This website is the first of its kind to record the history of chartering across the nation in the original words and documents of chartering pioneers. Launched by the National Charter Schools Institute and led by former Minnesota Senator Ember Reichgott Junge, the author of the first charter school law in the nation, this resource will become home to the historical foundations of chartering and the pioneering charter school story in multiple states. Over 20 leading chartering pioneers have already contributed their oral histories or committed their documents to the Library to preserve the legacy of the chartering idea. And we are just getting started!
In our first couple of years, the Library has captured the oral histories of chartering from key leaders in four pioneering states: Minnesota, California, Colorado and Michigan. These resources are available free to the public to educate and inform the future of chartering.
Why not start at the beginning? Minnesota is the birthplace of chartering. That’s why we started with three recorded conversations between Sen. Ember Reichgott Junge and Ted Kolderie, the thought leader of chartering. Each conversation is fully transcripted and outlined for research ease. Why not share these videos with your chartering colleagues and the public?
- Chartering Origins from Two Minnesota Pioneers
- Chartering Why and How: The Expected and Unexpected
- Chartering Policy and Advocacy: Myths Dispelled, Lessons Learned and Future Pathways
Search the Library to discover more about the Minnesota story!
California was the second state to pass chartering. Hear the California pioneering charter school story from bill sponsor Sen. Gary Hart; his legislative colleague Sue Burr, and pioneer Eric Premack, now Executive Director of the Charter School Development Center.
- California's Charter Story: Expectations from Charter Bill
- California's Charter Story: How Charters Helped Unified Funding
- California's Charter Story: How the Charter Bill Went Through in California
- California's Charter Story: School Vouchers
The 1993 Colorado chartering legislation was authored by Democratic Representative Peggy Kerns and Republican Senator (and later Governor) Bill Owens. These transcripted conversations will help others to better understand why chartering came to be and why it passed in Colorado.
- Colorado Pioneering Charter School Story with Governor Bill Owens
- Colorado Chartering from Origins to Today: A Conversation between Rep. Peggy Kerns and Alex Medler
Grand Valley State University Charter School Office has been working alongside the Institute to capture many of the charter schools movement Michigan founders.
The Charter Idea
Charter schools began with the compelling purpose of transforming public education. A firm belief that withdrawing the exclusive franchise of school districts and establishing independent schools of choice would lead to results for kids.
Minnesota passed the first public school choice chartering law in 1991, effectively creating a new sector in public education. This landmark legislation blazed a trail for others to follow including 44 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam.
While chartering celebrates nearly 30 years of impact on our nation, the idea that excellence knows no boundaries often is one that must be defended. Reporters, policymakers, and researchers continue to define the charter sector through ideology and misconceptions rather than through history and fact.
Those who stand in support of chartering must absorb the past as we propel toward the future. We must honor those pioneers who bravely took those first steps while preserving their hard-won lessons. We must continue to record our vibrant history as the evolving mission of inspiring excellence in education continues.
Why a National Founders Library?
In its earliest form, a library served as an archive of information for the public good, for those who perhaps could not collect or afford to maintain such a volume of work. A National Founders Library will serve this foundational purpose while also providing the collective narratives of change driven across our educational landscape.
The preservation of this history will:
- Assist policymakers, researchers and journalists in revisiting the original purposes and rationale of the charter law.
- Empower educators, educator candidates, families and communities to try new ways of teaching and learning.
- Propel innovation and opportunity in both the charter and district sectors.
- Reward results and encourage school leaders to be more responsive and adaptive.
- Restore and elevate substantive discussions and public civility around an issue that is still not well understood by the general public today.
- Inspire future leaders to overcome barriers and create new possibilities in K-12 education policy and practice.
Each state has its own unique story around the inception of chartering. The goal of the National Charter Schools Founders Library is to capture these stories and make them digitally available to those interested in learning about the movement’s important history.
The Library will become the digital and permanent home for primary sources from around the country documenting the origins and growth of chartering. It will be a central repository for important primary materials, including but not limited to: speeches, white papers, historic legislation, personal papers of chartering pioneers and leaders, and key media documentation. Oral histories and stories from key pioneers will be available by video links and transcribed texts.
Now is the Time
Almost 30 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.
Would you like to record the chartering oral history in your state? We invite chartering pioneers and state chartering leaders to find out how to record your state’s history! Contact Ember Reichgott Junge at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Discover 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.