Three States Get Failing Grade for Charter School Laws
More than half of U.S. states earn a grade of C or below for their charter school laws — and just five earn an A, according to a new report.
"With the length of the average charter school waiting list increasing to nearly 300 students, there absolutely needs to be a sense of urgency around creating strong charter school laws that will accelerate the pace of growth to meet demand," said Kara Kerwin, president of the Center for Education Reform (CER), which released the 15th edition of its Charter School Laws Across the States report.
And Alison Consoletti, the CER's executive vice president and lead author of the report, said: "While it is true the charter school sector in the United States has grown at a steady, linear pace since the first charter school law was passed in 1991, we know the highest charter school enrollment growth is in jurisdictions with strong charter school laws."
The CER assigns a numerical value to four major charter school law components that have an impact on the creation and development of charters:
- · Multiple authorizers — does the school board authorize charters, or does the state permit independent authorizers to create and manage charter schools.
- · Number of schools allowed — is the number capped and do the caps impede the growth of charters.
- · Operations — how much independence do charter schools and teachers have.
- · Equitable funding — do charters receive the same amount of money for each student and do they receive financial support from the same sources as other public schools.
States also gain or lose points according to their accountability and how well they implement the law.
These rules must be codified in law, "otherwise they fall prey to the whims of politicians," Kerwin said. "We are seeing this play out right now in New York City under Mayor Bill de Blasio," who announced plans to slash funding for charter schools.
Among the 43 states (including the District of Columbia) that have charter school laws, five receive an A grade from the CER: Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan, Arizona, and the District of Columbia. They all receive high marks for multiple authorizers and number of schools allowed.
States receiving a B grade are New York, Florida, California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Missouri, South Carolina, and Wisconsin.
Eight states earned a grade of D: Rhode Island, Illinois, Arkansas, New Hampshire, Alaska, Connecticut, Maryland, and Wyoming.
Virginia, Iowa, and Kansas received an F grade from the Center. They scored very poorly in teacher freedom and school district autonomy.
The other 18 states got a C grade.
Mississippi showed the biggest improvement from last year, moving from an F to a C. Arizona rose from a B to an A, and Wisconsin improved from a C to a B.
"As the nation celebrates 20-plus years of charter schools, history suggests state laws need to be modeled after success, not theory," Kerwin said. "There should be no excuses from elected officials now that we have powerful evidence of what works."
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