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 Response Page - Reichgott Junge and Kolderie  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Ember Reichgott Junge and Ted KolderieInterview of


Ember Reichgott Junge, author of Minnesota's and the nation's first school chartering law, and Ted Kolderie, principal architect of the original concept, discuss the law's passage in 1991 and the developments since in the field of chartering. They offer thoughts on lessons learned from the chartering experience that may apply to innovation in governance today. They close the discussion by reflecting on the chartering strategy as it has evolved in the state and across the nation and on the implications for further collaboration in improving education.

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary: Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Reichgott Junge and Kolderie. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. Charters meant to spur innovation. (9.0 average response) Chartering was intended to provide opportunities to innovate in public education and to develop new approaches to teaching and learning.

2. Focus now is on test results. (7.0 average response) Rather than stressing innovation, many national leaders on chartering today are giving higher priority to uniformity, as if the only thing that matters now are test scores.

3. Measurement should be broader. (8.2 average response) School quality should be measured on a variety of dimensions including student/parent satisfaction, not only by test scores.

4. Charter purpose misunderstood. (8.3 average response) School chartering has been widely misunderstood as being a type of school, but school chartering is a license to establish a public school separate from the regular school district.

5. Innovation more likely in charter schools. (6.6 average response) Innovation is more likely to appear, to last and to spread in the chartered sector than in the district sector.

6. Districts should innovate as well. (9.3 average response) Innovation should not to be limited to the chartered sector. The school district itself should be encouraged to create innovative schools.

7. Apply chartering to other areas. (7.6 average response) The chartering concept is not unique to K-12 schools. Theoretically, the Legislature could approve chartering for other public services as a way to encourage innovation in those services.

8. Discontinue school chartering. (2.0 average response) School chartering should be discontinued. School districts should be the only vehicles for operating public schools.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Charters meant to spur innovation.







2. Focus now is on test results.







3. Measurement should be broader.







4. Charter purpose misunderstood.







5. Innovation more likely in charter schools.







6. Districts should innovate as well.







7. Apply chartering to other areas.







8. Discontinue school chartering.







Individual Responses:

Bert LeMunyon (7.5) (5) (7.5) (7.5) (10) (10) (5) (0)

2. Focus now is on test results. I'll have to take the speakers' word that this is what is happening

Paul Hillmer (7.5) (5) (2.5) (7.5) (0) (10) (0) (10)

1. Charters meant to spur innovation. This may have been the intention, but as someone who has helped supervise charter schools, I can tell you that this, for the most part, has not been the result of actual charter schools.

2. Focus now is on test results. Many if not most charter schools are in over their heads and don't have the luxury of worrying about test scores. They are performing at or below the levels of public schools.

3. Measurement should be broader. Whether or not students or parents are happy should be secondary to a student's ability to succeed in the world. Even so, test scores are indeed a uni-dimensional way of assessing performance.

5. Innovation more likely in charter schools. I have seen little evidence of this. Charter schools are started by a number of different interest groups, e.g. conservatives who hate publlic education and think they can do better (and quickly find out it's not as easy as it looks); ideologues who think they have an alternative that will bring success (which rarely occurs); charismatic or domineering figures who have a messiah complex that usually serves only to create high turnover amongst the staff; racial and ethnic minorities who want to self-segregate from the broader society; and rarely, an educator or responsible, thoughtful innovator with the experience and insight to actually create a workable, successful model. In general, however, the real beneficiaries of the charter school movement have been the companies, services, and individuals set up to service, advise, and supply charter schools. That's where the real success/profit is occurring.

6. Districts should innovate as well. Absolutely. Innovation—really, response to the existing realities of how this generation of students can learn best—should be at the heart of everything teachers and administrators do.

7. Apply chartering to other areas. There is not enough evidence to show that charters have truly led the field in successful innovation. This is just another way to proliferate the profiteering that goes along with the charter school movement

8. Discontinue school chartering. If charter schools do not perform at or above the levels of the public school system, they should be shut down within a period of no less than five years.

Kelby Woodard (10) (7.5) (7.5) (10) (10) (10) (10) (0)

Debby Frenzel (7.5) (5) (7.5) (7.5) (5) (7.5) (7.5) (5)

Peter Hennessey (7.5) (0) (0) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (0)

1. Charters meant to spur innovation. Of course, "opportunities to innovate" is open to broad interpretation -- including carrying to extremes the very reasons responsible parents are fleeing public schools.

