Charter School Facts

What is a Charter School?

In 1991, Minnesota launched an initiative designed to unleash education from the conventions that limited educational achievement, choice and innovation. The initiative created “public charter schools” – independent public schools focused on improving academic achievement and creating new, different and innovative learning environments; teaching methodologies; assessments; accountability systems; and professional development opportunities for teachers.

Today, thirty nine states and the District of Columbia and several foreign countries are part of the charter school movement. In the United States alone there are over 4,900 schools that enroll over 1.4 million young people.

Minnesota Charter School Facts

  • Charter schools are public schools that are part of Minnesota’s public education system. Every charter school is a school district – but has no geographic boundaries.
  • Charter schools are organized and operated as a Nonprofit Corporation under Chapter 317A or as a Cooperative under Chapter 308A.
  • Charter schools are staffed by teachers with appropriate Minnesota teaching licensure or credentials.
  • Charter schools are open to all who apply – if more students apply than the capacity of the program, class, grade level or building, students are accepted through a lottery.
  • Charter schools have an authorizer which is charged with monitoring and evaluating the fiscal, operational and student performance of the school. Authorizers may be traditional school districts, MN colleges and universities, and MN non-profits who meet certain requirements.
  • Charter schools have a “charter” or “contract” with an authorizer that outlines the purposes of the school and the academic and non-academic outcomes for the students and school. An initial charter is up to three years, and charter renewal contracts may be up to five years based on school performance.
  • Charter schools are funded by the State of Minnesota in the same manner that traditional public schools are funded, except for revenues generated by local property tax levies. Charter schools may not levy taxes.
  • Charter schools are free of charge to Minnesota students and must comply with the Public School Fee Law.
  • Charter schools which do not fulfill the terms of their charter contract may be non-renewed and closed.
  • Charter schools are governed by a board of directors composed of teachers, parents and community members, who are elected by the parents and guardians of the students and by school staff members.
  • Charter schools and the board of directors must comply with Minnesota’s Open Meeting Law and Data Practices Law.
  • Charter schools may not purchase buildings with state funds. As charters may not levy taxes for facilities the state provides Lease Aid, to assist schools in the cost of leasing facilities.

Minnesota Charter School Statistics

Number of Operating Charter Schools: 152 (2008-2009)

Number of Enrolled Students: 33,000 (2008-2009)

Minnesota Charter School History

In 1991, Minnesota became the first state to pass a charter school law. In 1992 the first charters were issued to Bluffview Montessori School in Winona, MN and City Academy in St. Paul, MN. City Academy has the distinction of being the first charter school to open its doors in the United States. Both of these schools are still in operation today.

In 2009, Minnesota passed a “second generation” charter school law that addressed a comprehensive series of measures to strengthen the accountability of authorizers, schools, and boards of directors as well as to enhance the innovation within charter schools.

The MN Association of Charter Schools and its member schools believe that parents want, need and deserve to have access to a wealth of good information so they can make the best educational choice for their child. The resources and links below provide a wealth of good information for making that decision.

Suggested Resources & Links

Minnesota Department of Education

MDE’s school report cards offer a comprehensive look at schools in an easy to read format for parents.

Charter School Annual Reports

Every Minnesota charter school is required to post their Annual Report on the school website as the Reports are public data under MN Law.

Minnesota Association of Charter Schools