A charter should be granted only if the proposed school intends to offer an educational experience that is qualitatively different from what is available in traditional public schools.
> Local school boards should have the authority to grant or deny charter applications; the process should be open to the public, and applicants should have the right to appeal to a state agency decisions to deny or revoke a charter.
> Charter school funding should not disproportionately divert resources from traditional public schools.
> Charter schools should be monitored on a continuing basis and should be subject to modification or closure if children or the public interest is at risk.
> Private schools should not be allowed to convert to public charter schools, and private for-profit entities should not be eligible to receive a charter.
> Charter schools should be subject to the same public sector labor relations statutes as traditional public schools, and charter school employees should have the same collective bargaining rights as their counterparts in traditional public schools.
From the Charter School Development Center website:
What is a charter school?
A charter school is a new form of public school that may be started and operated by individuals or organizations from outside of the traditional school district system. Successful charter school developers are granted a charter to operate a public school for a fixed period of time (in California usually for 5 years). Charter schools are generally exempt from most laws that apply to regular public schools, so administrators, faculty, staff and parents have considerable autonomy in designing an educational program, facilities and budget that meet the needs of their students. In exchange for this increased autonomy, charter schools are held much more strictly accountable than most non-charter public schools. Charter schools must meet all of the student performance and operational goals listed in their charter, or their charter may be revoked. The first charter school law was passed in Minnesota in 1992. California was the second state to enact charter legislation in 1992, authored by then Senator Gary K. Hart. There are now 40 states, plus Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and Washington, D.C., with charter schools.
The charter school reform concept is part of a larger policy effort to fundamentally alter the structure of the public education system in an effort to (1) provide quality public education choices for families, (2) enable change-oriented educators to establish and operate new, innovative schools, and (3) provide increased competition within the public education sector. It's the competitive aspect of the charter concept that makes it controversial and also powerful. The charter school reform concept was largely developed by Ted Kolderie, a public policy expert at the Center for Policy Studies in St. Paul, Minnesota.