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Minnesota is the birthplace of the charter movement with the enactment of the nation’s first charter school law in 1991. That groundbreaking statute initially gave only school districts the authority to act as sponsors and authorize “outcome-based” schools. No more than eight total schools could be authorized, and, as it is today, the sponsor’s authorization for the school was to be in the form of a written contract signed by the sponsor and the board of directors of the outcome-based school. Over time, the limit on the number of schools increased and was ultimately lifted, the name for the schools was changed from “outcome-based” to “charter,” and the types of organizations that could sponsor the schools grew to include colleges and universities and non-profit organizations in addition to school districts.

Starting in 2015 MDE implemented the Minnesota Authorizer Performance Evaluation System (MAPES) to meet its statutory requirement to review authorizers’ performance, with the objective of ensuring authorizer accountability, promoting high-quality charter schools and authorizer excellence, and promoting national principles and standards for quality charter school authorizing. 

As of September 2019, there were 14 authorizers and 165 charter schools in operation in the state serving over 56,200 K-12 students or about 6.5% of the state’s K-12 public enrollment. The list of approved charter schools can be found on the Minnesota Department of Education page.  

The list of withdrawn Authorizers can be found on the Minnesota Department of Education webpage.