School Choice & Charters

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

By Lynn Olson — November 27, 1991 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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


Budget & Finance Webinar Staffing Schools After ESSER: What School and District Leaders Need to Know
Join our newsroom for insights on investing in critical student support positions as pandemic funds expire.
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.
Student Achievement Webinar
How can districts build sustainable tutoring models before the money runs out?
District leaders, low on funds, must decide: broad support for all or deep interventions for few? Let's discuss maximizing tutoring resources.
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools
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.
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
Roundtable Webinar: Why We Created a Portrait of a Graduate
Hear from three K-12 leaders for insights into their school’s Portrait of a Graduate and learn how to create your own.
Content provided by Otus

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 Private School Choice Continues to Spread. 3 Things to Know
New research shows private schools increase tuition when states send public funds for parents to spend on private education.
6 min read
Image of private school kids outside in the school yard.
School Choice & Charters Opinion Does School Choice 'Work'?
Ultimately, the “how” of educational choice may matter more than the “what.”
10 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters Opinion 'Control Freaks' Are 'Losing Their Grip' on Education
"School choice evangelist" says new laws are a response to unions, bureaucracies, and K-12 ideologues.
12 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters Another State Is Launching a Private School Choice Program. Will More Follow?
Alabama is the 12th state to offer a private school choice program that all students in the state will be eligible to access.
5 min read
Image of students working at desks, wearing black and white school uniforms.