It’s easy to have a little fun with this new teacher union charter school authorizer initiative in Minnesota. Turns out charters and non-profits are only bad when they don’t control them. It’s almost like this is about power or something. More seriously, at one level I’m all for this sort of pluralism and this particular venture is an interesting initiative that I’m excited to see come online.
But more generally I’m not sold on the plural charter authorizer model yet – meaning the idea that non-profits should start not only sponsoring or operating schools but authorizing them as well, an idea Minnesota is pioneering. Nationally we have a quality problem with charter school authorizing. Many school districts, ironically, have proven to be pretty bad at it. And some authorizers have consistently poor records and states don’t yet have in place accountability systems to hold them accountable and shift oversight for the schools they oversee. There are some independent authorizers with strong records, universities, mayor’s offices, and independent public boards. But as policymakers innovate with this idea the twin principles of public oversight and accountability for quality must be at the forefront and it’s too soon to tell yet f they will be as these initiatives play out.