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First in is now out on charters

The first charter school in the nation was started 20 years ago by St. Paul Public Schools. On Tuesday, the Minnesota school board voted unanimously to get out of the charter business.

The move is the result of new, rigorous requirements placed on charter school authorizers by the Minnesota legislature, and the school board is inviting its six district-sponsored charter schools to consider becoming "self-governed schools," under a new model that gives them some flexibility within the district structure.

The decision isn't a declaration of failure for the charter movement trailblazer, but it begs attention when the nation's first charter district decides to get out of the business. The value of maintaining the charter schools is clearly outweighed by the St. Paul district's other priorities.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at