15th Edition Charter School Laws Across the States Released
Fewer than half of state charter school laws in the United States earn above-average grades according to The Center for Education Reform's (CER) 15th Edition of Charter School Laws Across the States: Rankings & Scorecard released today.
"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. "Not only are there hundreds of thousands of students on charter school wait lists, but the U.S. census predicts the largest influx of school-aged children over the next 20 years at over 11 million. State lawmakers must be thinking outside the box to create a portfolio of new educational opportunities to meet this demographic reality."
"While it is true that 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 and enrollment growth is in jurisdictions with strong charter school laws," said Alison Consoletti Zgainer, executive vice president of The Center for Education Reform and lead author of the rankings. Strong charter laws feature independent, multiple authorizers, few limits on expansion, equitable funding, and high levels of school autonomy.
"These critical flexibilities and equitable resources must be codified in law, otherwise they fall prey to the whims of politicians. We are seeing this play out right now in New York City under Mayor Bill de Blasio, and have seen it before in Washington, D.C. and in Oakland, California," said Kerwin.
Among the nation's 43 charter school laws, there are 5 As, 9 Bs, and 18 Cs, with the remaining 11 states earning Ds and Fs. Three states improved letter grades, with Mississippi jumping from an "F" last year to a "C" in 2014, Arizona going up from a "B" to an "A," and Wisconsin going up from a "C" to a "B." Mississippi had the largest advance in score because of new legislation that increases schools' autonomy.
"But even the highest-achieving states in CER's annual rankings still have a long way to go in meeting parental demand and allowing highly accountable charter school options to flourish, as they are ten or more points away from a perfect score," said Zgainer.
"As the nation celebrates twenty-plus years of charter schools, history suggests state laws need to be modeled after success, not theory," Kerwin added. "There should be no excuses from elected officials now that we have powerful evidence of what works."
Since 1996, the Center has studied and evaluated charter school laws based on their construction and implementation, and whether or not they yield the intended result of the charter school policy, which is to ensure the creation of numerous quality learning opportunities for children.