Charter schools

Minnesota ranked among the top five states for pro-charter school laws in a new report. (CDC on Unsplash)

The North Star State received the fourth-highest score in a ranking of state charter school regulations by the Center for Education Reform, which advocates for school choice. Only Arizona, Washington, D.C. and Michigan received better marks in the report.

Minnesota passed the nation’s first charter school law in 1991. The first charter school — City Academy — opened the following year in St. Paul, and the charter school movement has since expanded across the country with the promise of providing a rigorous and safe education for low-income students and students of color.

Charter schools have also become highly controversial, with critics alleging that they funnel resources away from public schools, lack adequate oversight and seek to undercut teacher unions.

The Center for Education Reform report assessed laws governing charter school operations, funding and potential for growth. Minnesota allows multiple entities to create charter schools; does not cap the number of charter schools statewide or number of students who can attend charter schools; and frees the schools from some rules that public school districts have to follow.

Unions across the country have historically opposed charter schools. Last year, a debate over charters in St. Paul embroiled teachers, families and education officials, MinnPost reported, as parents sought a moratorium on charter school growth and the St. Paul teachers union pushed the district to conduct a study on their effects on public schools.

If the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party takes full control of the state Legislature in 2021, the state could see a wide ranging debate on the future of charter schools in Minnesota, as the influential teachers union Education Minnesota may press its case with lawmakers and Gov. Tim Walz.

Rilyn Eischens is a data reporter with the Reformer.

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