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

Higher ed and non-profit sponsors — Minnesota’s unique contribution

Sixty-five different organizations have granted charters in Minnesota, more than half of which are private colleges, non-profit organizations or private foundations. This range and diversity of chartering organizations is unique among the states with charter laws and has important qualitative and political implications for the rest of the country.

First, it’s important to note that all but a handful of these non-public sponsoring organizations have granted just one or two charters. And, as is noted elsewhere, all of these charters must be approved by the State Department of Education before the schools may open.

But, it is also clear that a growing number of charter schools in Minnesota are being authorized and monitored by organizations that have a very different perspective and much value to add.

Several of the post-secondary sponsors — including Hamline University, Concordia University, Bethel College, Augsburg College and the University of St. Thomas — are clearly seeing chartering as an important extension of their missions. They all have assigned experienced faculty and administrators to manage their chartering role. Some are seeing their charters as R&D and teacher education opportunities for their faculties and students. Others see their role in chartering ethnocentric charters as an extension of their pre-existing outreach to various communities of recent immigrants and other “New Minnesotans.”

A number of the non-profit sponsors see chartering as an extension of their work in support of children and families — especially in the inner cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. They include the Metropolitan Minneapolis YMCA, Pillsbury United Communities, Volunteers of America and Project for Pride in Living. Several of these organizations are providing “wrap-around” services to their schools including after school care, mentoring, tutoring and adult literacy and parenting education.

Three of these sponsors are especially worth watching for the value they’re adding to the state’s charter approval and oversight process — Volunteers of America, Friends of Ascension and Hamline University. All three have granted a number of charters and are beginning to specialize in particular types of schools. And all have at least part-time staff assigned to manage their role in chartering.

At the same time, Minnesota sponsors are very different organizations, with very different philosophies about educational needs and what should be done to address them. As a result, they offer contrasting models and rich opportunities for reflection and evaluation over time.