2. Focus now is on test results. Certainly not in my kid's experience.

3. Measurement should be broader. This nonsense flies in the face of centuries of experience. A standardized test is the only way to determine how you stack up against kids from other schools and regions. It did use to be the practice all over the world that you had to pass a comprehensive test to be promoted to the next grade and of course to graduate from school -- from elementary school, from junior high school, from senior high school, and from college, to demonstrate your knowledge in a formal examination, in many cases conducted in public in the presence of parents and other interested adults. And of course these schools also used to administer admission tests to see if you are likely to benefit from your educational experience.

4. Charter purpose misunderstood. It depends on the local rules. Most certainly it is an attempt to use school tax funds to gain a measure of independence from the stifling, oppressive, ideological bureaucracy.

5. Innovation more likely in charter schools. Unfortunately the possibility or likelihood for this is totally dependent on the degree to which the charter school is free from the education establishment and its suffocating regulations.

6. Districts should innovate as well. It did use to be that way, back when school districts were local and there were no federal and state Departments of Education, ever growing school administration bureaucracies, teacher and other government employee unions.

7. Apply chartering to other areas. A hundred or so years ago cities such as San Francisco had multiple competing private trolley, electric, gas, water, telephone and other such companies. Churches ran welfare programs of all sorts. Churches ran hospitals. It was "progressives" that did not like the "chaos," and invented the concept of a government-regulated "utility." The concept was extended to buses and taxis and now we see that even banks, insurance, car and all sorts of other "too big to fail" companies and entire industries are being recast in the role of "utilities," that is, subject to the whims and favors of crony capitalism. Nothing in this pathological situation will change until we reassess the role of state and local government in society and apply to them the same restrictions that originally the Constitution applied to the federal government -- limiting it to the powers enumerated in Article I, Section 8. No, no government at any level should be running schools, hospitals, welfare and millions of other programs where they are using the taxes from everybody for the benefit of a select few, whoever they are, however needy or politically well connected they are. Government has legal monopoly on exactly one vital function in society, the right and under the right circumstances the duty to initiate force, to be applied in the protection of law-abiding citizens against criminals. That is it. Everything else can be and should be privatized.

8. Discontinue school chartering. The only key to improved performance in anything is competition, competition, competition.

Dave Broden (10) (7.5) (10) (5) (10) (10) (7.5) (0)

1. Charters meant to spur innovation. In response to a growing need, the idea of charter schools was a game changer that enabled innovation to be the foundation of emerging education formats. That goal has been demonstrated and the approaches are growing and maturing in many ways.

2. Focus now is on test results. There seems to be some indication that uniformity is a growing focus. If true, it will take away and diminish the impact of the objective and initiatives of charter schools. Baseline metrics for success, yes—uniformity, no.

3. Measurement should be broader. The measures must be based on the format of each type of charter school, the parent views, student satisfaction, and outcomes.

4. Charter purpose misunderstood. This question is unclear--charter is not directly a type of school, but it does not have to be distinctly and wholly separate from the regular district. Effort must be make to clarify this relationship or the public will continue to question value of charter schools.

5. Innovation more likely in charter schools. Charters are symbols that represent innovation. District schools represent structure and uniformity.

6. Districts should innovate as well. Cleary innovations should be encouraged in all types of education formats.

7. Apply chartering to other areas. The impact and results of chartering in education has shown that organizations can reform and create new approaches if the system permits. Such organizations should be encouraged.

8. Discontinue school chartering. Innovation must be encouraged, expanded, matured, adapted, and can and must operate in parallel with district schools.

David Shupe (7.5) (10) (10) (7.5) (2.5) (7.5) (7.5) (0)

2. Focus now is on test results. Ted's explanation was very helpful in explaining the experience that we, at eLumen, have had speaking with charter schools. We provide the means by which a student can develop his or her own personal school-acknowledged record of demonstrated abilities and strengths -- one of the latest innovations in education. A charter school we approached said, essentially, "This is interesting, but it is not what we are being measured by." Another proposed charter school that, from the very beginning, was going to prominently use this innovation was rejected by MDOE for apparently technical reasons. With these experiences in which we thought there would be a favorable response but there was not, we have, for the time being, focused on higher education.

