Annual National Rankings of Charter School Laws Finds Many States Strengthening Charter Laws
Washington State Passes Charter Law while 16 States Make Improvements; Only 8 States Remain with No LawWASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) today announced the release of its annual rankings of state charter school laws across the country, which found that many states took significant steps to strengthen their state laws. The report, and the NAPCS model charter school law it is based upon, is designed to support the creation of high-quality public charter schools, particularly for those students most in need of better public school options.
“This has been a historic year for public charter school policy across the country, as voters in two states, Washington and Georgia, passed public charter school initiatives,” said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “The biggest takeaway from this year’s rankings is that the public charter school movement is continuing to build upon its recent momentum. States with weak or no charter laws are basing new legislation on the experiences of states with stronger laws, while states that fell in the rankings did so because other states enacted stronger laws. These changes represent progress for the movement.”
The rankings now include 43 states and the District of Columbia, due to Washington state voters for the first time ever approving a statewide charter school initiative last fall. This leaves eight states that have still failed to enact a charter school law: Alabama, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia.
Now in its fourth year, Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Public Charter School Laws ranks each of the country’s 43 state charter school laws. Each state receives a score on its law’s strength based on the 20 essential components from the NAPCS model law, which include measuring quality and accountability, equitable access to funding and facilities and limited caps on charter school growth.
The top 10 states with laws best positioned to support the growth of high-quality charter schools are: Minnesota which this year recaptured the top spot, followed by Maine, Washington, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, California, New York, Indiana and New Mexico. Rounding out the bottom of the list, the five states with the weakest charter school laws include: Mississippi, which continued its hold as having the nation’s worst charter school law, followed by Maryland, Kansas, Alaska and Virginia.
Sixteen states made improvements that led to an increase in their scores, with ten of these states making significant changes to strengthen their laws, including lifting caps, strengthening authorizing and quality control environments and improving support for funding and facilities, all of which is reflected in this report’s rankings.
Three of these states lifted their caps on charter school growth: Hawaii, Idaho and Missouri. Four states expanded the types of entities that are allowed to authorize: Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, and South Carolina; while four states passed quality control measures setting the stage for the growth of high-quality public charter schools: Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, and South Carolina. Finally, three states, Connecticut, Hawaii and Utah, passed legislation that improved their support for charter school funding and facilities.
Six states made notable jumps over the past year. Minnesota moved back into the top spot that it occupied in the first two years of the rankings, from second place last year. By closely aligning their recently enacted charter school law with NAPCS’s model law, Washington landed in third place. After making several authorizing improvements, Colorado moved from seventh to fourth. Louisiana jumped from 13th to sixth place due to significant strengthening of its authorizing environment and increasing charter school autonomy. South Carolina moved up from 25th to 12th place. Hawaii saw the biggest jump of all states after overhauling its law in several areas, including lifting its caps and strengthening its authorizing environment, jumping from 35th to 14th place.
“We’re pleased to see states build upon the legislative gains they’ve made over the past several years, particularly in the areas of strengthening quality and accountability,” said Rees. “Many states are amending their laws to lift caps, strengthen authorizing environments, and improve support for funding and facilities. All of these changes set the stage for the growth of high-quality public charter schools in these states.”
Four states saw significant drops in their charter law rankings. New Hampshire dropped from 19th to 30th because the state board of education enacted a moratorium on the approval of state-authorized charters, and Rhode Island fell nine spots from 26th to 35th. Two states dropped eight places: Arkansas, from 17th place to 25th, and Utah, from 12th place to 20th. Besides New Hampshire, most states’ drop in the rankings had more to do with the substantive changes made in other states rather than any steps backwards in these states.
As lawmakers prepare for the upcoming legislative sessions, the rankings provide clear indications of where some states excel and others come up short in their charter school laws. The report is meant to be a tool that offers a roadmap for how governors and legislators can take action to strengthen education reform laws.
The complete analysis can be downloaded at the National Alliance for Public Charter School’s website: http://www.publiccharters.org/publication/?id=949. See detailed state-by-state summaries and color-coded maps of how states measure against each component at the http://www.publiccharters.org/law/.
About the National Alliance
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the charter school movement. Our mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter sector.