quires a radical departure from business as usual. But what reallyrndrives charter schools into existence is demand. In justrnthree years of operation, Arizona has opened over 240 charterrnschools, many of which now have waiting lists. This demand isrnnot a small issue: it is the issue.rnUnder marketplace reforms, schools only open if they can attractrnstudents. The schools are immediate!}’ responsive to thernclients because they must be responsive. Direct contact withrnparents as consumers has generated more innovation in threernyears than could have been forced into the traditional systemrnover two decades.rnBefore elaborating on these reforms and their effects, let usrnmake a brief comparison between the marketplace idea,rnwhich places children at the center of this enterprise, and therncurrent system of central planning.rnPublic schools are generally governed by elected boards thatrnoperate all schools within a particular geographic boundary.rnThese districts have the power to tax on behalf of the schoolsrnthey serve. Simply put, school districts represent a Soviet formrnof government. The money raised for the schools goes directl)’rnto the central office, where the staff makes the decisions regardingrnthe services that each school within the district will receive.rnThe district office does not apportion money on the basis of studentsrnor allow those running each school to make their own decisions.rnThe district funds the needs it sees. Not surprisinglv,rndistrict offices are rarely the victims of budget cuts.rnMost people do not realize that school principals do not controlrntheir budgets, and they would be amazed to learn of the favoritismrnthat attends decisions made by the district administration.rnWhile there are huge disparities in wealth betweenrndistricts, there are also major inequalities in per pupil expenditurernwithin districts because of preferences in the central officernthat often do not reflect preferences in the schools themselves.rnThe central office usurps all of the decisions a school shouldrnmake in order to meet the needs of its clientele: whom to hire,rnwhom to fire, what to pay, how to teach, how to discipline, whatrnto build, what to buy, how to test. These decisions are madernone time for every school in the district—perhaps two schools,rnperhaps 50. A single set of policies governs every institution,rnwith the expectation that one set of decisions can serve all students.rnBut nobody is that smart.rnNo wonder the politics of public education are so bitter. It isrna zero-sum game. If the district administration supports arnwhole-language curriculum, it will likely employ that for allrnschools, and those who desire phonetic instruction lose out.rnThis is both anti-democratic and insane. There is no one bestrnway to run a school that will meet the needs of all children orrnthe desires of all parents.rnIn contrast, market principles provide a rich choice of educationalrnsettings for the consumer, and consumer choice bringsrndirect accountability to the system. In the case of charterrnschools, states with favorable laws can expect an immediaternproliferation of diverse and independent schools. The originalrnintent behind charter schools was to allow independence of operationrnin return for academic accountability. The school mustrnperform on behalf of its stiidents, or it could be closed.rnOne critical feaUire of this approach to public education isrnthat any school desiring charter school status can apply directlyrnto an independent board, rather than to the board responsiblernfor all other schools in the area. Some states claim to allow forrncharters, but require schools to gain charter status from thernboard which previously ran their school. This is like having arnmanager from Burger King walk irrto McDonald’s and requestrnto set up a small burger bar in the corner. Obviously, these requestsrnare seldom granted, or are granted with strings sufficientrnto defeat the purpose of seeking independence. States that allowrnfor independent boards (such as the state board of educationrnor a iiniversit)’ board) to issue charters have received —andrngranted—many more requests.rnAnother feature of a strong charter law is that the school receivesrnthe total tuition a student would have received in a traditionalrnpublic school. Many states provide an incentive tornschool districts to create charter schools by paying the districtrnthe full amount per pupil, but requiring them to pay only partrnof this to the charter school. This maneuver illustrates the politicalrnstrength of school governing boards, but it does little forrnthe fledgling charter school.rnFinally, a strong charter law grants schools the freedom tornoperate. Charter schools enter into a contract with their sponsoringrnboard, and this contract should allow for all managementrndecisions to be made by the school. Freedom to hire andrnfire staff, to operate at a profit, determine curriculum and classrnsize, and to act on any other issue that concerns the daily runningrnof the school should fall to the school itself The sponsorrnshould require that the school admit all students without preferencernor tuition, and ensure that state academic standards arernmet. In addition, the sponsor should exercise some minimalrnbut certain financial oversight.rnSuch laws have spawned a myriad of new options in publicrneducation. Some charter schools offer traditional classroomsrnwith stringent discipline and parental contracts for expectation;rnothers offer Montessori instruction, long an offering in the privaternsector, but rarely adopted for public schools; and severalrncharter schools have been started by leaders in the minorit}’rncommunity, specifically targeted at inner-cit)’ youth.rnTraditional district schools have been affected by this movement.rnAs students move away from the district, income declines,rnand the districts liave had to respond. District schoolsrnare now running marketing campaigns in an attempt to attractrnparents. The district schools have adopted some of the successfulrnstrategies of the charter schools, implementing new styles ofrninstruction such as the traditional classroom or Montessori.rnThe predictable tension creates both positive and negativernpressures on the schools. Charter schools certainly receive arnhigher degree of scrutinv-, as opponents and proponents bothrnseek to validate their opinions. But it will take years to knowrnwhat changes are truly having the most impact, and attempts tornsummarize this movement after three years of operation here inrnArizona can include only trends, not conclusions.rnThese trends are promising. State tests indicate that charterrnschools are competitive and that student achievement oftenrnoutpaces student performance in the traditional publicrnschool setting. Parental satisfaction is much higher, and attendancernis significanfly better in these schools.rnIn Arizona, there are no signs of a weakening of demand forrncharter schools, and since our student enrollment grows by approximatelyrn25,000 pupils per year, there is plenty of room forrnnew school growth. In fact, new partnerships are forming betweenrnhome developers and charter school operators to placernpublic charter schools in some new neighborhoods. Home developersrnare aware that high quality schools benefit their homernprice. In addition, charter schools are often more flexible thanrn22/CHRONICLESrnrnrn