4. Charter purpose misunderstood. Very interesting. It was useful to have this pointed out again.

5. Innovation more likely in charter schools. Our experiences, described in question 2 above, would lead us to think that charter schools may not be more innovative than district schools, despite the intent.

8. Discontinue school chartering. Good may still come out of this.

Don Anderson (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (10) (2.5) (7.5) (5) (5)

1. Charters meant to spur innovation. Instead it seemed to provide opportunities for different groups to operate as they wanted to teach.

Tony Scallon (10) (7.5) (10) (7.5) (10) (10) (5) (0)

David G. Dillon (10) (0) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (0)

2. Focus now is on test results. Many? How many is many?

4. Charter purpose misunderstood. Most things about government are widely misunderstood, so, I'm missing the point.

6. Districts should innovate as well. Yep. Good luck with that.

7. Apply chartering to other areas. Interesting idea. Such as…?

8. Discontinue school chartering. Sounds like something the union would say.

Pat Barnum (10) (5) (10) (7.5) (10) (10) (7.5) (0)

2. Focus now is on test results. I didn't realize this is what the national organizational efforts were leading to. Bad, bad, bad, if that is the case!

6. Districts should innovate as well. Absolutely. With the caveat that "encouraged" doesn't mean pouring more tax dollars, whether Federal or State into schools. Allowing more flexibility, returning control of education to the local district level, softening the statutes on teacher tenure/seniority, and a decrease in MCA test scores, will result in more innovation in the district schools.

John Cairns (10) (9) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (0)

The charter sector needs to take more affirmative action to develop the concept of multi-dimensional assessment measures. This is particularly a problem for students from age 14 to 20. Many of these students are in and out of school. When they come into a "high risk charter school," they are almost always far below grade in every aspect of their learning. Same is true for many "new to country" students where language barriers are immense. The situation has been immensely complicated and burdened by MDE and other regulators, which have converted the charter sector into a regulated industry. Same is true for authorizers with support from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. The more complicated the issues, the more "one size fits all" becomes the premise for regulation, authorizing, evaluation etc. Not sure how to break through the dilemma at this time. One of the barriers is that the major foundations (Gates, Broad, Walton, Fisher, etc.) have chosen to fund EMO's (Educational Management Organizations) rather than individual schools. As a result, we have created "national" school districts, which, at least for me, was not one of the intended outcomes of the charter concept. The EMO's are themselves "one size fits all" and becoming more and more bureaucratic themselves.

Bert Press (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (10)

John Farrell (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)

You might find this context on charter schools useful:

It goes without saying (after reading) that I'm highly skeptical of charter schools.

Larry Schluter (8) (8) (4) (6) (2) (8) (8) (7)

Better controls need to be done with charter schools due to the financial problems we have seen from them. Also, we have seen many charter schools started out of balance in minorities, which we would not allow in a new public school.

Jerry Fruin (9) (6) (8) (8) (6) (9) (5) (0)

Kimberly Norton (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)

Let's improve our charter schools and their student outcomes rather than tout that we were the first to do them. Many follow us blindly without knowing the AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) results or proof of any positive outcomes other than parental satisfaction. We can and must do better for our kids.

John Adams (10) (10) (10) (10) (5) (10) (10) (0)

Robert J. Brown (10) (10) (10) (10) (8) (10) (10) (0)

Excellent discussion. Ted's point (about the national organizations heading in the wrong direction) must be supported by more people who care about education; otherwise we are going to have enormous "charter districts" which will be as bad as many of the failing urban districts in the nation.

Charles Lutz (8) (7) (8) (8) (7) (9) (8) (0)

Carolyn Ring (8) (8) (9) (6) (8) (10) (8) (5)

Tom Swain (9) (5) (7) (7) (9) (10) (7) (0)

Terry Stone (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (0)

This is simply remarkable information.

Bright Dornblaser (10) (10) (10) (10) (8) (10) (10) (0)

Alan Miller (8) (9) (9) (7) (2) (8) (5) (8)

Charters, while valuable in specialized schools, seem to diminish their original concept and the public school system, which worked so well for us for 200 years.

Al Quie (10) (5) (10) (10) (0) (10) (10) (0)

Wayne Jennings (10) (10) (10) (10) (7) (10) (10) (1)

Allowing people to create new kinds of public schools and giving parents and students choices are powerful ideas. Chartering still has great potential in Minnesota for the redesign of schooling.

Donald Mark Ritchie (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)

Great report, thanks. 


The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

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