Over the last decade a disturbing trend has occurred relative to new chartered public schools in Minnesota.

The trend is the growing number of new chartered schools being approved which do not open, or open with enrollments significantly below projections, or schools that close within a short time after opening.

While there are multiple factors for this trend, some more obvious than others, one thing we do know is that school developers need to provide better Market Information about the need and demand for a particular school in the application process.

It is for this reason the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools is proposing legislation to 1] Define what a Market Need and Demand Study entails, and 2] require a Market Need and Demand Study as a component of the application for a new charter school.


“Market Need and Demand Study” means a study that includes the following for the proposed locations or the school or additional site: a] current and projected demographic information; b] student enrollment patterns; c] information on existing schools and types of educational programs currently available; d] characteristics of proposed students and families; e] availability of properly zoned and classified facilities; and f] quantification of existing demand for the school or site.

The goal of this legislative proposal is three-fold:

1] Require school developers to better know the market for their proposed school and better make their case to an authorizer that the school will be successful and sustainable,

2] Provide authorizers with more consistent information about the potential success and sustainability of the school as they make their decision to authorizer or not authorizer a school,

3] Reduce the number of schools that are approved but never open or are not successful.

It is time for school developers to do a better job of making their case.

It is time for authorizers to be provided more consistent information about the market need and demand for a particular school.

It is time to reduce the number of schools that do not open or fail.



The beginning of a new decade reminds us that in a short 18 months, Minnesota’s first-in-the nation chartered public school law will be 30 years old.  As we approach the 30th anniversary of the law it is clear that it is time for the next generation of the charter law based on the lived experience of chartering.

In late 2018, the Association’s membership ratified AN AGENDA to FULFILL THE PROMISE which outlined several reforms to the charter school law, as well as school funding of charters and facilities.

As we approach the 2020 legislative session it is our intent to put forth a policy bill based on that Agenda – The Charter School Transparency and Accountability Act of 2020.

While much of the work to advance the legislation will be undertaken by our lobbyist and staff, we need you to be engaged in telling your school’s story and the overall charter school story to your legislators.

We need you to be active participants in the Annual Charter School Day @ the Minnesota Capitol on Wednesday, March 4th.

It is time for charter schools to do a more focused effort to tell the story of how they are serving students, and It Is Time for the next generation charter school law.


For Higher Expectations for Charter School Boards

For most of the history of chartered public schools in Minnesota (and across the country) one of the biggest challenges has been the governance of schools.

Originally in Minnesota, the board of every chartered school was composed of a majority of teachers who taught in the school, thus ensuring that teachers really were in charge of both the academic program and the operation of the institution.  A decade ago in response to a number of factors, the charter school law was changed to allow for different governance models – a teacher majority board, a parent majority board, a community majority board, or a non-majority board – but all boards must have teachers, parents and community members on the board.

At the same time that these different board governance models were enacted, the Legislature also enacted a requirement that members of chartered school boards take training on the board’s role and responsibilities, employment practices, and financial management within 12 months of being seated on the board. It also mandated annual training but left what that training should be for boards to decide depending on the board’s needs.

What is clear a decade later is that training has contributed to improved overall governance, but governance of many schools is still a significant challenge. There are a number of reasons for this challenge including:

  • As a non-profit organization, the task of recruiting volunteers to serve on boards is difficult work.
  • Often, expectations for volunteers are not exceedingly high – there are those who believe and express that you cannot really expect too much from volunteers.
  • Many of the volunteers who serve on chartered school boards have little or no experience on governance boards, or other experiences that translate to service on a board.
  • Many chartered school boards do not have job descriptions, written expectations, or an on-boarding process for new members, or plans for the annual training of board members.

SO, IT IS TIME – to raise the expectations for charter school boards. It is time for action.

  1. Every chartered school board should have a written job description and expectations for board members, and utilize those in recruiting new members and evaluating the performance of the board.
  2. Every chartered school board should have a formal on-boarding process to provide new members with the background of the institution’s history, challenges, opportunities and the process and procedures of how the board itself works.
  3. Every chartered school board should have an annual plan for the ongoing education and training of individual board members and the overall board.
  4. Every chartered school board should have a board development committee whose job is to facilitate the identification and recruitment of potential board members, oversee the on-boarding and annual education/training processes, and annual retreat of the board.

It is time – for higher expectations for chartered school boards.