This fall, there will be gubernatorial elections in 36 states and state legislator elections in 46 states. Oftentimes in election years such as 2022, there is less of an appetite among lawmakers to make big changes. That hasn’t been the case this year in a notable number of states.
Building on the wins in New Mexico and Florida, there have been major wins in several states recently. Perhaps most significantly, Kentucky legislators passed a bill that creates a permanent funding mechanism for charter school students in Kentucky. This bill was vetoed by Governor Steve Beshear, but the legislature overrode the governor’s veto and the bill became law. Kentucky enacted its charter school law in 2017, but only included a temporary funding mechanism for it at that time. Now that a permanent funding mechanism is in place, we expect to see high-quality charter schools finally open in the Bluegrass State.
In another big win for charter school students, Missouri passed a bill that will provide more equitable funding for charter school students. Several years in the making, this bill will increase the amount of funding flowing to charter schools by between $1,700 and $2,500 per student. Notably, the state will use state dollars to cover the additional funding.
In perhaps the most surprising win for charter school students this year, Illinois lawmakers included a $35 million appropriation for charter schools in the state budget. This money is to be distributed to every charter school on a per-pupil basis for facilities costs. Illinois shows, like New Mexico earlier this year, that big legislative wins are still possible in deep blue states.
While not as big in scope as the wins in Illinois and New Mexico, Washington state, another deep blue state, included enrichment funding for charter school students in its supplemental budget this year. This one-time funding is limited to small school districts, tribal compact schools, and certain charter schools. The charter schools that receive this funding will get between $278 and $1,692 per pupil for the 2022-23 school year.
We also saw funding wins in two red states this year:
Tennessee lawmakers enacted a budget that included $32 million for charter school facilities costs.
In a bill that made several improvements to the state’s charter school law, Georgia closed a loophole in the funding calculation for local charter schools by requiring districts to “true up” their budgeted tax revenue with their collected tax revenue for purposes of calculating and distributing local funds to charter schools. Georgia also approved an additional $3 million in funding for charter school facilities in the state budget. This appropriation brings the state’s Charter School Facility Grant fund up to $7.5 million, which is enough to provide all eligible charter schools a grant award of $75,000 per year to help offset facility costs.
Two other wins of note: Colorado passed a bill that grants charter schools more opportunities to better serve students with special needs, while Idaho passed a bill that allows charter schools to certify their own teachers.
While the news from state legislative sessions has been mostly good for charter schools this year, we are keeping an eye on a bill that has been introduced in California that would make damaging changes to the state’s lease reimbursement program. According to our partners in the state, this bill will have a disastrous impact on nearly 200 charter schools. This bill recently passed out of California’s Assembly Appropriations Committee and may be voted on by the full Assembly soon.
Todd Ziebarth is the senior vice president of state advocacy and support at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.