New State Charter School Law Rankings Reveal Improvements and Opportunities for Growth

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Tenth Annual State Ranking Report Shows Upward Movement of Charter School Law Quality

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released its annual ranking of state public charter school laws, Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Public Charter School Laws, Tenth Edition. Over the past decade, this report has evaluated how well each state aligns its charter school law to a “gold standard” model law, A Model Law for Supporting the Growth of High-Quality Charter Schools: Second Edition, released in October 2016. States are ranked by their composite score, which is based on 21 essential metrics like accountability, flexibility, and funding equity.

 “As we begin National School Choice Week, the timing is right to recognize the role charter schools play in strengthening the public education system as a whole,” said National Alliance President and CEO Nina Rees. “As the report shows, many states are improving the quality of their charter school laws. At the same time, we recognize that until every state has a high-quality law—and every student who wants to attend a charter school is able to—our work is not done. We look forward to working alongside policymakers, school leaders, and education advocates to ensure every state creates an environment for all students to succeed.”

For the fourth consecutive year, Indiana has the nation’s strongest charter school law in the country, ranking No. 1 (out of 44*). Indiana’s law does not cap charter school growth, includes multiple authorizers, provides a fair amount of autonomy and accountability, and has made notable strides in recent years to provide more equitable funding to charter schools.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Georgia made the biggest jump in this year’s rankings, moving up 11 spots from No. 27 to No. 16. The leap is credited to legislation enacted to improve the state’s policies for special education, funding, and full-time virtual charter schools.
  • The Top 10 includes a mix of states with more mature movements (Indiana at No. 1, Colorado at No. 2, Minnesota at No. 4, Florida at No. 7, D.C. at No. 9, and Nevada at No. 10) and states with newer movements (Washington at No. 3, Alabama at No. 5, Mississippi at No. 6, and Maine at No. 8). Many states with existing charter school laws continue to strengthen them using lessons learned from what’s working—and what isn’t. New states rely heavily on those best practices when crafting their laws.
  • States with new or overhauled laws are bypassing states that were previously ranked higher, such as Arizona, Louisiana, and New York. The laws have not weakened in the states being bypassed; they remain strong. Instead, these shifts indicate that throughout the country, charter school laws are getting better across the board.
  • New York experienced the largest drop in this year’s rankings, falling three places from No. 14 to No. 17. While New York didn’t enact any new negative legislation, its existing caps on charter schools now leave precious little room for growth in New York City, where charter schools are serving tens of thousands of students with high-quality public-school choices.
  • Maryland again has the nation’s weakest charter school law, ranking No. 44 (out of 44). While Maryland’s law does not cap public 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. 40), Wyoming (No. 41), Alaska (No. 42), and Kansas (No. 43).

Click here to read the full report: Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Public Charter School Laws, Tenth Edition.

*Note: Kentucky is not included in this year’s report because the state has failed to enact a new funding mechanism, rendering the existing charter school law meaningless. When this is resolved, Kentucky will again be included in the report.