Happening Today: Education Week Leadership Symposium. Learn more and register.
School & District Management

Minn. Law Spurs Some Districts to Rethink Sponsoring Charters

By Dakarai I. Aarons — July 13, 2010 2 min read

A major overhaul to a Minnesota law aimed at strengthening accountability for those who sponsor charter schools is drawing both praise and criticism and spurring some districts to consider getting out of the business of authorizing such schools.

Among the districts contemplating leaving authorizing behind is St. Paul, where the nation’s first charter school was enacted in 1991.

The state legislature approved a slew of changes last year that increased the responsibility of authorizers for the oversight and renewal of charter schools, which are publicly funded but largely independent in their operations.

Instead of approving every charter school, the Minnesota education department will now approve each authorizer and hold it accountable for the performance of its schools.

Authorizers that wish to continue must be approved by the department by June 30, 2011.

In May, six authorizers won approval from the state in the first round of applications under the new law.

“The most fundamental change of the law is that authorizers have to demonstrate capacity to do the job,” said Eugene Piccolo, the executive director of the St. Paul-based Minnesota Association of Charter Schools, which supports the new law. “That had never been the case before. All you had to do was meet the criteria. The other component is they will be held accountable for whether they do their job or not.”

Authorizers now will be reviewed for renewal by the state every five years. The state worked with the Chicago-based National Association of Charter School Authorizers in writing the new law, which has been recognized as a national model.

Cutting Ties

Keith Lester, the superintendent of the 1,700-student Brooklyn Center school district in the suburbs of the Twin Cities, said his district won’t be applying to authorize again. The work associated with overseeing a charter school, said Mr. Lester, the district’s sole central administrator, has distracted from his core responsibilities.

“It just takes too much time we don’t have here,” he said.

St. Paul’s superintendent, Valeria Silva, recommended to school board members last month that the district not reapply for authorizer status.

“We are not enemies of charter schools; it really is a capacity issue,” said Michelle J. Walker, the chief of accountability, planning, and policy for the district.

She said the superintendent was concerned that the increased responsibilities under the law could take away from the district’s core mission—especially since it would still not be able to make staffing and programmatic changes as it does in its own schools.

Scott Hannon, the director of academic affairs for the 3,700-student Winona district, said the district values the partnership with the schools, but lacks the resources to continue under the new law’s more hands-on approach.

Mr. Piccolo of the charter schools group, which helped craft the new law, said he finds districts’ decisions to leave the charter business “curious” since many had urged for more accountability for authorizers.

Not all districts are leaving the charter business, however.

The Minneapolis school system was among the authorizers approved last month by the education department. Emily Lowther, a district spokeswoman, said developing a system of charter and other autonomous schools is a key strategy for the district.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the July 14, 2010 edition of Education Week as Minn. Law Spurs Some Districts to Rethink Sponsoring Charters

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Has COVID-19 Led to a Mass Exodus of Superintendents?
This year has been exhausting for superintendents. Some experts say they're seeing an unusually high number of resignations this spring.
5 min read
Chicago Public Schools Superintendent Janice K. Jackson, right, speaks on Feb. 11, 2021, during a news conference at the William H. Brown Elementary School in Chicago. In-person learning for students in pre-k and cluster programs began Thursday, since the district's agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union was reached.
Chicago Public Schools Superintendent Janice K. Jackson, right, announced earlier this week that she would depart the school system. Jackson, who assumed the superintendency in 2018, has worked for more than 20 years in CPS.
Shafkat Anowar
School & District Management Most Schools Offer at Least Some In-Person Classes, According to Feds' Latest Count
A majority of 4th and 8th graders had at least some in-person schooling by March, but inequities persisted.
3 min read
Image shows empty desks in a classroom.
Chris Ryan/OJO Images
School & District Management Opinion Education Researchers Should Think More About Educators: Notes From AERA
Steve Rees, founder of School Wise Press, posits AERA reflects a community of researchers too focused on what they find interesting.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School & District Management What the Research Says High Costs, Outdated Infrastructure Hinder Districts' Air-Quality Efforts
A national survey finds the pandemic has led districts to update schools' ventilation systems, but their options are limited.
3 min read
Mayor Bill de Blasio, center, checks the movement of a window inside a classroom at Bronx Collaborative High School, during a visit to review health safeguards in advance of schools reopening on Aug. 26, 2020, in New York.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, center, checks the movement of a window inside a classroom at Bronx Collaborative High School, during a visit to review health safeguards in advance of schools reopening earlier this school year.
Bebeto Matthews/AP