Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.

MinnPost's education reporting is made possible by a grant from the Bush Foundation.

Ember Reichgott Junge confronts seven myths and misconceptions about charter schools

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Newark Prep Charter School students taking part in an advisory session at a charter school in New Jersey.

For the past 18 months, Ember Reichgott Junge has been touring the country in support of a book she wrote about the origin of charter schools. At every stop — including appearances before charter school authorizes and administrators — she hears the same thing: “I didn’t know that.”

In the process, the author of the nation’s first chartering law has compiled a list of myths and misconceptions about charter schools.

At the very top: Charter schools have partisan or ideological roots.

Reichgott Junge, the former state Senate majority whip who shepherded the law to passage, laughs at this one. “I was interviewed live on Arizona public TV, and they said I could not possibly be a Democrat,” she said. “In Arizona, charters are seen as a Republican thing.”

In fact Minnesota’s 1991 charter law was a bipartisan creation. The template was created by a Citizens League task force, supported by the iconic teacher union leader Al Shanker and voted in by those in the middle of the political spectrum, she notes.

And yet, nearly a quarter century after the law’s passage the perception persists. In Reichgott Junge’s view, it’s time for charter proponents to go on the offensive. Indeed, her words will ring at least as controversial to many charter school proponents as they will to detractors.

What are the other myths on her list? Good question — before we answer it let’s hear how she came to be touring and collecting them in the first place.

(We should also pause to note that MinnPost has several pieces in the works that will look at trends in education in other parts of the country that are fueling the roiling debate over charters here.)

In the two decades after the charter law was passed, countless ideological and philosophical debates became attached to it. Anxious to set the record straight, Reichgott Junge wrote “Zero Chance of Passage: The Pioneering Charter School Story” (Beaver’s Pond Press). Published two years ago to good reviews — including one that appeared in this space — the book is an artful political narrative.

It describes, in compulsively readable terms, the painstaking crafting, refining and coalition building that go into the creation of a landmark piece of legislation. Indeed, the author re-reported the story, conducting dozens of interviews.

But possibly the best part is the historic photos. Not least: A photo of an impossibly young Reichgott Junge speaking at a hearing. Then a New Hope DFLer, she was the youngest woman ever elected to the Senate.

Since the book’s publication, Reichgott Junge has been speaking to education groups throughout the country. She’s done a lot of professional development for teachers — as well as trainings and presentations for business groups, philosophical groups and charter networks.

The myths, she has found, are largely variations on the original objections to charters raised during the legislative debate over their creation.

Consider No. 2: Charters are publicly financed private schools.

“One third of Americans still believe that,” said Reichgott Junge. “And unfortunately sometimes our friends in the media say that they are privately run. But that’s not true.”

They are public schools that are independently run. Consequently in Minnesota and most other places they must admit students either via lottery or first-come first-served.

No. 3: Charters are a wedge to crack open the door to private school vouchers.

They are in fact a mechanism for creating the opportunity to open new schools, particularly to try to innovate. Vouchers, by contrast, are a mechanism for providing funding to existing private schools.

“There’s no opportunity there to try something new,” she says. “They are just a way to direct money to an existing system.”

To Reichgott Junge’s facts add a perceptual caveat: There are plenty of folks, both in the for-profit education sector and on the religious right, who would very much like this to be true. And who have repeatedly raised vouchers’ potential for delivering quality education to poor kids, possibly as the aforementioned wedge.

Ember Reichgott Junge served in the Minnesota Senate from 1983-2000.

Courtesy of Ember Reichgott Junge
Ember Reichgott Junge served in the Minnesota Senate from 1983 to 2000.

No. 4: Charters divert money from district schools.

In education finance, public money is supposed to follow the student it is intended to educate.

“The question here is who gets to spend it,” said Reichgott Junge, “the parents and the teachers at the school or a district superintendent? … The real issue is that superintendents don’t get to spend the money the way they want.”

Posed another way, she added, school districts argue that they should have the same amount of money to educate fewer students. There are some fixed costs, but fewer students on the whole mean less spending.

No. 5 is more relevant in other states but likely to come increasingly under discussion in Minnesota: Many states have for-profit charter schools, which rely on public money.

