History Matters. It enables us to learn from the past and better shape our future. We are proud to have launched this project to properly archive and share the history of the charter schools movement; an invaluable asset to present and future leaders working to ensure all kids have access to a quality education.
The origin of charters
When Minnesota passed the nation’s first charter public school law in 1991, it was hard to foresee how quickly the idea would spread. This landmark legislation blazed a trail for others to follow – and now 44 states and the District of Columbia have charter laws.
At its core, the charter idea is about improving education for all students. It’s a strategy that:
- Welcomes and encourages new ideas;
- Empowers students, families, educators, and communities;
- Propels innovation and opportunity; and
- Rewards results and encourages schools to be more responsive and adaptive.
Each state has a unique story as to how charters came to be. Our goal is to capture these stories, preserve them, and make them digitally available to anyone interested in learning about the charter school movement’s important history. We know history enables us to learn from the past and better shape our future. Properly archived and shared, the history of the charter schools movement will be an invaluable asset to present and future leaders working to ensure all kids have access to a quality education.
Now is the time
Twenty-five years into the charter schools movement, many of the founders and key players have moved on in their careers or retired. That’s why we believe it is imperative that the historical records and primary source materials of these pioneers are identified and preserved lest they get discarded and forever lost.
Discovering the need
"As Democrats, what are we waiting for? We have always been the party considered most responsive to education needs. We must continue to earn that reputation by responding to our changing times." - Senator Ember Reichgott Junge. The Freedom to Be Better: Speech to Democratic Leadership Conference
Over the last 25 years, the idea of chartering has spread across the country. The charter schools movement has learned a great deal as new laws have been created, new schools opened, new ways of teaching were pioneered, and new leaders emerged. Important materials, like speeches, white papers, historic legislation, personal papers of leaders, and the like, are spread too far across the country. We believe that gathering, cataloging, preserving, and making this knowledge accessible is essential to continuing the charter idea's growth. The history of the origins and first quarter century of chartering can and will inform the future.
Play a part in preserving this important history
To build awareness and support for the Library, we are identifying and reaching out to the original thinkers and doers who made charters a reality. While the Library is a national initiative, we are focusing our efforts state-by-state. The initial partner states are Colorado, Michigan, and Minnesota, with plans for California next. For each state, we will:
Identify and solicit commitments from key people and organizations
Partner with an Institution that specializes in archiving historical works
Gather, archive, and digitize original source materials, and record oral histories
Promote the Library, share the charter story, and influence the future