Celebrating State Charter School Legislative Success in 2021

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Stock photo of raised hands in legislation

Across the country, 2021 has proven to be a great year for getting positive charter school bills as well as for stopping or mitigating negative charter school bills. 

Some of the biggest highlights from the states where the National Alliance worked with local partners include: 

  • Iowa overhauled their weak charter school law to allow charter school founding groups to apply directly to the state, provide charter schools with flexibility to innovate, set a high bar for opening charter schools to ensure quality, and hold the schools accountable for performance-based results.
  • Nevada defeated all anti-charter school bills,secured equitable funding for charter school students in the state’s rewriting of its public school funding system, and secured $15 million in COVID-19-relief funding for charter schools that serve Title I students.
  • New Mexico enacted a stand-alone charter school bill into law for the first time in several years. The bill requires each charter school to provide an enrollment preference to children of that school’s employees.
  • West Virginia created a new state authorizer and an appellate process with the existing state board of education.
  • Wyoming overhauled their weak charter school law by adding a statewide authorizer to review public charter school applications, expanding operational autonomy for public charter schools, creating a transparent public charter school application process, and ensuring strong accountability for public charter school performance.

Beyond the states where the National Alliance directly engaged, we saw major offensive and defensive wins in several states, including:

  • California defeated the most damaging charter school bill this session. This bill would have imposed a significant number of new restrictions and costs on charter schools.
  • Colorado increased the cap on moral obligation bonds for charter schools from $500 million to $750 million and defeated a bill that would have gutted the appellate process. 
  • Connecticut increased per-pupil state funding for charter schools in the context of broader public school funding changes. 
  • Florida allowed postsecondary institutions to serve as authorizers. 
  • Georgia increased state funding for district-authorized charter schools and ensured districts allocate a proportionate share of federal funding to district-authorized charter schools.
  • Illinois fought off multiple anti-charter school bills—including one that would prohibit charter school leaders from talking about the pros and cons of unionization with their staff members.
  • Indiana increased its per-pupil charter school facilities allotment to $1,000 per-pupil in the first year of the budget and $1,250 per-pupil in the second year. 
  • Maine charter school supporters rallied to defeat a bill that would have gutted the law’s authorizing and funding provisions.
  • Oklahoma increased state funding to charter schools (triggered by a state board of education settlement of a charter school funding lawsuit). 
  • Tennessee allocated $24 million to a charter school facilities fund. 
  • Utah established the Charter School Closure Reserve account only for repayment of funds from a closed charter school. The legislature seeded the fund with $1,000,000. 

What’s perhaps most notable about this year’s session, particularly at such a politically polarizing time in this country, is that charter school advocates were able to achieve proactive and defensive wins in all manner of states (i.e., blue, red, and purple). This achievement shows that bipartisan support for charter schools isn’t dead—and may, in fact, be rebounding.

 

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

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