Time to Widen Our Gaze: Authorizing Matters

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Why Charter School Authorizing Matters graphic from NACSA

Parents are asking more from public education: recent polling found 65 percent of voters support policies that ensure parents have a variety of public options for their children.

But charter schools don’t just pop up in a community. Behind every charter school is an authorizer. While the work of authorizing usually happens in the background, it is essential to creating more great charter schools.

As charter school supporters, you probably know why the quality of authorizing matters. If and how authorizers fulfill their responsibilities—approving new schools, monitoring performance, and closing failing schools—determines the overall quality of charter schools in a community.

Smart, proactive authorizing has transformed public education in places like Washington, DC, New York, New Orleans, Denver, and Boston. This transformation is needed in more cities, mid-size towns, and rural areas.

Unfortunately, the quality of charter laws and authorizing institutions varies across the country. In some places, authorizers employ the same one-size-fits-all directives, red tape, and bureaucracy that lead to the creation of the charter school model in the first place. In other places, authorizers make school leaders jump through needless hoops before allowing a school to open, or worse, let mediocre schools remain open and continue to fail kids year after year.

Poor authorizing is a disservice to kids and families that need better options. As charter school supporters we must widen our gaze: it’s not just about creating and sustaining great schools. We must support and demand great authorizing.

This means that those with the power to influence authorizing—from federal officials to state legislators, from district superintendents to local school boards—must understand the critical role authorizing plays in determining the overall quality of charters in every city and state.

Just in time for the kick off of spring legislative sessions and local charter application cycles, NACSA has released two new explainer videos on the importance of authorizing.

I encourage you to watch and share with those in your community who have the power to influence authorizing but still need to understand its potential. Do the legislators, school board members, business community leaders, and media outlets you interact with get it? If they don’t, can you be the one to launch this conversation?

To create more charter schools that serve more students well, we can and must improve authorizing. By helping spark these conversations in your communities, we can open the door to more great schools across the country.

Kristen Forbriger of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers

Kristen Forbriger is the vice president of external relations for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. 

 

Stay tuned updates coming later this month to our State Charter School Law Rankings

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