Minnesota's Charter School Story
Minnesota is the "Birthplace" of chartered public schools.
In 1991, the Minnesota Legislature enacted the nation's first chartered public school law. The inside political story of how Minnesota's charter school law came to be is well told in former State Senator Ember Reichgott Junge's book entitled - ZERO CHANCE OF PASSAGE.
The first charter was issued in late 1991 to Bluffview Montessori School in Winona, while the first charter school to open its doors was City Academy in St. Paul.
From the beginning, chartered public schools were designed by the Legislature to be unique organizations: a non-profit operating a public school (every charter school is a school district); employees that are at-will, but public employees for retirement purposes; schools focused on innovation and accountability in exchange for autonomy; public schools that cannot use public funds to purchase or build facilities; and governance boards whose majority of members were teachers employed by the school.
Charter schools were designed to "Unleash public education from conventions"
Minnesota's charter schools have grown slowly and steadily over the last 30+ years. In 2009, the Minnesota Legislature enacted "Charter School Law 2.0", a package of enhancements to the law that changed sponsors to authorizers and their accountability, created new models of board governance, established new accountability standards, legalized affiliated building companies, to name a few of the changes. The 2009 law, and most other subsequent changes to the charter school law, have been put forth by the charter school community itself through the work of the Association.
In the 2021-22 academic year, there are 179 charter schools across the state. These schools enrolled just under 66,000 students, about 7% of all public school students in Minnesota.