Introduction: Charter Schools in the Reform Imagination

  • Jeanne M. Powers
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Urban Education book series (PSUE)


Charter schools are not only diverse in type and mission but also appeal to proponents across the political spectrum with divergent—and often competing—agendas for reforming public education. Yet there is another interesting feature of the charter school movement worth exploring in. Charter schools are schools of choice organized around a theory of deregulation. In the policy talk about charter school reform, charter school organizers will be empowered to create “innovative” schools based on the principles defined in their charters because they are freed from the stifling regulations that conventional public schools are required to follow. A key assumption of the policy arguments for charter schools is that the relaxation of formal external controls on schools—that is, reducing the regulations schools must comply with—will foster education reform that will be driven primarily by forces within schools. In more elaborated versions of charter school policy talk, this groundswell of activity on the part of individual schools will have a broader and more systemic impact on student achievement and education reform. Some charter school policy talk links the themes outlined above by drawing on the discourses of business: Expanding school choice through charter schools will foster school improvement because schools will have to compete for students, thus creating an education “market.”


School District Charter School School Choice Policy Talk Voucher Program 
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© Jeanne M. Powers 2009

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  • Jeanne M. Powers

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