“The point that gets lost is that all charter schools are managed by a nonprofit board of directors,” said Reichgott Junge. “They [can] choose to hire a management company, either a for-profit or a nonprofit. They choose to hire it because they believe the company provides some expertise that will allow the teachers of the school to concentrate on teaching.”

Unlike many states, which have sought out nonprofit charter networks such as Uncommon Schools and Yes Prep, Minnesota has little experience in this department. There is one local charter affiliated with Knowledge is Power Program, but a planned expansion here by that network hasn’t been mentioned in years.

There is one nonprofit charter in the works that is set to contract with a for-profit company for some of its offerings. And in the fall of 2015 Minnesotans can expect to see the arrival of nonprofit management companies.

“Many have leaders who were former teachers,” said Reichgott Junge. “The myth is that a management company — even a nonprofit management company, where you don’t have the same profit issue — somehow usurps the authority of the teachers for the curriculum.”

Again, there is room for nuance here. Most Minnesota charter proponents have preferred a grow-your-own strategy. Many other states, however, actively court nonprofit charter networks for a couple reasons: They have more resources, allowing them to invest more in professional development and making scarce start-up funding less of an issue.

No. 6 concerns innovation, chartering’s original promise. Reichgott Junge agrees that the chartering movement has lost the focus on innovation, and that there needs to be more.

“The myth is that innovation is a particular school that is or isn’t innovative,” she said. “Because that innovation might be ‘back to basics.’

“The real innovation is what chartering provides: trading regulation for results, ensuring accountability to performance goals. That’s the real innovation. As long as you have a law that allows schools to create new conditions, you’re successful. That’s the innovation.”

The confusion here is likely that some of the innovations spawned in those individual schools are now being replicated by school districts throughout the country.

And finally, No. 7: Charter schools do not perform as well as district schools.

“You will find a study for any point of view,” she said. “Here’s what the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools says: 15 of the last 16 studies of charter schools nationally show that charter school students outperform their peers in traditional public schools and close the achievement gap. And they do this with far less money.”

But beyond that, Reichgott Junge argued, “it’s a false comparison. Whether the school is a charter or district run is not what determines whether kids learn,” she said. “And that’s determined by whether the school is engaging its students.”

To all of this Reichgott Junge adds a caveat of her own: The authors of Minnesota’s charter law never anticipated the arrival of the virtual school. The online-only schools, and especially those operated by for-profit corporations, are best dealt with as a category of programs unto themselves.

Comments (41)

  1. Submitted by James Hamilton on 07/17/2014 - 10:10 am.

    And the problems are?

    That’s a pretty rosy view of charters. Consider this, from the U of M, last year:

    The charter system remains highly segregated. (Table 1) The distribution of schools has been remarkably stable over time.
    The percentage of charters which are predominantly non-white remained in the mid-50s for most years since 1995-96 and the integrated share has varied very little around 18-20 percent. During the same period, the percentage of traditional schools in the region that were integrated doubled from 20 to 40 percent, while the percentage that were non-white segregated share remained well below the share for charter schools.

    IMO’s 2008 and 2012 studies provided clear evidence that charter schools in the Twin
    Cities were not out-performing traditional schools. Analysis of data 2012-13 shows that
    very little has changed. Indeed, the analysis implies that the student performance gap
    between charters and traditional schools has widened since the last update.

    Updates of the statistical analyses from prior reports again show that traditional schools outperformed charter schools after controlling for student poverty, race, special education
    needs, limited language abilities, student mobility rates and school size.5 Consistent with the earlier studies and other research, student poverty (measured by eligibility for free or
    reduced price lunch) was found to be the dominant factor in the performance of schools in 2012-13. The new results imply that all else equal, proficiency rates were 11.2 percentage points lower for math and 5.9 percentage points lower for reading in charter elementary schools than in traditional elementary schools. Identical regressions with 2010-11 data showed shortfalls of 7.5 (math) and 4.4 (reading) percentage points, implying that charters as a group are doing worse now than two years ago.

  2. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 07/17/2014 - 10:10 am.


