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It’s harder than it looks (and it looks quite hard)

July 06, 2015 by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at 09:17 AM

Yesterday, I promised to tell you why Alberta has only 13 charter schools. 

Back in the mid-nineties, a remarkable education reformer named Joe Freedman became good friends with the current minister of education, and together they were able to get charter school legislation passed into law so quickly that it hardly even showed up on the radar screen of the province's teachers' union. This was in the early days of the charter school movement, and it wasn't yet well understood then how important the detaills of the legislation were. So the hastily-crafted Alberta charter school legislation had at least two important weaknesses:  first, it contained a cap of 15 schools, and second - even worse - it permitted only one authorizer (Alberta Education). The cap was quickly reached, and so then for a while there was no point in applying for a charter for a new school. But then a couple of the charter schools failed - one because of mismanagement and financial problems and one because of low enrollment - leaving room for two new charter schools. 

However, by this time charter schools had definitely appeared on the radar of the Alberta Teachers' Association, which was able to mobilize vigorous efforts to block every new application, with which endeavour Alberta Education was only too happy to cooperate. Since then, several groups have submitted applications to start a new charter school, some of them very strong applications indeed, but every single application has been denied. As far as I know, there have been no applications for several years.

The good news, though, is that the existing 13 charter schools are going strong and offering a fine education to several thousand students every year.

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