Charter Schools: Help or Hindrance to the Public Education System?.
Charter schools are a fairly new phenomenon in the American education system. The first charter school opened in Minnesota in 1992. Since then the movement has grown to almost 1800 schools operating nationwide for the 1999-2000 school year. The charter school movement has roots in a number of other reform ideas, from alternative schools, to public school choice, magnet schools, privatization, site-based management, and community-parental empowerment. It is believed that the term "charter" originated in the 1970s when New England educator Ray Budde suggested that small groups of teachers be given contracts or "charters" by their local school boards to explore new approaches. Albert Shanker, former president of the AFT, then publicized this idea. He suggested that local boards could charter an entire school with union and teacher approval. In the late 1980s Philadelphia started a number of schools-within-schools and called them "charters." Some of them were schools of choice. The idea was further refined in Minnesota and based on three basic values: opportunity, choice, and responsibility for results.
In order to better understand the term "Charter school", we turn to USCharterSchools.org, a site supported by the U.S. Department of Education, for an official definition:.
Charter schools are nonsectarian public schools of choice that operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools. The "charter" establishing each such school is a performance contract detailing the school's mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success. The length of time for which charters are granted varies, but most are granted for 3-5 years. At the end of the term, the entity granting the charter may renew the school's contract. Charter schools are accountable to their sponsor-- usually a state or local school board-- to produce positive academic results and adhere to the charter contract.