    The sheer amount of dishonesty put forth here by Reichgott Junge is best demonstrated by the fact that even Beth Hawkins felt compelled to insert caveats.

    • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 07/21/2014 - 07:48 pm.

      Please feel free to refute a few line items

      Shouldn’t be too hard do to the “sheer amount of dishonesty”. With facts please.

  3. Submitted by Jon Lord on 07/17/2014 - 10:42 am.


    “The point that gets lost is that all charter schools are managed by a nonprofit board of directors,”

    This statement doesn’t mean anything because

    “They [can] choose to hire a management company, either a for-profit or a nonprofit.”

    The board of directors don’t really manage anything. They simply hand it over to an either-or management type company. Who then create the new conditions?

  4. Submitted by Joe Nathan on 07/17/2014 - 11:23 am.

    Ember’s views

    The study that Mr. Hamilton refers to uses the same word, “segregation” to refer to what happened when the government forced African Americans to attend inferior schools, often miles from their home; as when African American, American Indian and other people of color choose to do what whites have done for decades – SELECT a public school that is mostly of their own race.

    Bill Wilson, first African American to be elected to the St. Paul City Council, former Mn Commissioner of Human Rights and I point out in this Star Tribune column that a number of Twin Cities suburbs are 90% or more white. We also point out the huge difference between telling a person where she/he has to go, and forcing them to go to an inferior school because of their

  5. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/17/2014 - 11:59 am.

    Self-segregation of charter schools IS on the rise–self selection on the lines of ethnic, religious and even tribal differences. While people may wish to send their children to a school that is “just like them”, is it in the public interest to fund schools that encourage and intensify division and separateness?

    • Submitted by Crystal Brakke on 07/18/2014 - 07:49 am.

      A question beyond charter schools

      It’s a good question, but one I believe extends far beyond any debate about charter schools. I find it fascinating that whenever similar concerns about self-segregation in open enrollment, magnets, or even neighborhood district schools (as all of these are choices that families make) the conversation about funding seems to change awfully quickly. What I most often hear is concerns about it not being okay for families to choose to send their kids to a place that affirms their identity (racial, ethnic, religious, gender, tribal or many other kinds of identity) because of segregation, but very few concerns about it being okay for families to send their kids to a place that has a particular content or curriculum focus even if that essentially leads to the same outcome. Where’s the equity in that?

  6. Submitted by Ann Burruss on 07/17/2014 - 12:21 pm.

    Albert Shanker

    This is the real story about former AFT president Albert Shanker, and his involvement in ‘supporting’ the charter school movement, from Diane Ravitch’s book “The Death and Life of the Great American School System” and her blog:
    1. Albert Shanker was president of the American Federation of Teachers, not the New York City union, when he first proposed the charter school idea in 1988.

    2. Shanker proposed that any new charter should be jointly approved by the union and the school district. More than 90% of charters today are non-union. Shanker would not have approved any school that did not respect the rights of teachers to bargain collectively.

    3. Shanker proposed that new charters should target the hardest-to-educate students: those who had dropped out or were failing. He never imagined that charters would have a selection process or that charters might avoid students with disabilities or English-language learners as is now the case in many charters.

    3. Shanker wanted charters to collaborate, not compete, with existing public schools. He proposed them as a way to solve the problems of public schools. Whatever they learned, he said, should be shared with the public schools that sponsored them.

    4. MOST IMPORTANT: In 1993, when Shanker saw that the charter idea was going to be used to privatize public education, he turned against charter schools. He opposed the takeover of the charter idea by corporations, entrepreneurs, and for-profit vendors. He became a vocal opponent of charter schools when he realized that his idea was embraced by “the education industry.” In his weekly column in The New York Times, Albert Shanker repeatedly denounced charter schools, vouchers, and for-profit management as “quick fixes that won’t fix anything.”
    Was there any fact-checking for this article, outside of parroting the position of National Alliance for Public Charter Schools? If no, then it should be seen as an opinion piece, featuring the opinions of the author as paid for by The Bush Foundation.

