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    There are nearly 5,500 charter schools in the United States in which nearly 1.8 million students are enrolled. Since the advent of charter schools in 1991, the growth has been meteoric; additionally, it continues unabated. The quantity of charter schools in the U.S. grew by nine percent in 2010. This growth has been fostered by innovations in how charter schools are authorized. .

    Originally, charter schools were authorized by local school districts. Naturally, local school districts were reluctant to authorize charter schools and essentially cede their power. For proponents of charter schools, this necessitated an innovation in how charter schools were authorized. Some of the more popular innovations states have adopted include creating public boards or commissions dedicated to authorizing charter schools and permitting universities and colleges to authorize charter schools. Of the states that permit postsecondary institutitons to authorize charter schools, five have experienced significant involvement of their respective postsecondary institutions. This group consists of Michigan, New York, Indiana, Minnesota, and Missouri. This article will compare Michigan's charter school authorization experience with the experience of the other four states. Michigan and Missouri's respective experiences are unique insofar that the response of their postsecondary institutions have been robust and diverse.

    Michigan enacted its initial charter school legislation in 1993. While Michigan permits intermediate school districts and local education agencies to authorize charter schools, public universities and community colleges authorize the overwhelming majority of Michigan's charter schools. The response of Michigan's postsecondary institutions has been robust with a myriad of postsecondary institutions authorizing numerous charter schools. Presently, eleven Michigan postsecondary institutions authorize 199 charter schools; i.e., 81.3% of Michigan's 243 charter schools are authorized by either a university or community college. View the table below for a list of postsecondary institutions that authorize a charter school and the quantity of charter schools it authorizes.

    Community College/University Number of Charter Schools Authorized
    Bay Mills Community College 44
    Central Michigan University 55
    Eastern Michigan University 8
    Ferris State University 18
    Grand Valley State University 34
    Kellogg Community College 1
    Lake Superior State University 7
    Northern Michigan University 5
    Oakland University 8
    Saginaw Valley State University 18
    Washtenaw Community College 1

    As of the 2011-2012 school year, New York will feature 196 charter schools. New York enacted its initial charter school legislation in 1998, and it permits local school districts, the state board of education, and the Chancellor for New York City to authorize charter schools. Additionally, New York permits the State University of New York (SUNY) to authorize charter schools. Unlike Michigan, the SUNY is the only postsecondary institution permitted to authorize charter schools; its authority is explicitly delineated in New York's charter school legislation. It is permitted to authorize 100 charter schools, and it receives funding directly from state appropriations. Of the 196 charter schools in operation for the forthcoming 2011-2012 school year, 90 will be authorized by the SUNY. Otherwise, the SUNY is the only postsecondary institution permitted to authorize charter schools in New York.

    Indiana enacted its initial charter school legislation in 2001. Indiana permits local school districts, the city of Indianapolis, and Ball State University to authorise charter schools. The City of Indianapolis and Ball State dominate the authorization process; of the 61 charter schools in Indiana, the City of Indianapolis authorizes 23 charter schools and Ball State University authorizes 35 charter schools, respectively. Indiana is similar to Michigan insofar that it grants its postsecondary institutions freedom in authorizing charter schools. Notwithstanding, unlike Michigan, Indiana has not experienced a robust response from its postsecondary institutions in authorizing charter schools; only Ball State has assumed such a role. Indiana's situation is atypical for a state that grants much freedom to its postsecondary institutions.

    Minnesota enacted its initial charter school legislation in 1991; it was the first state in the U.S. to enact charter school legislation.  Minnesota permits local school boards, postsecondary institutions, and nonprofit organizations that meet certain criteria to authorize charter schools. Minnesota is similar to Michigan insofar that it permits its postsecondary institutions latitude in authorizing charter schools; however, unlike Michigan, the response of Minnesota's postsecondary institutions have not been robust. Of Minnesota's 149 charter schools, 34 are authorized by 14 various colleges or universities. Therefore, while Minnesota permits much freedom to its postsecondary institutions to authorize charter schools, the response has been tepid compared to Michigan.

    Missouri enacted its initial charter school legislation in 1998. However, Missouri is unique insofar that it only allows charter schools in metropolitan school districts with a population greater than 350,000; invariably, this results in only St. Louis and Kansas City featuring charter schools. Missouri permits either a local school board in Kansas City or St. Louis, a community college, or a four-year public or private college or university located in Missouri with an approved teacher education program that meets regional or national standards of accreditation to authorize charter schools. Missouri is similar to Michigan insofar that the response of postsecondary institutions has been robust. Of the 47 charter schools in Missouri, 46 are authorized by a postsecondary institutions. Furthermore, Missouri's response has been diverse; 11 various postsecondary institutions authorize the 46 charter schools. However, the total quantity of charter schools is lower than Michigan's because of Missouri's population requirement.

    Michigan has experienced a robust response from its postsecondary institutions. Unlike New York, it does not designates an official role for its postsecondary institutions. It affords them much freedom in determining whether to authorize charter schools. Dissimilar from Minnesota and Indiana which also permit their postsecondary institutions latitude in authorizing charter schools, Michigan' experience has been robust and diverse. Instead of only one postsecondary institution authorizing charter schools as in Indiana, Michigan has eleven postsecondary institutions authorizing charter schools. Likewise, dissimilar to Minnesota where the response has been diverse but not robust, over 80% of Michigan's charter schools are authorized by postsecondary institutions. Missouri is closest to Michigan; relative to its populations, the response has been robust. It is reasonable to presume that the total quantity of Missouri's charter school experience would increase exponentially if the population requirement was removed.

    It is evident that Michigan's postsecondary institutions have been exceedingly receptive to the role of authorizer. What has impelled them is not immediately evident. Moreover, the implications of Michigan's experience is not immediately evident. These issues will be examined further in forthcoming articles.

    Sources:

    Indian's Charter School List

    Michigan's Charter School List

    Minnesota's Charter School List

    Missouri's Charter School Lists

    New York's Charter School List

    The Center for Education Reform - CHARTER SCHOOL LAWS ACROSS THE STATES 2011 Rankings and Scorecard

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