It’s enrollment lottery time for Northfield area Charter Schools; Legislative threats loom

charter-sshot Caroline Jones, Director of Prairie Creek Community School, will be our podcast guest next Wed. PCCS is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year (a K-6 Charter school since 2002).  Their enrollment lottery is March 16. The Northfield School of Arts and Technology (ARTech) is a 6-12 Charter School that opened in 2003. Their lottery is April 6. Both PCCS and ARTech are sponsored by the Northfield School District. A new K-8 Charter, the Cannon River STEM School (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) opens this fall, sponsored by the Audubon Center of the North Woods. It holds its enrollment lottery on March 14. While all seems healthy for local Charters, there are some ominous changes being considered by the Legislature. (continued)

Clarice Grabau, PCCS board member and parent, had a letter to the editor in the 2/25 Nfld News in which she mentioned charter-related proposals being considered by the legislature.  You can track those proposed changes by following the Advocacy Blog by Executive Director Eugene Piccolo of the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools.

Eric Mahmoud and Joe Nathan In the Jan-Feb 2009 issue of the Citizens League’s MN Journal (pages 11-12), Eric Mahmoud and Joe Nathan have an article titled Replicate rather than restrict Minnesota’s most successful charters in which they argue that “some changes to the charter law are needed, but not those suggested by long time opponents.”  Their article ends with this:

But replication of outstanding charters would be blocked by the moratorium proposed by Education Minnesota, the state’s teacher union. Other opponents, citing Minnesota’s budget problems, recommend prohibiting charters in any community where the district is considering closing a school. Replicating success is a far better idea.

A moratorium is not the only challenge to chartered schools. Some want to eliminate or dramatically reduce state funds designated to help charters lease buildings. Unlike districts, charters may not levy taxes for buildings (and some districts can tax for construction without voter approval).

Charter building “lease aid” funds have produced ecologically wise space decisions, including schools sharing space with social service agencies, leasing closed school buildings (when districts agree), and converting closed or under-utilized buildings into schools in some growing areas.

Unfortunately charter lease aid is being considered for reduction or elimination.

More than $100 million has come to Minnesota from federal and outside Minnesota foundations explicitly because of our charter law. Even more important, some charters have produced excellent results. We should follow President Obama’s advice, expanding excellence, and terminating failure.

9 thoughts on “It’s enrollment lottery time for Northfield area Charter Schools; Legislative threats loom”

  1. It’s great to see local charter schools covered in this forum. ARTech is hosting an open house this Sunday from 2-4 pm. We are currently accepting applications for next year. Our lottery is Monday, April 6. We have 18 openings in 6th grade and a few limited openings in other grades.

  2. The problem with attempts to “replicate success” is that it treats charter schools (or choice programs) — to at least some degree — as if they are products you can mass produce.

    But consider that, when you start a choice program or a charter school, it’s often forged from the talents, vision, passion and committment of a visionary group. They face obstacles as they work to put their dreams, their research, and their best hunches into reality. They modify and improve the dream as the rubber hits the road.

    The vision, committment and practical wisdom gained from the journey is impossible to replicate in the way that some who use that language seem to imply.

    Better still, might be a different approach: If there are visionary people who have founded choice programs or charter schools, and who have experience with the process of collaborating with teachers and parents and districts in doing so, perhaps we need to send folks like that out to work with districts that want to develop choice programs and charter schools so that the ideas have local roots and support, and take on a local flavor. Then they may have more chance for success.

    1. Paul: I celebrate all efforts to inspire and educate children, for them to take an active role or “ownership” in our Constitutional society. Whether visionaries successful with charter schools join the public school system, vice versa, or people with no experience contribute to either, I like seeing people reaching out and trying to make an improvement in the lives of youth.

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