How Charter School Laws are Holding up in a Shifting Political Environment
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released its annual ranking of state charter school laws, Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Public Charter School Laws, Eleventh Edition in conjunction with National School Choice Week. For more than a decade, this report has analyzed how well each state aligns its charter school law to the “gold standard” model law, A Model Law for Supporting the Growth of High-Quality Charter Schools: Second Edition. States are ranked by their composite score, which is based on 21 critical benchmarks like accountability, authorization, flexibility, performance-based contracts, and funding equity.
“Charter schools are not a one-size-fits all value proposition and state laws governing their creation have a huge impact on their quality and ability to innovate,” said National Alliance for Public Charter Schools President and CEO Nina Rees. “This report is a tool that blue and red state policymakers and advocates can use to bolster their state’s charter school laws and improve the quality of the sector by requiring best practices and guaranteeing charter school freedoms to innovate.”
For the fifth consecutive year, Indiana has the nation’s strongest charter school law in the country, ranking No. 1 (out of 45). Indiana’s law does not cap charter school growth, includes multiple authorizers, and provides a fair amount of autonomy and accountability. Indiana has made significant strides in recent years to provide more equitable funding to charter schools, although more work remains to be done.
Key findings from the report include:
- Idaho and Tennessee made the biggest jump in this year’s rankings, both moving up four spots. Idaho went from No. 21 to No. 17 because of policy changes to better support charter school facility needs. Tennessee moved from No. 28 to No. 24 because it created a new statewide appellate body and strengthened authorizer accountability.
- The Top 10 includes a mixture of states with more mature movements (Indiana at No. 1, Colorado at No. 2, Minnesota at No. 4, Florida at No. 7, Louisiana at No. 8, and D.C. at No. 10) and states with newer movements (Washington at No. 3, Alabama at No. 5, Mississippi at No. 6, and Maine at No. 9). The makeup of the top 10 shows that many existing states continue to strengthen their laws based on what’s working (and what’s not working) and that many new states rely heavily on those lessons learned so they don’t repeat the mistakes of the states that came before them.
- California and Illinois experienced notable drops in this year’s rankings. California fell from No. 18 to No. 20 because it weakened the state’s appellate process and eliminated teacher certification flexibility for charter schools. Illinois dropped from No. 35 to No. 37 because it also weakened the state’s appellate process.
- States that are enacting laws for the first time and states that are overhauling their laws are bypassing states that were previously ranked higher, such as Massachusetts, Arizona, and New York. This means more states have better charter school laws across the country.
- In 2019, West Virginia became the 45th state to enact a charter school law. While West Virginia’s law provides sufficient autonomy and accountability, it also includes a cap that only provides for limited charter school growth, only allows district authorizers, and does not provide any facilities support. Its inaugural ranking is No. 34.
- Maryland has the nation’s weakest charter school law, ranking No. 45 (out of 45). While Maryland’s law does not cap charter school growth, it only allows district authorizers and provides little autonomy, insufficient accountability, and inequitable funding to charter schools. Rounding out the bottom five states are Iowa (No. 41), Wyoming (No. 42), Alaska (No. 43), and Kansas (No. 44).
Click here to read the full report: Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Public Charter School Laws, Eleventh Edition.
For a more in-depth discussion on the report with the author, register for the 2020 National Charter Schools Conference hosted by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in Orlando, Florida from June 21 – June 24.