On Monday, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) – an organization “dedicated to advancing the public charter school movement” released its annual rankings of state public charter school laws based on data from 2016-2017. These are the laws they’ve actively pushed for in states across the country. But as we point out below, the rankings are rich with irony. Some states they rank in the top 10 are abysmal at actually providing public charter school options for students and families.
Here are some highlights that will make you say whaaat?
- ALABAMA, ranked #5, had ZERO public charter schools, yet they still ranked it in the top 10? Two years in there is now one charter operating and we’ll be watching closely to see what growth looks like over the next few years.
- MISSISSIPPI, ranked #6, had only 3 public charter schools serving roughly 400 out of over 480,000 students. Adding insult to injury, only students in Jackson have any charter school available to them. Eight years in, their law hasn’t done much to bring educational opportunity to the vast majority of students. Laws so great a whopping 0.08% of the state’s student population are served by a public charter school!
Laws NAPCS are pushing aren’t creating more public charter school options for parents. Rather, their laws are stifling growth and innovation.
As respected education researcher and writer Matt Ladner stated, groups like NAPCS and NACSA “may be overly concerned with bureaucratic compliance rather than performance- either of the academic sort, or the “actually produces charter schools” kind.”
Policy must provide more options for parents and empower them to make the best choices for their students.
Here’s yesterday’s press release from NAPCS:
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released its annual state-by-state ranking of public charter school laws, entitled Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Public Charter School Laws, Ninth Edition. The 2018 rankings demonstrate that many states, such as Indiana, continue to strengthen their laws based on prior indicators of success and that new states are relying heavily on those lessons learned.
For the second year in a row, the 2018 rankings measure each state’s charter school law against the National Alliance’s updated model charter school law, New Model Law for Supporting the Growth of High-Quality Public Charter Schools: Second Edition, released in October 2016. The Ninth Edition of Measuring Up to the Model ranks public charter school laws in 44 states and the District of Columbia. Each law receives a score based on 21 essential metrics, flexibility, accountability, and equity.
“We are pleased to see that many states continue to innovate and improve their public charter school laws, ensuring that more families have access to options in our education system. We are also energized by newer states continuing to learn from those who enacted public charter school laws before them,” said National Alliance President and CEO Nina Rees. “We are looking forward to continuing to support public policies that foster the creation and operation of independent, public, tuition-free, and pioneering schools that are held accountable for student progress and achievement.”
Key findings from the report include:
- Indiana has the nation’s strongest charter school law in the country for the third year in a row. Indiana’s law does not cap charter school growth, includes multiple authorizers, and provides a fair amount of autonomy and accountability. Indiana has also made notable strides in recent years to provide more equitable funding to charter schools, although some work remains to be done.
- Colorado jumped from #5 to #2, in part because of legislation that the state enacted in 2017 that will provide charter schools with equitable access to a local funding stream that most districts had refused to share with charter schools (i.e., local mill levy override).
- Kentucky became the 44th state (along with D.C.) to enact a public charter school law in 2017. Kentucky lawmakers took great care in writing this law to ensure that the state heeded the lessons learned within the first quarter-century of the charter school movement and took into the account the state constitutional constraints that exist. As a result, they enacted a relatively strong charter school law, ranking #10.
- The Top 10includes a mixture of states with more mature movements (Indiana at No. 1, Colorado at No. 2, Minnesota at No. 4, D.C. at No. 8, and Florida at No. 9) and states with newer movements (Washington at No. 3, Alabama at No. 5, Mississippi at No. 6, Maine at No. 7, and Kentucky at No. 10). The fact that these states are in the Top 10 speaks to the fact that many existing states continue to strengthen their laws based on what’s working (and what’s not working) and that new states rely heavily on those lessons learned so they don’t repeat the mistakes of the states that came before them.
- States that are enacting laws for the first time and states that are overhauling their laws are bypassing states that were previously more highly ranked, such as Arizona, Louisiana, and New York. That doesn’t mean that the laws have gotten weaker in the states being bypassed. They remain strong. What it does mean, though, is that more and more states have better and better laws across the country, a good place to be if you believe that all states should have high-quality charter school laws.
- Overall, many states, like Indiana, have improved their laws by learning from the lessons of what has worked in other states. And all of the new laws that have been enacted since 2011 measure up well to the model. On the other hand, states that aren’t strengthening their laws based upon lessons learned end up stagnant and dropping in the rankings. The key is for states to keep innovating and improving.
- Maryland has the nation’s weakest charter school law, ranking No. 45 (out of 45). While Maryland’s law does not cap charter school growth, it allows only district authorizers and provides little autonomy, insufficient accountability, and inequitable funding to charter schools. Rounding out the bottom five states are Iowa (No. 41), Wyoming (No. 42), Alaska (No. 43), and Kansas(No. 44).
Click here to read the full report: Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Public Charter School Laws, Ninth Edition.