National Alliance Calls for States to Strengthen Charter School Laws

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WASHINGTON D.C. -  Continuing in its efforts to open the doors of high-quality charter public schools to a total of 4 million students by 2020, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is calling for state policymakers to strengthen the laws that govern charter schools by aligning them with the National Alliance's A Model Law for Supporting High-Quality Charter Public Schools: Second Edition. In this revised version of the model law, the National Alliance outlines a set of policies which, if adopted, would increase the focus of state-level charter school laws on creating high-quality charter schools while holding underperforming schools and authorizers accountable.

"Charter public schools now enroll 3 million children across this country, and most are yielding outstanding results for students. Still, the state policy environments supporting these schools must continue to evolve to reflect emerging opportunities and challenges," said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance. "These changes are critical to allow high-performing charter schools to expand and to create further impact on the broader education system."

This report draws on best practices in state policy that have led to the growth of high-quality charter schools, while also addressing weaknesses that, in some cases, have allowed underperforming charter schools and ineffective authorizers to avoid accountability. For example, the model law follows and builds on a report from earlier this year where the Alliance called for reform of the full-time virtual charter schools, too many of which significantly underperform.

The revised model law encourages states to provide more equitable support to charter school students, allow for more flexibility to charter schools, and strengthen accountability for charter schools and in particular their authorizers. Specific revisions to the model law include:

  • Full-time virtual schools: To address the many underperforming full-time virtual charter schools, while making sure that high-quality options are able to serve the needs of their students, states should enact a set of rules tailored to the unique needs of full-time virtual charter school providers and the students they serve.
  • Funding: To ensure charter schools receive their fair share of funding, state departments of education would be required to create an annual report that compares local, state, and federal funding between traditional district and charter schools.
  • Authorizers: If an authorizers portfolio of schools fails to meet a states minimum standard of performance, that authorizer would not be able to authorize additional schools.
  • Facilities: The model law provides a menu of policy options for states to make it easier for charter schools to acquire facilities, including allowing them to request facilities from a school district if at least 50 enrolled charter school students reside in that district.
  • Renewals, Revocations, and Non-renewals: To encourage states to approve charter schools based on their outcomes for students, high-performing charter schools would receive differentiated approvals and reduced paperwork, while chronically low-performing schools would be automatically closed.
  • Flexibility: Charter school authorizers would be prohibited from requesting duplicative data entry and submission and from establishing cumbersome reporting requirements for charter schools.
  • Discipline: To ensure a clear understanding about how student discipline will be handled at a charter school, the application would require an applicant to provide or describe clearly and concisely: a code of student conduct that covers topics such as discipline for general education and special education students and ensures that student rights and due process are protected.

"The strength of the charter school movement is built upon the laws that govern these schools, so its important that we get it right," said Todd Ziebarth, senior vice president of state advocacy and support for the National Alliance. "We encourage state leaders to take the opportunity that this revised model law provides to make decisions that will provide additional high-quality options for children in their state."

To create the new model law, the National Alliance convened a working group of individuals with deep expertise in charter school law. The National Alliance tasked this working group with identifying policy issues that have emerged since the release of the first edition of the model law in 2009 and suggesting changes to the model law to better support the growth and accountability of high-quality charter schools.

  • Bill Bethke, Founder, Kutz & Bethke, LLC
  • Andrew Broy, President, Illinois Network of Charter Schools
  • Kenneth Campbell, Former President, Black Alliance for Educational Options
  • Jim Griffin, President, Momentum Strategy & ResearchSara Mead, Partner, Bellwether Education Partners
  • Alex Medler, Former Vice President for Policy and Advocacy, National Association of Charter School Authorizers
  • Denise Pierce, Founder, Law Office of Denise Nance Pierce, P.C. (Former General Counsel, Texas Charter Schools Association)
  • Caroline Roemer, Executive Director, Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools
  • Lisa Scruggs, Partner, Duane Morris
  • Don Shalvey, Deputy Director, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Annie Sorich, Vice President, Charter Schools Growth Fund
  • Ricardo Soto, Senior Vice President, Legal Advocacy, and General Counsel, California Charter Schools Association
  • Renita Thukral, Principal, Charter School Growth Hub, and Senior National Legal Advisor, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

In January 2017, the National Alliance will follow up on the model law report by examining charter school laws across the country, ranking states based on how well their charter school laws align with the revised model law.

Click here to read the 2016 model law.

About the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the public charter school movement. Our mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter movement. For more information, please visit www.publiccharters.org.