Today we associate “charter” with a particular school model. But a vision for “chartering” can be traced back tofamed civil rights lawyer, Kenneth B. Clark in 1968. Clark, deeply frustrated by the “pervasive and persistent” inability of public schools to deliver an excellent education, particularly for Black and other vulnerable students, called for an “Alternative Public School Systems.”
Years later, Ray Budde, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, published his ideas for reorganizing school districts and empowering educators and school leaders in “Education by Charter.” Fast forward to 1988, when then President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Al Shanker, articulated a vision for “a new type of school” which he later referred to as charter schools. Soon after, Ted Kolderie joined the chorus of voices calling for change writing, “If student performance is to improve, the schools will have to be changed. More than this: radically changed.” And in 1991, the nation’s first chartering legislation authored by former state senator Ember Reichgott Junge passed in Minnesota, transforming the public education landscape for millions of students and families.
What all these original visionaries shared was a recognition that “chartering” represented an invitation of hope for communities. Chartering is an inclusive education movement that gives all students and families ownership over their destinies. It provides passionate educators the flexibility and independence necessary to meet the individual learning needs of their students, free from the bureaucracy that too often holds schools back.
At the Institute, we believe chartering is the key to unlocking new educational options for families and allowing educators and community members to push our entire public education system forward to fulfill its purpose of making quality education available to all.
Over the past three decades, thousands of charter schools have unleashed access to high-quality public education options – while breaking down systemic, structural educational inequities – for millions of students. As in the beginning, it takes champions who recognize the value of free, public education for all and who demand its delivery as did Clark, Budde, Shanker, Kolderie and Reichgott Junge.
Today, the vision of chartering is coming to life in new ways in school communities across the country. Under the Urban Hope Act, educators in Camden, New Jersey created charter-district hybrid schools called “Renaissance schools, emboldening communities to improve educational opportunities in their communities. We see a similar spirit in the Indianapolis Public Schools system where a vibrant mix of charter schools and Innovation Network Schools are putting greater flexibility and decision-making power in the hands of educators and communities to better meet the needs of students. Leaders like Naeha Dean at Camden Education Fund are helping to lead the charge in these communities.
Celebrate 30 years of chartering with us!
Releasing this month!
- Watch the Interview of Harold J. Brubaker
- Watch the Interview of Richard McLellan – Releasing this Month
- Watch Excerpt from Richard McLellan Interview: The Idea of a Charter School
- Watch Excerpt from Richard McLellan Interview: Authorizers
- William (Bill) Owens’ Historical Documents