Now is the time to speak out about the myths of charter schools

Written by Ember Reichgott Junge


With critical issues like Iran and the U.S. presidential impeachment flooding the national headlines, it is easy to forget the key bread-and-butter, domestic issues important to most families. When was the last time you heard anything about K-12 education on the presidential campaign trail?

Back in 1992 when Governor Bill Clinton defeated President George H. W. Bush, K-12 education polled as the second most important national issue. A Gallup poll taken last month suggests education is in a five-way tie with healthcare, national security, gun policy, and the economy as being “extremely important.”

When issues like education don’t get the full attention they deserve, it is easy for myths to prevail, like with charter schools, for example, which is why I recently spoke with The Detroit News editorial writer Ingrid Jacques.

A presidential candidate had issued a position statement that clearly showed a lack of understanding of chartering. This veteran U.S. senator said that charter schools don’t have to meet the same standards as public schools. The truth? Charter schools ARE public schools, and they must meet even more accountability standards than district schools.

There’s good reason for this confusion. In the current divisive political climate, the public is regretfully conflating public school chartering with private school support. As the Democratic author of the first charter school law in Minnesota and the nation, I can confirm that chartering opened the door to public school choice, not private, allowing all parents freedom of choice to select the public school that provides the best opportunity—and equal opportunity—for their child.

Now is the time to set the record straight about chartering and its bipartisan origins. That’s why I’m launching this new blog hosted by the National Charter Schools Founders Library. At least twice per month, we’ll bring you excerpts from the oral histories and documents of chartering pioneers from all over the country, so the facts behind chartering will not be forgotten.

Take some time to check out the true origins of chartering in Minnesota and around the country on the Founders Library website. Help us to educate our political leaders, families, and educators of today—to preserve chartering that has served families in over 40 states and U.S. territories for nearly 30 years.


Former Minnesota State Senator Ember Reichgott Junge is author of Minnesota’s 1991 first-in-nation charter school law and the award-winning book, “Zero Chance of Passage: The Pioneering Charter School Story”. She is an international education policy leader, consultant, and spokesperson for charter public schools having presented in 35 states, Guam, Canada and India. She was founding board member of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, founding board chair of Level Up Academy, a Minnesota charter school, and is current board member of Charter Schools Development Corporation. She was inducted into the National Charter Schools Hall of Fame in 2008, and received the Brian Bennett Education Warrior Award from Democrats for Education Reform in 2012.