The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recently published a new report entitled, “Assessing the Increasing Strength of Charter Laws”. The report analyzes state charter school laws against the Alliance’s model charter law for the years of 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.

It should come as no surprise that in every one of those years that Minnesota’s charter law received the highest ranking, given that the model law incorporated many aspects of Minnesota’s first and second generation charter law.

The report indicates that over the last six years a significant number of states have strengthened their respective laws in terms of eliminating caps, enacting performance contracting, transparent charter application processes, authorizer accountability, to mention a few areas.

While Minnesota’s law continues to receive the highest ranking – first in the nation – that does not mean we do not need to continue to constantly improve our law as the chartered school movement evolves and grows.

As we look forward to the 25th anniversary of Minnesota’s first in the nation charter law – there are areas there are areas that need to be addressed, including; direct facility ownership and financing, equitable per pupil funding, and restoring autonomy and redefining accountability to allow charters to fulfill the purposes of chartering spelled out in the law.

MINNESOTA & WASHINGTON State Laws are like Apples vs Oranges

On Tuesday, October 6th, the StarTribune printed the Letter to the Editor the I wrote regarding the Sept. 30th Commentary that Marshall Tanick wrote “Are charter schools Unconstitutional?”

Minnesota and Washington state laws are like apples vs. oranges

In his Sept. 30 commentary (“Are charter schools unconstitutional?”), Marshall Tanick asserts that the Washington state Supreme Court decision that ruled that state’s charter school law unconstitutional could shake education in Minnesota, too.
The problem with that assertion is that Washington’s and Minnesota’s constitutions are significantly different in terms of their specificity regarding education.

Washington’s Constitution has a very specific, particular and prescriptive definition of the term “common school.” The constitutional question was: Do charter schools meet the constitutional definition? Minnesota’s Constitution, on the other hand, does not even use the term “common schools.” In Minnesota, defining schools is a legislative matter, not one that is constitutionally prescribed.

Washington’s Constitution also has a specific provision that all revenue for common schools, no matter its source, must be used exclusively for common schools. Over the last 100 years, that court has ruled that common school funding cannot be used for vocational rehabilitation, nor public improvements, nor interest on public school buildings, nor schools attached to teacher training colleges.

Minnesota’s Constitution does not prescribe these matters. Those decisions are left to the Legislature. Unlike Washington’s, Minnesota’s Constitution gives the Legislature the power to define the types of schools that exist, how schools are funded and how schools can spend their funds.

So the assertion that Washington’s charter school decision could shake education in Minnesota is questionable, if not unlikely, unless Minnesota were to amend its Constitution in a manner that is as prescriptive, detailed and particular as Washington’s.

Eugene Piccolo, St. Paul
The writer is executive director of the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools.



This summer YouthTruth, a national nonprofit organization that collects and analyzes student perceptions, examined the responses of 165,000 high school students from across the country to understand how students felt their schools had prepared them to be successful in college and pursuing a career.

Among the findings:

  • Overall, less than half (44.8%) felt positive about their college and career readiness.
  • Students are more likely to agree that their schools helped them prepare for college than their schools helped them prepare for the careers they wanted.
  • 86.9% of students want to go to college, yet only 70.9% expect to attend either a two-year or four-year college.

COMMENT – These perspectives from students indicate that schools and society have a lot of work to do if we are going to ensure that all students are “college and career ready”. – that is the challenge put forth by Minnesota’s World’s Best Workforce Initiative.

Source: YouthTruth Student Survey, College & Career Readiness Data

COLLEGE & CAREER READINESS – A Need to Change our Perspective

When the term “College and Career Readiness” is used there are a lot of folks who only hear ‘College Readiness’, and then translate that to mean readiness for a four-year college or university program. Yet, the truth is that most of the jobs that can reasonably be projected in the future will require not a 4-year degree. They will require technical skills, credentialing and preparation – whether through a 2-year technical college or some type of industry apprenticeship or occupational credentialing program.

Today, in our society, jobs that require a 4-year or graduate level academic degrees are held in higher esteem than those that require a technical education. There are a lot of reasons for this, including an attitude that has been reinforced through multiple ways and generations that every person needs to go to college, which again is understood as a four-year program.

One of the goals of Minnesota’s World’s Best Workforce Initiative is to ensure that all students – not just students going to a 4-year program, are prepared for the college and career options they choose for their future. The goal of this Initiative can be best summed up by the following quote:

Our state goal is for people to regard academic and vocational routes to higher educational attainment as equally valid, and for higher levels of qualifications, academic and vocational to be of equal prestige. This will continue to be an uphill battle … we urgently need balanced career advice, with schools as conscious and supportive of vocational opportunities as academic ones. There is still a lingering view in this country that apprenticeships are for people that don’t make it to university. This is wrong, …

You would be wrong if you thought this statement was from an education, political, or business leader in Minnesota. These words, are in fact those of Dr. Vince Cable, British Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills which he delivered at Cambridge University in April 2014 in an address about the state of college and career readiness in England.

