I've been purging files in my home office and have come across numerous documents from the "early years" of charter schools in Colorado. One piece is the inaugural charter schools newsletter from CDE, Bill Windler, Editor, dated September 1994. This was before the use of email was routine, so theoretically this paper newsletter was established to convey important charter school-related information.
Many remember the emails Bill Windler would later send out with a solid page of email addresses. Was BCC even invented back then?
I've also come across numerous articles from the time period when the Jeffco School District was holding charter school application hearings in 1994, the denial of Jefferson Academy's application and the subsequent appeal to the State Board of Education. When the State Board unanimously remanded the JA charter application back to the district for reconsideration, board members made such strong statements that the front of the Denver Post the next day said, "State Board Chastizes Jeffco Board."
The Charter Schools Act was initially adopted as a "pilot" program with a sunset of 1998. In 1998, Sen. Ken Arnold carried the bill to lift the sunset. At that time, fully half of the charter schools open were operating because of the strong appeal provision in the Act. When the bill was debated on the floor of the Senate, I recall arguments being made that charter schools were supposed to serve predominantly at-risk students and that ideal had not been realized. It is true that many of the first charter schools in the state were started by people who could -- people with the means to compensate for no startup funds and people who had the legal, business or finance expertise to open a new charter school.
I think people were surprised that the initial pent-up demand for charter schools came from the suburbs. At the time, Denver Public Schools was antagonistic to charter schools, in fact one of the first appeals to the State Board came from DPS. This case eventually went to the State Supreme Court and a decision was handed down in 1999 in the Booth case. An African-American educator, Cordia Booth, had wanted to open a middle school for children in northeast Denver. She valiantly fought for many, many years and would never see her dream for a charter school realized. Mrs. Booth, however, is considered a heroine in Colorado charter school history.