The National Alliance is working to pass charter school laws in states that do not have them, as well as working closely with partners in several states to improve the policy environment for their charter schools. The National Alliance is placing particular emphasis on supporting our Community of Practice (COP) states. The COP is a group of eight state charter coalitions committed to improving state charter school laws in the areas of funding, autonomy, and accountability.
With the significant success that Colorado had in the 2016 legislative session, the COP coalition is continuing its push for funding equity in the 2017 session. Specifically, they want charter schools to have access to more local dollars. Their legislation – SB 61 – to give charter schools access to local mill levies was amended during the legislative process, but remains largely intact. It recently passed the Senate and is now in the House.
Georgia’s priority legislation – HB 430 – passed the legislature on the last day of the 2017 legislative session and is headed to Governor Deal to be signed into law. This bill increases accountability for charter school authorizers, gives charter schools more equitable access to federal Title funds, and increases facilities support for charter schools.
The Idaho COP coalition is building on momentum from the 2016 session where they saw significant success in addressing facilities support and autonomy. In the 2017 session, legislation – HB 279 – to streamline the application process for charter school founding groups recently passed both the House and the Senate. The bill was recently signed into law by the governor.
The Oklahoma COP coalition’s 2017 priority bill – SB 359 – would create a process by which charter schools can participate in school district bonding efforts. It would also give charter schools the first right of refusal to purchase or lease property that a school district is going to sell or lease. The bill recently passed the Senate and is now in the House.
Beyond the work in the National Alliance’s priority states, there is notable activity in several other states.
- Arkansas enacted legislation – SB 308 – which clarified the guidelines for providing charter schools with the right of access to unused or underutilized public school facilities.
- Kentucky became the 44th state in the country (along with the District of Columbia) to allow charter public schools. On March 21, 2017, Governor Matt Bevin signed HB 520 into law, thus empowering communities to bring charter schools to their students. The National Alliance was proud to work with a broad coalition of state and national partners on this effort. We plan to continue working with our partners as the efforts shift toward implementing the law.
- Maryland’s Governor Hogan introduced legislation – HB 878/SB 704 – that would have created an independent statewide authorizer, provided charter schools with the flexibility to innovate, and secured facilities support for charter schools. While these bills did not make it out of committee in either chamber, they potentially signal the beginning of an effort to improve the nation’s weakest charter school law.
- Missouri lawmakers are working on legislation that would give charter school applicants in more school districts access to a non-school district authorizer. The House version of this bill – HB 634 – recently passed the House. The Senate version of this bill – SB 428 – is still in the Senate.
- Montana is one of the six states that have yet to enact a charter school law. A bill to allow charter schools in the state – HB 376 – recently passed the House. It is now in the Senate. Governor Steve Bullock has vowed to veto any charter school bill that passes the legislature.
- Nebraska is another one of the six states that have yet to enact a charter school law. Local advocates proposed legislation this session – LB 630 – that saw a lively public hearing in March and included testimony from the National Alliance. Its prospects for passage this year remain uncertain. Even if it does not pass this year, however, it creates momentum to work towards passage in 2018.
- Legislation in New Mexico that would have prohibited authorizers from accepting or approving any new initial applications for charter schools between June 1, 2017, and January 1, 2020, was defeated on a tie vote in the House. Another bill that proposed to cut small school size adjustment funding for charter schools was voted down in the Senate.
- Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed SB 1283/HB 2342 on March 23, 2017. This bill would have would have created regional charter school divisions that could authorize charter schools in areas of the state with struggling schools and provide these schools with flexibility to innovate. The National Alliance was proud to work with state and national partners on this important effort. We look forward to working with the legislature and the next governor in 2018 to advance new charter school legislation and provide more options for students who are left behind by Governor McAuliffe’s decision.