New legislation could give officials a tool to hold charter schools accountable, by flagging those schools that chronically underperform for possible closure.
Minnesota Public Radio News reported that if the bill becomes law, 17 of the state's 157 charter schools would be flagged to be shut down. They wouldn't be closed automatically, but the charter school authorizers who offer funding and guidance to the schools would have to explain why the charter should be kept open.
"It really does place a great deal of attention on these underperforming schools," said Sen. Terri Bonoff, the bill's author.
Charters with a high number of English language learners or special education students would be exempt.
Myron Orfield, director of the University of Minnesota's Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity, said overall, charter school students don't do as well academically as students in traditional schools.
He said about 25 or 30 percent of charter schools are terrible, and Minnesota law doesn't have a way to deal with them.
Brian Sweeney, director of external affairs for Charter School Partners, says bad charter schools hurt the entire movement and should be closed.
Charter schools are public schools but they don't have to follow all the requirements of traditional schools. The autonomy allows charters to try innovative approaches to learning.
Eugene Piccolo, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Charter Schools, said the bill isn't necessary. He said authorizers already provide accountability. Under current law, authorizers decide when to close a charter school, and they should retain that authority, he said.
The Minnesota Department of Education is working on a new system to evaluate charter school authorizers. It's expected to be in place next year.