Charter School Districts, Progressive Policy Institute

The University of Washington's Paul Hill has written a fine short background paper for the Progressive Policy Institute on "charter districts," an idea that has been gaining interest as the charter-school movement has spread. (President Bush, it may be recalled, also proposed a "charter states" program, although Congress knocked the stuffing out of it.) In five pages, Hill explains his version of a charter district, namely a public school district that charters all its schools instead of running any of them directly. (Another concept of a charter district would be one that obtains freedom from state regulations, union contract constraints and other impediments to operating its schools as it thinks best, in return for demonstrated improvements in pupil achievement. One can also envision a hybrid of those two concepts.) He notes that several U.S. school systems are already all-charter, that several more are moving in that direction, and that seven state charter laws would permit any district to do likewise. Appended to this paper is a useful one-page synopsis by Andy Rotherham of Chester-Upland, Pennsylvania's recent move (under strong state pressure) to out-source all of its schools that weren't already public charter schools. You may obtain it from Progressive Policy Institute, 600 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Suite 400, Washington DC 20003. Phone (202) 547-0001. Fax (202) 544-5014. E-mail or surf to

Chester E. Finn, Jr.
Chester E. Finn, Jr. is a Distinguished Senior Fellow and President Emeritus of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.