  7. Submitted by Joanne Simons on 07/17/2014 - 01:54 pm.

    Fairy tale

    In what world does this woman live? Just because you wish it true, doesn’t make it so. I don’t doubt that back in the day, Junge believed that charters held promise; however, 25 years of practice tell a vastly different story. The spin Junge puts on her “myths” is dizzying. We have seen the king, Amber, and he’s wearing no clothes:

  8. Submitted by Christopher Williams on 07/17/2014 - 02:15 pm.

    #2 is very carefully worded

    I think the wording for #2 skates around the issue of concern. The “myth” is “Charters are publicly financed private schools.”

    This seems to address the source of funding, but the response side steps the funding issue. Charters are indeed publicly financed, as she admits further down in question 4 (also sort of hidden). In the state of mn, funding does indeed follow the student.

    Her non-answer to the actual question is that charter schools aren’t “privately run” they are instead “Independently run”. Please do tell me the difference between the two. This seems like more skating around the issue.

    So yes, as she admits through various non-answers, it is possible for public funding to support a charter school run by a management company. In fact, Diverting public funds to a private concern.

    If you have to choose your words this carefully, maybe your argument isn’t very strong to begin with.

  9. Submitted by Martin Cozza on 07/17/2014 - 04:57 pm.

    Minnpost’s unfortunate bias

    Unfortunately, Ms. Junge’s Myth 7 has it backwards: The widespread myth is that charter schools outperform traditional public schools, but the latest research shows that the opposite is true (regardless of whatever a biased industry group like the ‘National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ says). Recent research by Lubienski & Lubienski shows, using a huge dataset of NAEP results, that if you control for student socioeconomic status (which is the only way to compare apples to apples) traditional public schools outperform not only charter schools, but all categories of private schools as well. Here’s an excerpt from their work:

    Unfortunately, Ms. Hawkins, the columnist, is as guilty as Ms. Junge of uncritically passing along biased, flawed information. Why would any careful journalist do such a thing? Let’s keep in mind that the CEO of the Minnpost–the online publication you are reading right now–is Joel Kramer, whose son Eli leads the family of Mpls charter schools known as ‘Hiawatha Academies’, and whose other son Matt is co-CEO of Teach for America, and whose daughter-in-law is ‘Director of Academic Excellence’ at ‘Charter School Partners’. Minnpost readers expect fact-checked, unbiased reporting, but columns such as this reveal a strong bias at the Minnpost and in Ms. Hawkins’ education reporting in particular.

    • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 07/21/2014 - 07:53 pm.


      “Minnpost readers expect fact-checked, unbiased reporting”. I’d like to think that most readers are aware of the regular bias and certainly nobody expects that MinnPost will go through a submitted column and make notations as to what writing is factual and what isn’t. Wouldn’t that be an exciting read!

  10. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/17/2014 - 02:54 pm.

    Bipartisan roots

    This is just a smokescreen. Saying that charter schools had “bipartisan roots” is just a way to deflect the too obvious point that charter schools are championed by ideologues and union busters. The fact that, 25 years ago, Democrats as well as Republicans supported charters does not diminish what they have become.

    In any event, I don’t understand why Ms. Reichgott Junge thinks “bipartisan!” is an answer to anything. Bipartisanship is part of the process, not an end in itself.

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/17/2014 - 09:58 pm.

    Limited historical reach

    The idea of charter schools did not emerge first in MN, and limiting the history of this examination to MN distorts the true origins of charters. Charter schools did indeed emerge from efforts to resist desegregation in the late 60s and early 70s, and the were an extension of the voucher movement. It’s true that these roots of the charter movement were forgotten or obscured in the 80s, and liberals ended up buying into the model, but the ideological roots didn’t disappear. The segregation we now see in the charters is simply an expression of the original intent. One can only claim bipartisan origins if one limits the history of charters to MN, and omits the origins going back to the late 60s and efforts preserve segregation that charters grew out of.

  12. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 07/17/2014 - 10:16 pm.

    # 8 ?

    Missing were her comments on Special Education and Charter schools

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/18/2014 - 08:22 am.

    Basically, the title is the problem here

    Ms. Jung is entitle to her opinions, but this article isn’t doing any myth busting as the title claims. Rather Ms. Jung is promoting her own pro-charter myths and misconceptions, some more transparently than others such as the rhetorical slight of hand behind describing charters as “independently” run instead of “privately” run. Whatever.

