In 2009, the Minnesota Legislature passed a statute authorizing creation of a new type of district public school which seeks to incorporate the autonomy, flexibility, and accountability of charter schools into what are called "Site-Governed District Schools."
These new public schools must be approved by the district school board. Their teachers remain district employees and teachers union members. And any deviations from the district master contract must be explicitly waived through agreements between the district board and teachers union.
The language of the bill is here. Among other possibilities, the law provides one way for Minnesota teachers to secure collective autonomy to make the decisions influencing school success.
A number of major urban districts around the country have created autonomous district schools. But these initiatives have generally been authorized through the district collective bargaining process or initiated by a reform-minded mayor or superintendent. The Minnesota initiative is created by state law and applies statewide--it makes clear that any school board and union have the capacity to create new schools. It was also intended to include planning and start-up funding comparable to federal/state start-up grants provided charters. Backers of the state policy wanted an approach that would be immune to ever changing local, district, and union politics.