Strengthening State Charter School Laws in the Wake of COVID-19

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West Virginia Statehouse

As state legislative sessions are in full swing across the country, the National Alliance is working hard to ensure that charter school laws are strengthened in several states. As we’ve seen with the high correlation of strong charter schools and strong state laws, this important work ensures all public school students are treated fairly and have access to a public school that is right for them.

These are some areas where we are seeing progress this spring to strengthen state charter school laws:

Allowing More Schools to Open Under a New Law

In West Virginia, we worked with our state partners to address issues in the state’s initial charter school law. Governor Jim Justice signed our bill (HB 2012) into law on March 11. Most notably, the bill creates a new statewide authorizer, which increases the likelihood high-quality charter schools will open in communities across the state. Previously, only county boards of education could authorize charter schools (and they haven’t authorized any schools yet).

Unfortunately, notwithstanding our best efforts, the bill also opens the door to full-time virtual charter schools in a way that repeats the mistakes of several other states. Holding all schools, including virtual schools, accountable is a key tenant of the charter school movement. We hope West Virginia keeps that in mind as it implements this bill.

Adding Flexibility to Authorizing and Innovation

We continue to make progress with our partners in Iowa. A bill to overhaul the state’s weak charter school law passed the Senate last month. Among other things, this bill expands authorizing options and provides charter schools with more flexibility to innovate. A companion bill in Iowa’s House recently passed out of a House Education Subcommittee and the full House Education Committee. It is now moving to the House floor.

In Wyoming, we are working with our partners to overhaul the state’s weak charter school law. Similar to the bill in Iowa, the Wyoming bill expands authorizing options and provides charter schools with more flexibility to innovate, among other things. This bill recently passed the Senate on an overwhelming 26-4 vote. The bill now moves to the House.

Addressing Funding and Facilities Issues

A bill on the table in Alabama would provide more local dollars to charter school students. This bill recently passed out of the House Way and Means Education Committee and is now heading to the House floor.

In New Mexico, we are working with our partners on a bill that would create a new revolving loan fund administered by the New Mexico Finance Authority and provide for more direct oversight from the state to ensure available district facilities are offered to charter schools. This bill passed with bipartisan and unanimous support out of the Senate Education Committee. It is now in the Senate Finance Committee.

We continue to be encouraged by the amount of positive legislation moving forward in statehouses across the country, including in Georgia, Idaho, and Oklahoma. We are also on guard against negative legislation in places like Maine and Rhode Island and will be working with our partners to defeat or mitigate it in the weeks and months ahead.

 

Todd Ziebarth is the senior vice president of state support and advocacy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

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