On the 30th birthday of U.S. charter schools, the movement remains strong

By June 3, 2021 News

Tomorrow, American charter schools turn 30. Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson signed the nation’s first charter school law 30 years ago, on June 4, 1991. To mark this remarkable milestone, education veterans Chester Finn and Bruno Manno have written an excellent analysis reflecting on the charter movement.

Truly, the charter movement has come a long way since its early days. Forty-four states now have laws permitting public charter schools. Perhaps even more remarkable to note during these polarizing times: Charter schools have historically garnered support from leaders of both political parties, from statehouses to the White House.

A bipartisan reform

Finn and Manno highlight the charter movement’s widespread bipartisan support:

In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed legislation creating the federal Charter School Program, co-sponsored by Connecticut Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman and Minnesota Republican Sen. Dave Durenberger. Pro-charter bipartisanship continued in Washington with Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump and was paralleled in almost every statehouse that engaged in chartering. That’s because this education reform addresses important priorities on both the left and right. It allows K-12 families the choice of a free public school that meets their child’s needs, rather than forced assignment to a district school. It has created an alternative delivery system that affords long-neglected families access to potentially higher-quality schools than they find within the traditional structure of public education. Yet, charters remain public schools: open to all, tuition-free and accountable for their results to duly-constituted public authorities.

The same bipartisan origins characterize North Carolina’s charter movement, which turns 25 later this month, on June 21. Check this blog for information about what we have planned, as we will be updating regularly.

Read more here from Chester Finn and Bruno Manno’s article, “Charter Schools at 30: Looking Back, Looking Ahead.”


Kristen Blair

Author Kristen Blair

Kristen Blair is the communications director for the North Carolina Coalition for Charter Schools.

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