Peaks & Valleys: Colorado's Charter School Landscape

Todd Ziebarth
Progressive Policy Institute
December 2005

Todd Ziebarth, newly based at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, penned this latest entry in the Progressive Policy Institute's fine series of profiles of the charter-school movement as it has evolved in individual states. (For Gadfly reviews of other pieces in this series, see here, here, and here.) Colorado was among the early enactors of charter legislation and now boasts 100-plus schools serving some 36,000 kids, or about 5 percent of the state's public-school population. Moreover, the Centennial State's charter association is among the most dynamic, astute, and best-led state associations in the nation, which has aided the movement's growth on multiple fronts. Colorado's charter effort can legitimately claim bipartisan origins and name former governor (now Los Angeles superintendent) Roy Romer among its early supporters. But challenging days are ahead. The Democrats, who for the first time in three decades control both houses of the legislature, display, in Ziebarth's words, a "growing rift" with respect to charter schools. Hence, the political assumptions of past years won't necessarily work in the future. Ziebarth recommends that the charter community "strengthen its political support at the statehouse." To do this, he urges charter leaders to pay greater attention to the successful education of disadvantaged children. While Colorado's charters, on the whole, outperform district-operated schools - one of the few places in the country where charter supporters can make that statement - the state is also among the few whose charters enroll a smaller proportion of at-risk pupils (poor, minority, etc.) than district schools. Substantial knowledge and sound-thinking went into these 36 pages, and everyone interested in charter schools will want to have a look. You can find it online here.

More By Author