by Karl Zinsmeister
April 16, 2014
For years, philanthropists have labored to improve student outcomes at ineffective public schools. Then in 1991, Minnesota pioneered the concept of public, open-admission schools operated by nonprofits or other independent parties, without heavy regulation. Teachers and leaders in these schools were given great autonomy, but faced closure if the school didn’t show good student results. The first charter school was designed for students who had dropped out of school, and most that followed were likewise focused on children let down by conventional schools. About two thirds of charter school students today are minority or low-income. Typical charter schools receive less than 80 percent of the taxpayer support given to conventional public schools. Philanthropy has thus played a large role in financing charters. As philanthropists deploy an additional surge of resources into bringing today’s best charter schools to new communities, charter schooling is no longer experimental. It is a proven model.