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History of Charter Schools

Depending on who you are, the idea of a сharter school may seem foreign to you or it may be a common theme in your educational environment. A brief definition of a сharter school is a public school that has been granted more freedom in their teaching methodology and curriculum in return for a higher accountability for their student’s achievements. Just like with public schools, the tuition is free and entrance requirements cannot be restrictive as they may be private schools.

The Concept

The original concept of the “сharter school” first originated in the 1970s by a New England educator by the name of Ray Budde. His idea was for groups of teachers to set up contracts or “charters” with their local school board to discover new approaches and ideas in the field of education. Its roots lie in the progressive idea that by empowering the educators with additional freedoms they can achieve a much higher rate of student success.

Charter Schools in the 1980s

The Charter movement remained relatively small through the 1970s up until the 1980s when former president of the American Federation for Teachers, Albert Shanker was recognized for helping to push the Charter school concept even further along. With his support, schools began to develop a test of “schools within schools” programs or “charters” in Philadelphia. When the results of these schools proved successful other districts began to start experimenting with this new method of education.

Charter Schools in the 1990s

By the 90s the State of Minnesota began setting up their own Charter program on the foundations of three basic values: opportunity, choice, and responsibility. Their Charter School Law passed in 1991, California then followed suit passing their law in 1992. As the support grew over the next two decades Charter schools became one of the fastest growing educational reform policies in the country’s history.

Presidential Support

By the 2000s, Charters had become so popular that they were able to receive an additional boost in their economic growth from the government’s administration office. In 2006, President George Bush made several requests to push the Charter School Movement along. First he requested $219 million dollars in grant funds to support 1,200 different Charter schools. He also asked for an additional $50 million to support a Choice Incentive Fund for a “voucher system” allowing parents to transfer their students to other schools if they wished. Finally, his request for $37 million is assistance to help them get the necessary credit to renovate, lease, and/or buy new school facilities opened up even more Charters across the country.

The Transformation

This presidential support did not stop with the Bush administration. President Obama continued the support of Charters when he revised the School Improvement Grants program and developed the Race to the Top Program providing a means of transforming underperforming public schools into Charters. While these funding initiatives have given Charter schools a major economic boost, their support still lags far behind what the average public schools receive. Statistics show they only receive on average about 70% of their public school counterparts forcing many to struggle to make ends meet. They cannot fully rely on governmental resources to raise their funding and therefore must actively pursue other revenue sources to stay afloat.

Still the Charter School Movement has made great strides across the country since its early beginnings in the 70s and promises to continue its growth. To date there are at least 5,700 Charter schools in the country with a student population of over 2,000,000. There is no question that Charter schools, while still struggling, are gaining in popularity in every corner of America. Their ability to provide another unique educational opportunity has gained wide appeal for everyone and their continued success rates gives our nation’s youth an even more promising future in the years and decades to come.