It’s been nearly 15 years since Ember Reichgott Junge helped launch the charter school movement in Minnesota, the birthplace of the nation’s first such independent public school.
Now she’s hosting an Internet radio program, called “CharterAmerica,” to help that teenage movement along into adulthood.
“It’s an opportunity to create a national conversation about charter schools and the people who care about them,” said Ms. Junge, a Democrat who spent 18 years in the Minnesota Senate, where she was the lead sponsor of the state’s original charter law. “But also, it’s much broader in that it really is an education-focused show.”
The first of a planned 13 weekly programs ran Sept. 14. The program takes questions and comments from callers and is broadcast live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. Central time. It also can be accessed anytime at http://voice.voiceamerica.com.
The program, which offers a decidedly pro-charter spin, was developed by Ms. Junge in collaboration with its sponsor, Volunteers of America of Minnesota. The Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization sponsors a batch of charter schools that are regularly featured on the show.
Aaron M. North, the group’s charter school liaison, said one goal is “to give the schools a chance to tell their story, have students on to tell why they like their schools.”
It’s also a chance to help charters in Minnesota and beyond share ideas, he said.
Guests so far have included Minnesota Commissioner of Education Alice Seagren; Dean Kern, who heads the charter office in the U.S. Department of Education; and local charter leaders, teachers, and even students.
The costs have been offset by two organizations that run ads on the show: the Washington-based National Alliance of Public Charter Schools and Arizona State University’s program for charter school leaders.
Ms. Junge, a lawyer in private practice, said she’s become concerned that the public may be confused about charter schools, if they’ve heard about them at all.
“I fear that … the public doesn’t always understand what they are,” she said. “They certainly don’t know that they’re public schools.”
A version of this article appeared in the October 05, 2005 edition of Education Week