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

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

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Abstract
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.