One policy reform that may open the door of the public schools to private-practice educators is the charter school. Charter schools are public schools freed from many state and local-education regulations. The U.S. Department of Education defines charter schools as, "publicly sponsored autonomous schools, substantially deregulated and free of direct administrative control by government." In many instances, charter schools have the authority to contract for instruction. As of June 1995, thirteen states have passed some form of charter school legislation. Those states which appear to enable charter schools to contract for instruction include Minnesota, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Arizona.
Charter schools may find the idea of private practice appealing because it enables them to contract for special services for which they don't need, or can't afford, permanent, full-time employees. Charter schools could be organized around a small core of teaching staff, for example, who then leverage their resources by contracting for specialized instruction.
Alternatively, a charter school could "contract" for its entire instructional program with a teacher cooperative of private-practice educators. The New Country School, a charter school in Minnesota, is implementing such a model where teachers, as members of the EdVisions cooperative provide instruction and consulting to the charter school, as well as to other schools on a contract basis.
Regardless of how the charter schools themselves are configured, the existence and widespread appeal of charter-school legislation indicates greater openness toward changing the way schools are organized and operated. Reforms, such as charter schools, which decentralize decision-making and encourage innovation, pave the way for more acceptance of the private-practice teaching concept.