Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Spring 2011

Abstract

Charter schools, public schools that operate with greater autonomy than their traditional counterparts, first opened in Minnesota in 1991. Between 1991 and 2010, they spread to 40 states and the District of Columbia. In recent months, they have received renewed policy attention under the Obama administration’s Race to the Top competitive federal grant program which rewarded states for educational innovation including the creation of charter schools. While experiencing impressive growth, charter schools lag behind traditional public schools in size and in number, accounting for only 2.9% of the total public school population nationwide. State factors that are predictive of a large charter school supply such as high income, urbanization, population heterogeneity, and an achievement gap, are present in Connecticut. Yet charter schools remain on the margins of reform efforts since the Constitution state opened its first charter school in 1997. This paper will explain the political and institutional factors that account for Connecticut’s low provision of charter schools as rooted in a weak charter school law. By tracing the political history of charter schools in Connecticut, this paper will explore the dynamic interplay between the legislative and executive branches as well as the role of educational interest groups in accounting for Connecticut’s weak charter school law.