Back to the Roots of the Charter School Movement

As a longtime believer in the possibility of charter schools, the so-called “charter movement” has been a disappointment. But last week in New York City some folks got together at the Independent Charter School Symposium with the goal of fixing that.

Many of the ideas that initially attracted me to charter schools—community empowerment, authentic education for youth left behind, piloting promising practices to share with traditional schools—have often been drowned out by larger political forces. The educators and communities who should be driving the movement have taken a back seat.

Meanwhile the public tends to see folks like the current secretary of education as the face of movement.

It’s well past time for us in the community wing of the charter movement to reclaim our place in the debate. Last week’s symposium is a great place to start.

Back in the early 90s, charter schools were basically community schools. Getting a charter for your school idea was simply a vehicle to better serve the kids who were being failed by the system. These original founders weren’t bought into some market rhetoric. For the most part, they were educators from the district who simply needed the freedom to do more.



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