School Choice & Charters

Nation’s First ‘Charter’ School Clears a Key Hurdle

By Lynn Olson — November 27, 1991 2 min read

A private Montessori school in rural Minnesota last week cleared a key hurdle on its way to becoming the nation’s first “charter” school, able under state law to receive public funds while remaining free from most outside control.

By a 5-to-2 vote, the Winona school board approved the request of the Bluffview Montessori School to become a charter school. That decision must now be approved by the state board of education and made official in a three-year contract with the school district.

State approval could come as early as next month, enabling the elementary school to go public by next fall.

Under the charter- schools measure passed by the legislature last May, school boards can authorize one or more licensed teachers to create new public schools that would be free from most current rules and regulations. The law also enables existing private or public schools to become charter schools. (See Education Week, April 3, 1991 .)

Such schools must meet state standards for what students should know, and may not screen students, charge tuition, or have a religious affiliation. The law allows up to eight such schools statewide.

But the charter schools are to be educationally, financially, and legally independent: able to hire and fire their employees, devise their budgets, and develop their curriculum. Each school must be run by a beard of directors, a majority of whose members are licensed teachers.

Breaking the Mold

Backers of the law believe it will spur innovations in education, free from existing strictures.

“I just think this is the beginning of one of the most mold- breaking... changes in education that’s come up--this concept that we’re going to have [public] schools run directly by faculty and parents, separate from an overseeing local school beard,” said Michael J. Dorer, the principal of the Bluffview school.

But Joliene W. Olson, one of two beard members who opposed Bluffview’s request, warned that the charter legislation was a “backdoor into the voucher system.”

And Robert Mclntire, the superintendent of the Winona public schools, predicted that the proposal would be a “financial drain to our district that’s already financially strapped.”

The state will provide charter schools with about $3,050 per student. If the Bluffview school accepts 40 to 50 new students next year, as it now plans, and all of those students transfer from the local public schools, that could mean a toss of up to $150,000 in state aid to the district.

But Stuart Miller, the president of the board, said if the district no longer has to serve those students, the loss of state revenues is “a wash.”

Charter schools represent a way to bring “true choice into the public school domain” and to break down the status quo, Mr. Miller contended.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the November 27, 1991 edition of Education Week as Nation’s First ‘Charter’ School Clears a Key Hurdle

Events

School & District Management Live Event Education Week Leadership Symposium
Education Week's Premier Leadership Event for K12 School & District Leaders.
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

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 Choice & Charters Opinion Is Hybrid Home Schooling the Future of Education?
Rick Hess speaks with Mike McShane about hybrid home schooling, which combines the best of home schooling and traditional schooling.
7 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters Oklahoma Charter Schools Granted Local Tax Revenue in 'Seismic' Settlement
A groundbreaking settlement will fundamentally change the way charter schools are funded in Oklahoma, despite vehement opposition.
Nuria Martinez-Keel, The Oklahoman
3 min read
This July 19, 2019 photo shows an Epic Charter Schools office in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted Thursday in favor of an agreement with the state's public charter school association to settle a 2017 lawsuit.
This July 19, 2019 photo shows an Epic Charter Schools office in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted Thursday in favor of an agreement with the state's public charter school association to settle a 2017 lawsuit.
Sue Ogrocki/AP
School Choice & Charters COVID-19 May Energize Push for School Choice in States. Where That Leads Is Unclear
The pandemic is driving legislators' interest in mechanisms like education savings accounts, but the growth may not be straightforward.
8 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers her Condition of the State address before a joint session of the Iowa Legislature on Jan. 12 at the statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds delivers her Condition of the State address to state lawmakers on Jan. 12. She's pushing a major school choice expansion.
Bryon Houlgrave/The Des Moines Register via AP
School Choice & Charters Letter to the Editor Are NOLA Charters a Mixed Bag?
To the Editor:
The opinion essay by Douglas N. Harris about how New Orleans’ education reforms post-Katrina are relevant to the COVID-19 era (“As Schools Recover After COVID-19, Look to New Orleans,” Sept. 30, 2020) highlights some basic improvements in the NOLA system but downplays the most significant aspects of those changes: the impact on people of color.
1 min read