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NOTICE: The Charter Vision project is dormant as of January 2008. This website is provided for archival purposes only.

What’s public education anyway?

Public education in Minnesota now includes a range of educational choices authorized and run outside the traditional authority of school districts, school boards and superintendents. So, what continues to qualify these options as “public education”?

In the case of the state’s Post-Secondary Enrollment Options program, juniors and seniors in public and private schools make arrangements to attend a college or university, with their tuition paid by the state.

Other Minnesota choice programs, however, generally involve a charter or contract with a public school district. Even when charters are sponsored by a private university or non-profit organization, they must be approved by the State Department of Education. And, as is true for traditional districts, the State Department monitors enrollments, finances, teacher qualifications, special education compliance and other requirements placed on all public schools in Minnesota.

These schools are also publicly funded. And, state law prohibits discrimination in admitting students and requires that charters admit students by lottery if they’re oversubscribed. They also must not charge tuition or teach religion and must meet the same standards and take the same tests as all other public schools in the state.

These are the key principles and values that have historically defined public education in America — not who hires the teachers or who owns the buildings. And, by insisting that chartering, Post-Secondary Enrollment Options and other earlier Minnesota school choice programs are part of an expanding definition of “public education,” they have retained broad bi-partisan support among state legislators and other policy makers.