    I think Minnpost may have erred here in penning a title that declares myth-busting content. The title should reflect the fact that Ms. Jung is making a series of claims (none of which are new by the way) in defense of charter schools. As it is, this title actually borders on duplicity, it is a fact, not a myth, that charters are privately run publicly financed schools. It is also a fact that the financing charters get comes from a pool of revenue collected for public education. Logic dictates that funding diverted to privately charters is funding that’s NOT available to public non-charter schools. Now we can argue about whether or not this is all a good idea, but it’s dishonest to deny facts under the guise of debunking myths.

  14. Submitted by John Appelen on 07/20/2014 - 09:34 pm.

    Enjoyed It

    Since I am more concerned with the well being of the students and less worried about the well being of the Teacher’s Union, I actually enjoyed the article.

    The citizens of Minnesota actually raise the money and fund K-12 education for the good of the students/society, not for the good of the districts, teachers, bureaucrats or unions.

    Though I do understand the frustration that governmental and union personnel feel when the parents and children are given a competitive choice. I mean it reduces their power, compensation, etc.

    That would hard to swallow.

  15. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/21/2014 - 01:03 pm.

    Oh, and that too

    Yeah, I forgot, charters are also a union-busting strategy. Because teachers, not policy makers are responsible for our education system.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/21/2014 - 05:43 pm.


      Based on the Many Children Left Behind, I would say we need some new responsible parties in the mix… Be it Charters or something else… The status quo union led system is simply failing too many children.

      Though I agree we do have an uphill battle if we don’t find someway to hold parents accountable also.

  16. Submitted by Joe Nathan on 07/21/2014 - 01:53 pm.

    Shanker, unions and charters

    When Shanker, a clever man, used the word “charter”, he was proposing exactly what already existed in a number of cities – including NYC – where he had been the union president.
    There were then and are now district run options that conform to the contract agreed to by the union and school board.

    What was new about chartering as developed in Mn was that it created new options – including options for teachers to be the majority of the board of directors for a school…something like farmer cooperatives. We hae a number of charters like Mn New Country and Avalon, just to name 2, that are among more than 60 such schools using this idea around the country.

    Also work noting (and praising) that the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers has become the first teacher union in the nation to be approved as an authorizer of charters.

    Also charter teachers have since the beginning had the option in Mn and most other states to form unions.

    The teacher run schools (like Avalon and Mn New COuntry), other charters started by veteran teachers (such has happened many times in this and other states) and charters with unions are forms of teacher empowerment that is focused on creation & operation of schools that help students.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/21/2014 - 02:44 pm.

      Teacher-run charter schools

      Vague figures (“more than” or “many times”) are a red flag for any argument.

      There are “more than 60” teacher-run charter schools in the US, out of a total of 5277 charter schools. Using a generous estimate of 65 such schools nationwide, about 1.2% of all charter schools are run by teachers. Given that 43 jurisdictions authorize charter schools, I get a figure of around 1.5 teacher-run charter schools per jurisdiction. That is hardly a trend.

      Of course, I went to a unionized public school, so maybe my math is off.

  17. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/21/2014 - 03:19 pm.

    Clever by half

    “Also charter teachers have since the beginning had the option in Mn and most other states to form unions.”

    Everyone in the United States with the exception of some government workers has the “option” of forming a union. Ever tried it? Ask Walmart employees how easy it is. There’s a big difference between forming union, and joining a unionized work force.

  18. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/21/2014 - 03:42 pm.

    Charter shmarter

    Listen, here’s the thing:

    Everyone seems to forget that liberals bought into the charter movement AFTER conservative/republican demanded at the end of the 70s and early 80s that we abandon liberal “experiments” in our schools and get back to basics.

    Remember the “back to basics” demand back in the 80s? Well that was a response to an hysterical reaction to a report that claimed our education system was in an existential crises. So we went back to basics, started testing for basic skills, and waddya know, the schools lost their flexibility and innovation.

    Then charters supposedly came to the rescue by inviting private sector innovators into the system because because it had become impossible to innovate within the public systems.

