Friday, March 30, 2018

1889 Institute: Districts should institute Conversion Schools

The Buck Now Stops at Your Local School Board

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (March 29, 2018) – The 1889 Institute, an Oklahoma state policy think tank, has published “Conversion Schools: Local Districts Have No Excuse.” This short paper points out that school districts now have the power to free themselves of many of the rules and regulations imposed by the state. Local school boards can unilaterally designate all, or any part, of a school that they oversee as a conversion school.

A conversion school is subject to the same laws as a charter school, but it does not have an independent board. This means that, like a charter school, a great many state mandates do not apply; but, unlike a charter, the district maintains full control and funding is unaffected.

“The conversion school law opens up many opportunities for innovation,” said Vance H. Fried, primary author of the report. Fried is also Riata Professor of Entrepreneurship Emeritus at Oklahoma State University and Fellow of the Edupreneur Academy, an organization that encourages entrepreneurial innovation in K-12 education.

Fried mentioned that conversion schools could be created to pay teachers according to merit, and offer programs like individualized learning, early-college high school, and Montessori. In fact, Districts could pursue multiple options at multiple campuses or within a single campus and give parents the ability to choose.

One option is allowing teachers to truly take control of their own classrooms by establishing teacher managed micro-schools. A district could designate rooms in existing schools as part of a conversion school and allow qualified teachers to create their own one-room micro-schools with reimbursement by the district on a per-student basis.

“With their own micro-school, a teacher could pay herself and an assistant competitive salaries, cover the costs of facilities, curriculum, and technology, and still have $20,000 profit,” said Fried. "The state has given local school districts all the tools they need to dramatically improve public education. Parents and teachers both need to realize that the buck now stops at their local school board," he said.

About the 1889 Institute
The 1889 Institute is an Oklahoma think tank committed to independent, principled state policy fostering limited and responsible government, free enterprise and a robust civil society. The publication, “Conversion Schools: Local Districts Have No Excuse,” can be found on the nonprofit’s website at


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