The need to change attitudes about the equal value of academic and technical education is not just a Minnesota, nor an American issue – it is an issue in the developed world. It is a challenge for our society, schools, families and students – it is one of the challenges that Minnesota’s World’s Best Workforce Initiative seeks to address.

Eugene Piccolo




The Fall School Administrators Meetings will be held during the last week of October and the first week of November.  Locations, agenda and registration materials are being sent directly to all chartered public school administrators.

  • North Metro – Monday, Oct. 26th – [1:00 – 3:00 PM]
  • Saint. Paul – Tuesday, Oct. 27th – [9:00 -11:00 AM]
  • South Metro – Wednesday, Oct. 28th – [9:00 – 11:00]
  • Northern MN – Thursday, Oct. 29th – [11:00 AM– 2:00 PM]
  • Central & Southwest MN – Tuesday, Nov. 3rd [11:00 AM – 2:00PM}
  • Southeast MN – Wednesday, Nov. 4th – [11:00 AM – 2:00 PM]
  • Minneapolis – Thursday, Nov. 5th – [9:00 -11:00 AM]


The Annual Membership Meeting will be held on Tuesday, December 8th at the Holiday Inn East, St. Paul. A Quarterly Public Policy Forum will be held in conjunction with the Annual Meeting. More detailed information and registration will be sent out in late October. The meeting was rescheduled as a result of the Association being short-staffed this summer for over two months.

NEW BOARD MEMBER                                               

The Board of Directors is pleased to announce the election of Darius Hussain, Executive Director, FACE to FACE Academy, St. Paul as a new member of the MACS Board. Darius was elected by the Board to fill one of the two new school member seats created by the Board, which amended the Association’s By-Laws earlier this summer. Darius’s term extends to June, 2017, when he will be eligible to run for a full two year term.


Last week the MACS – MACSA Joint Task Force on Board Governance held its second meeting and focused on reviewing a “Dictionary” of Board Governance terminology. The Joint Task Force will meet again in late October, when it will focus on developing a sample Board Governance Charge & Responsibilities, Identifying Effective Board Recruitment and Nomination Processes, and review a 2nd draft of the “Dictionary” of board governance terms.

The Task Force expects to complete its work on the initial five tasks by the end of the calendar year.


GRAINGER – North America’s leader provider of maintenance supplies is the latest company in the BUYQ Charter School Group Purchasing Discount Program. The Minnesota Association of Charter Schools is an “association partner” of BUYQ – so our member schools have access to discounts with GRAINGER, STAPLES, HERTZ FURNITURE, S&S Worldwide, and CDW-G.



CONGRATULATIONS to Leisa Irwin, Executive Director and the staff of Paladin Career & Technical High School, Blaine on being one of the schools highlighted in the pediatric journal, Infectious Diseases of Children, for their work with students who have Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE). The article focuses on what Paladin and a couple of other schools around the country have been doing to address the impact of ACE in the lives of students.


CONGRATULATIONS to Darius Husain, Executive Director of Face to Face Academy, St. Paul on the publication of ROADMAP TO POWER, a book he co-authored with his father Dr. Syed Arshad Husain, founder of a world renowned nonprofit that serves traumatized children around the globe. Chapter 8 of the book, Reclaiming  the Narrative, is based on the work Darius has done at Face to Face Academy over the last 15 years.


CONGRATULATIONS to the students and staff of Yinghua Academy, Minneapolis for being named one of the seven schools in Minnesota to be named a 2015 National Blue Ribbon School. The National Blue Ribbon Program honor public and private schools whose students achieve high learning standards. Yinghua will be recognized with 334 other schools from across the country in a ceremony in Washington D.C. on November 9-10th.


CONGRATULATIONS to Ramona de Rosales, founder and recently retired Executive Director of Academia Cesar Chavez Academy, St. Paul on being one the 2015 Latino community leaders to receive the Minnesotanos Eden Torres Legacy Award . The award is given to community leaders who embody a commitment to the Latino community. Ramona is being recognized for her a Lifetime of Contributions to the Latino Community in Minnesota.


Minnesota’s Charter Schools – Friday Facts – 9/25

Charter School Facilities Facts

Minnesota’s Charter School Law (Chapter 124E) does not allow chartered public schools to directly purchase land or buildings using public funds. It does allow charter schools that meet certain criteria to form affiliated non-profit corporations to purchase land and buildings. In those cases the school leases from the affiliated building company. All other schools lease space from public, private and non-profit organizations.

In 2014- 2015 Minnesota’s Charter Schools:

  • Leased over 5.7 million square feet of space for their facilities.
  • Spent almost $72 million dollars on lease costs
  • Paid an average of approximately $12.47 per square foot (ranged from $3.03 per sq. foot to $33.17 per sq.foot)