    At the time, conservatives had decided that government was the enemy and liberals were deciding that government was irrelevant because we could change the world by being responsible consumers.

    Everyone forgot what they had just done to our education system.

    Look, you can, AND WE DID have plenty of innovation and experimentation in our public schools. Back in the 70s no two high schools in the Twin Cities were alike. My high school (St. Louis Park) used modular scheduling, had an open campus, and didn’t even ring bells to announce the begging or end of classes. We had coursework and electives ranging from philosophy to film, to college prep math. Meanwhile over in Hopkins they built a High School with it own telescope, and another without windows in the classrooms. All killed by the back to basics movement, and then supposedly reinvented by charters. Most of the specialized schools and special language schools would probably have emerged from the old experimental and innovative public system. In fact, SLP AT THAT time launched it Spanish Immersion program.

    We never needed entrepreneurs to innovate in our education system, we already had it. We have diverted substantial resources into duplicating or creating programs we would probably have developed anyways were it not for the back to basics movement. AND the public programs would probably have been more successful, more accessible, and better run. My guess is we’re coming full circle. We’re realizing that professionals tend to do a better job of running schools than entrepreneurs, and that charters are matching public school performance at best, with a few exceptions. Meanwhile the funding that’s being dumped into mediocre or worse charter schools is making it harder to do the mission in public schools.

  19. Submitted by Joe Nathan on 07/22/2014 - 09:28 am.

    What teachers are trying to do

    Yes, Paul, I agree there are many teachers within districts trying to improve the schools. Some feel good about the results. Some are quite frustrated. That’s in part why some of the strongest charters in Mn and in the country were created by former district school teachers.

    As to charters making it more difficult for district schools to carry out their mission: one of the benefits of chartering is that some districts have responded very constructively to charters: creating or expanding programs in Chinese, creating new Montessori district schools, hiring more bi-lingual people, modifying food to reflect a broader diversity etc. etc.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/22/2014 - 11:02 am.


      I know Mr. Nathan would like us all to believe that charters are all about “teachers” judging from his comments, the problem is: A) Someone has already pointed out that only 1.2% of the existing charters are run by teachers. B) Mr. Nathan seems to assume that teachers are irrelevant, powerless, and completely without influence in the public school system. Not so.

      The charter schools were not set up to empower teachers, they were set up to give entrepreneurs a crack at innovating better schools. Some innovators have empowered, most have not.

      And by the way, who says empowering teachers is the silver bullet anyways? Why would you assume that teacher power as apposed to teacher work load, support services, class size, course material etc. is the big solution? Teachers are trained to teach, not design education systems or policy. Putting teachers “in charge” could simply distract them from lesson plans and their students while saddling them with administrative and policy responsibilities.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/22/2014 - 03:26 pm.

      Related Story

      Apparently Geoffrey Canada and the NY Schools Chancellor started the Harlem’s Children Zone in a NY city school. Per the book, “Whatever It Takes”, apparently the Union Teachers and environment were so restrictive and limiting that they finally agreed that the program could only succeed if it was moved to a different facility.

      • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 07/22/2014 - 04:52 pm.

        Canada had to kick out entire classes of kids and cherry-pick his students in order to succeed. He is Exhibit A of why charter schools are a joke.

      • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 07/22/2014 - 04:52 pm.

        Canada had to kick out entire classes of kids and cherry-pick his students in order to succeed. He is Exhibit A of why charter schools are a joke.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 07/22/2014 - 06:04 pm.

          Book was correct

          The book did say that starting kids in their program too late failed, so they exited them. Also, they do believe in a pipeline and holding the school, teachers, parents and students accountable.

          If you make bad choices or show poor effort, there are consequences in that system. If you make good choices and show effort, there are rewards. Makes sense to me?

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/24/2014 - 08:58 am.

      Foreign languages

      ” some districts have responded very constructively to charters: creating or expanding programs in Chinese, creating new Montessori district schools, hiring more bi-lingual people, modifying food to reflect a broader diversity etc. etc.”

