In the States

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. 

Alabama Web

After passing legislation in March 2015 enabling charter schools, the Alabama legislature recognized that there needed to be funding allocated to develop high-quality authorizing practices and strong charter applicant efforts. In the 2016 session, the Legislature allocated $200,000 from the Education Trust Fund to support the work of the Alabama Public Charter School Commission in developing authorizing practices and allocating planning funds to applicants. This money will be available on October 1, 2016.

Colorado Web

The Colorado COP coalition had some success in their legislative session this year. They worked together to secure additional funding for charter school facilities, as well as greater access to unused district facilities and space. They also secured greater operational autonomy for charter schools by lifting some burdensome reporting requirements and enhanced authorizer accountability. The COP coalition is already planning for their next legislative session when they intend to again push equitable funding for charter schools via local mill sharing.

Georgia Web

The Georgia COP coalition was able to get legislation enacted this session that establishes financial management requirements for charter school financial officers, mandates that certain personnel of a charter school not serve simultaneously as the chief financial officer for the school, and requires finance directors of charter schools to participate in initial and annual training in how to financially operate a charter school. The Georgia COP coalition is now focused on building support for Governor Deal’s Education Reform Commission’s recommendations on several education policy areas, including the public school funding formula and numerous other pro-charter school policies. They are gearing up for a formidable advocacy effort to push the Commission’s recommendations in the 2017 session.

Idaho Web

The Idaho COP coalition was successful in pushing legislation to increase charter school staffing autonomy. They also created a process to replicate and expand high-quality charter schools (an important step in their commitment to high-quality schools) and secured $750,000 in funding for the charter school debt reserve fund, which was created in 2015. The Idaho COP is developing another ambitious legislative agenda for 2017.

Illinois web

After a lot of groundwork and organizing, charter school advocates in Illinois were successful in passing HB 5918 in the 2016 legislative session. This bill extends the permissible renewal term to ten years for high-performing charters and also triples the amount of start-up funding for new charter schools in the Charter Revolving Loan Fund (CRLF). The CRLF calculation will allow for interest-free borrowing at $750 per pupil, an increase from $250 per pupil currently in law. The new language also expands the pool of eligible expenses to include facilities costs. The bill also moderates borrowing costs for charter schools, especially with regard to facilities finance. For the many Illinois charter schools that rely on bonds to finance facilities, this is a major policy improvement.

Louisiana web

The Louisiana legislature considered a number of bills affecting charter schools in the 2016 legislative session. Most significantly, SB 432 generated considerable interest from both charter school advocates and opponents in the state and across the country. Signed by Governor Edwards on May 12, 2016, this legislation returns Recovery School District charter schools in New Orleans to the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) by 2018. Operators will retain their autonomy to make decisions and manage at the school level, but authorizing authority will move from the state to OPSB. Louisiana charter school advocates in New Orleans and in the Louisiana Department of Education worked with others to create this new unified system of schools.

mass web

Massachusetts charter school advocates have been pushing the Massachusetts legislature to increase the number of new charter schools allowed annually. Governor Baker proposed lifting the cap to allow 12 new charter schools per year, but the state Senate and House were not able to agree on the specifics. Charter school advocates gathered almost 65,000 signatures to put the issue in front of voters in a November ballot initiative. Initial polling indicates that voters favor increasing the number of charter schools.

MichiganWeb

The Michigan COP coalition successfully navigated several bills dealing with public schooling in Detroit. The final version of these bills provides that authorizers must be accredited in order to approve additional schools in Detroit, creates an A-F accountability system for all public schools in the city, includes automatic closure requirements for chronically low-performing schools (which apply to charter schools statewide), prohibits authorizer hopping, and creates an advisory commission that will produce reports on school location and transportation.

Mississippi Web

While Mississippi enabled charter schools in 2013, the original legislation did not allow students to cross district boundaries to enroll in a charter school. This stifled growth of charter schools in certain parts of the state and prevented some Mississippi students from having access to charter schools. In the 2016 legislative session, the Mississippi legislature passed legislation (SB 2161) that allows students enrolled in low-performing school districts to attend any charter school in the state. The bill also makes other improvements to the law, including allowing employees to participate in the state retirement system and other benefits programs and allowing for conversion charters to purchase or lease the school building from the local school district at market value.

New York Web

Charter school advocates in New York had a big budget victory during the 2016 legislative session. They were successful in securing $54.8 million in additional funding for charter schools statewide. In addition, they were successful in preventing several pieces of anti-charter legislation from passing, including a piece of legislation targeting charter schools co-locating with district schools in New York City.

OhioWeb

Ohio’s COP coalition is working to implement House Bill 2, recently passed legislation that makes a number of improvements to the state’s charter law, particularly as it relates to accountability. The coalition is also monitoring SB 3, which seeks to water down some of the accountability measures passed in HB 2. In addition to these efforts, the coalition is working on a longer-term plan to increase funding equity.

Oklahoma Web

Oklahoma’s COP coalition is working to secure greater funding equity for charter schools.

rhode island web

In the 2016 legislative session, Rhode Island charter schools were under attack by anti-charter groups in the state. The final budget included language to cut the amount of per pupil funding that charter schools receive. Another piece of legislation passed that requires local approval of any new charter school that is part of a network (those with more than one school under the same charter). This bill exempts existing schools and networks in the state. This bill is awaiting action by Governor Raimondo. However, charter school advocates were successful in defeating several other anti-charter bills, including a few that would have more significantly cut per pupil charter school funding by eliminating charter school’s access to local tax revenue.

 

sc web

The COP coalition in South Carolina was successful in getting some wins for charter schools in the state budget, working to pass legislation allowing for a weighted lottery for educationally disadvantaged students, and playing defense against several anti-charter school pieces of legislation.

Tennessee Web

The Tennessee COP coalition pushed hard for facilities funding in their 2016 session. While they were unsuccessful in securing funding for their legislation, they passed their priority bills through all House and Senate Education committees and subcommittees and made huge strides in educating legislators on the need for charter school facilities access and funding. The Tennessee COP coalition will make another run at this priority next session.

Utah web

Utah’s charter schools had a successful legislative year. SB38 secured $20 million in additional funding for charter schools, the result of months of education of legislators and the public about the funding disparity between charter and district schools.

Washington Web

At the very last minute of the session, the Washington legislature passed SB 6194, a bill designed to address the charter school funding issues that the Washington State Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in 2015. This legislation changes the funding source for charters to ensure that there are no constitutional issues with allocating funding to schools overseen by non-elected boards. With passage of this legislation, Washington can continue implementing high quality charter schools. This legislative victory came about thanks to the relentless organizing and advocacy efforts of charter school parents and other supporters.