Insights from the First Charter State


Insights from the First Charter State

Minnesotans are not just nice people—in our experience with MN authorizers, they are smart, savvy, and generous when they share their insights.

Minnesota was the first state in the nation to adopt a charter school law in 1991. In 2009, the state added sweeping reforms to its law, requiring all authorizers to be approved by the State Department of Education and reviewed every five years. The number of authorizers in the state has dropped significantly since the enactment of this legislation. Minnesota is now home to 17 authorizers overseeing 154 charter schools serving 48,083 students.

NACSA President and CEO Greg Richmond joined members of the Minnesota Association of Charter School Authorizers (MACSA) to discuss everything from authorizer accountability systems to special education to state policy. The conversation provided NACSA staff with valuable information that helps advance high-quality authorizing practices and policies for beyond Minnesota’s borders.

The hot topic in Minnesota is the Minnesota Authorizer Performance Evaluation System (MAPES). MAPES took effect in 2010 in accordance with the Minnesota statute that requires the education commissioner (the Minnesota Department of Education) to review authorizer performance every five years—a somewhat unique facet of MN law.  While is working on some measures, many believe that there should be an attempt to evaluate the relative benefits of the system compared to its cost in administrative burden. NACSA is committed to working with MN partners to find ways to ensure the program provides the right level of accountability without causing undue burden on authorizers, similar to the balance authorizers must strike with the schools under their oversight.

As state and national debates about authorizer accountability heat up in the coming months, insights about the impact and cost of MAPES are sure to be a central part of the discussion.

Greg also had a chance to visit with the three NACSA Fellows currently apprenticing with authorizers in the state. The NACSA Fellowship for Excellence in Authorizing program, offered in partnership with the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, provides hands-on experiences that introduces emerging public policy leaders to charter school authorizing and other critical issues impacting education reform.

NACSA looks forward to continued engagement with Minnesota’s authorizers through our membership program, professional services, and other work to ensure that all children in the state have access to a great public education.