      Again, I’m pretty sure the first Spanish Language immersion school in MN, and one of the first in the nation emerged from the St. Louis Park public school system. In fact, the complaint that I’ve heard in recent years is that the SLP public SPI school looks more like a charter than public school program now. We didn’t need charters to create better ESL programs or cope with diversity. In fact rather than coping with diversity it looks like charters have enhanced segregation. The charter experiment diverted funding and resources away from professional educators towards entrepreneurs, many of whom had little or no educational experience. I’m sure many school districts would have responded just as constructively to better funding and support, and good leadership. They would have created more and better ELS programs and hired bi-lingual staff with the money that was diverted elsewhere had they not been crammed into back to basics testing regimes. And it would have been more efficient and less expensive to do this through through the public school system instead of wasting resources on a lot of privately run charter schools, many of which have now failed and closed etc. In other words this has been a long and costly detour just to bet back to where were in the late 70s.

  20. Submitted by Beth Hawkins on 07/22/2014 - 09:41 am.

    Chris Williams

    In the interest of transparency, I just want to nip in here and note that the Chris Williams commenting in this thread is not the one who is press secretary for Education Minnesota.  

    • Submitted by Christopher Williams on 07/22/2014 - 02:55 pm.


      Thanks for clarifying. There are too many of us with the same name. There are 5 of us with the same name where I work, and one even has the same middle initial!

      I, the Minnpost commenting Chris Williams, *do not* have any relation to any educational boards, teachers unions, or anything related. Although I am in college finishing a double major 🙂

  21. Submitted by Matthew Williams on 07/22/2014 - 11:18 am.

    Sponsored Content?

    As interesting as this comment thread is, I’m not sure it’s really worth getting into before we know what exactly “This content is supported by a grant from the Bush Foundation” means.

    What is the relationship of this support, and does that support have any influence over the content of the story? This is even more important to know, given that the term “reform efforts” (as described by the Bush Foundation grant) is an ideological term that does not and cannot encompass the entire terrain of this topic.

  22. Submitted by Beth Hawkins on 07/22/2014 - 11:54 am.


    The Bush Foundation support for MinnPost’s education reporting does not come with parameters in terms of editorial or news judgment beyond a basic agreement that I will cover K-12 education on a full-time basis. My editors and I decide on the stories we wish to pursue, the way in which we approach them and how newsworthy we deem a particular topic to be. The agreement does not encourage or require MinnPost to report on any effort or initiative. It’s my understanding that MinnPost’s overall approach to grant funding always includes “firewalls” that are designed to insure editorial independence.    

  23. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/23/2014 - 10:28 am.

    Ms. Hawkins

    I’m not trying cast aspersions here, I’m just clarifying- to ME this piece really does looks kind of like a “Community Voices” submission by Ms. Junge that you wrote on her behalf. That’s my impression, take it for what you think it’s worth. I wonder if that may be why some people are wondering about independence here. I think we all know that firewalls aren’t necessarily what they’re supposed to be.

    And correct me if I’m wrong, but I vaguely remember disclosures in the past by some Minnpost person that they are affiliated with the charter movement in some way? I can’t remember who that was, and maybe they’re no longer with Minnpost. Maybe I’m not the only person who remembers it. A combination of factors can sometimes lead to a false impression.

    At any rate, let me be clear, I’m not actually accusing Minnpost or you of misconduct, I know appearances can be unintentional, and maybe it’s just me. Perhaps something to think about in future.

    I suspect the controversial nature of Ms. Junge’s position may have taken some people by surprise.

  24. Submitted by John Appelen on 07/24/2014 - 10:45 pm.


    Hi Beth,
    I personally appreciate that you report regularly on the education topic from different perspectives. Thanks and keep up the good work !!!

  25. Submitted by Joe Nathan on 07/30/2014 - 10:57 pm.

    Empowering teachers

    No one says empowering teacher is a “silver bullet” – anymore than the charter approach is a silver bullet. But there are teachers all over the country who have left district schools to help start and work in charters, far beyond the number of teacher led schools cited above. There also are some great district schools started in districts by teachers, such as the Pilot Schools in Boston, and the New Visions Schools in NYC.

    We could be making better use of teachers insights and ideas. In some places, chartering has encouraged districts to do that.

Leave a Reply