State Laws on Weighted Lotteries and Enrollment Practices

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In January 2014, the U.S. Department of Education issued updated guidance that expanded the circumstances under which charter schools receiving Charter Schools Program (CSP) funds may elect to use a weighted lottery in admissions. According to the guidance, charter schools receiving CSP funds may now use weighted lotteries to give slightly better chances for admission to all or a subset of educationally disadvantaged students if state law permits the use of such weighted lotteries.

The requirement that state law specifically permit the use of weighted lotteries as made clear in the analysis in this report is particularly limiting. Few states have language that clearly permits weighted lotteries for charter schools. The National Alliance is concerned that without individual state legislative or regulatory action, the guidance will likely yield few waivers.

As Congress considers reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the National Alliance has recommended changes to law to ensure that weighted lotteries are permitted unless state law specifically prohibits the practice. This legislative proposal would make it significantly easier for schools to take advantage of weighted lotteries as a means to serve more educationally disadvantaged students. ESEA legislation in the House and Senate includes the National Alliance recommendations.

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