On the Road of Innovation: Colorado’s Charter School Law Turns 20

IP-4-2013 (June 2013)
Authors: Pamela Benigno and Kyle Morin

PDF of full Issue Paper
Scribd version of full Issue Paper

In 1993 Colorado became the third state to adopt charter school legislation. Born out of frustration with lackluster school performance and limited options, the Charter Schools Act resulted from the hard work and dedication of many parents, educators, and political leaders. Careful and colorful recollections from many active, influential figures combine with other original sources to highlight the foundation and origins of the Act.

Trails of ideas shared through conferences, private meetings, books, and other writings converged in an opportune moment as diverse supporters learned how to translate the concept of self-governing public schools into a winning political strategy. After the law passed, Colorado’s new vehicle for educational choice and innovation took root, enduring and overcoming serious legal challenges to launch, expand, and strive for more equitable treatment.

Dedicated to the memory of charter school pioneers Rep. John James Irwin and David D’Evelyn, who didn’t live to see the dream fulfilled; and to Jim Monaghan, who passed away shortly before publication. It was he who suggested to Barbara O’Brien what proved to be a winning political strategy: “Make charter schools as real as possible.” We hope in some small way this paper has helped to do the same.

Posted by on Jun 2nd, 2013 and filed under Charter Schools, Issue Papers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response by filling following comment form or trackback to this entry from your site

6 Responses for “On the Road of Innovation: Colorado’s Charter School Law Turns 20”

  1. [...] future. Public school choice in Colorado is providing some benefits from competition. Our state has come a long way in the last 20 years, but we still have a long ways to [...]

  2. [...] And the idea owns broad support among both elected Democrats and Republicans. Such bipartisan support helped to pass the original charter law in 1993, as outlined in my Education Policy Center friends’ fabulous paper On the Road of Innovation. [...]

  3. [...] accepted today. (My Education Policy Center friends told the story of how it came to be in one of the best issue paper page-turners of all time.) The law is not a panacea by any means, but it does enable more students to find suitable [...]

  4. [...] or the name “charter” are ends unto themselves, but that they can lead us down the road of innovation to excellence and maximum opportunity. Maybe that sounds wild and crazy to some non-wonks out [...]

  5. […] For state-specific myth-bustin’ on this subject, you may need to go no further than the Colorado League of Charter Schools fact sheet. If you want to dig deeper and find a page-turning story about how charter schools came to be in Colorado, then you simply have to check out my Education Policy Center friends’ 2013 paper On the Road of Innovation. […]

  6. […] Nonetheless, as Michael Horn wrote last week, some leading charter management organizations have reimagined teacher preparation to fill real needs in their schools. Colorado charters, admittedly, are still on the road of innovation. […]

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