20 Years of Chartering in Colorado!

What an honor to be part of the opening luncheon for the Colorado Charter Schools Conference February 20 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the opening of the first two charter schools in Pueblo and Castle Rock, Colorado. Today Colorado has 200 charter schools with “97,000 students and counting.”  Fifteen new schools opened this year (11% growth rate) with the support of the “New Schools Department” of the Colorado League of Charter Schools, host of the conference.  That department is a great initiative to insure that start-up schools have the guidance they need to succeed. The Colorado League is now led by President Nora Flood, who transitioned leadership of the League in 2013 from its founder and 20-year leader Jim Griffin, a member of the Charter Schools Hall of Fame.

Colorado played a key role in the origins of chartering around the nation. I remember traveling to Colorado in early 1993 after Minnesota passed the first charter law in 1991 and California followed in 1992.  Colorado Governor Roy Romer wanted to learn more.  So he invited chartering pioneers and education reformers from around the country to the governor’s mansion, for what was probably the first national meeting about chartering. I believe that was a critical turning point in creating a national momentum around chartering.

Democratic Minority Leader Rep. Peggy Kerns attended that 1993 meeting and authored the bill into law that same year in the Colorado House.  Peggy is still a dear friend today.  Unfortunately she could not join me in Colorado, because she was, ironically, in Minnesota leading ethics seminars for our legislators and staff in her role with the National Conference of State Legislatures.

I loved the energy I felt from the charter school attendees at the conference.  Chartering is well accepted in Colorado after 20 years, and charter advocates are focused today on obtaining equitable funding for charter school operations and facilities.

Colorado is indeed a pioneering charter school state, so attendees were particularly interested in the origins.  That’s why I was so pleased that BB & T provided complimentary copies at their booth of Zero Chance of Passage: The Pioneering Charter School Story to conference attendees. BB & T is one of the few investment banks that has a team devoted to financing the charter sector. Paula Permenter (pictured right) and Rich Harmon joined me at the booth as we heard great stories of chartering passion and results.  My book copublisher, Charter Schools Development Corporation (CSDC), has been a nonprofit partner with BB & T on various facilities financing transactions in the west, with the leadership of my CSDC
colleague, Laura Fiemann.

Here’s to another 20 successful years of chartering in Colorado!