In advance of school choice week, we should ask, “How widespread is school choice in Minnesota?” The answer is “modest, at best.”
On the plus side, it has the second-best law on charter schools in the nation, according to the Center for Education Reform. The center cites the following:
- There are no caps on the number of charter schools.
- A variety of institutions–colleges, school districts, and foundations–can serve as charter school authorizers (overseers).
- A new law in 2009 improves oversight.
- Charter schools automatically have a waiver from most regulations governing school districts.
Minnesota created the nation’s first charter school law back in the early 1990s, so it’s no surprise perhaps that it has one of the nation’s best. More than 1.5 million children attend charter schools.
Minnesota also has other forms of parental choice in educational as well. These include:
- Choice among public school districts.
- A tax credit and deduction for educational expenses.
Still, there’s still much room for expanding the availability of choice. For example, over 5,000 students are on a waiting list for at a charter school. In recent years, charter schools have had to fight off the prospect of hard caps on their numbers, which would effectively close off an important option. The tax credit and deduction, meanwhile, are quite modest, so they don’t do much to help parents select something other than the default (district) option.