Center for Education Reform: National Charter School Laws in Decline

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[Center for Education Reform]
CER: “When politicians yield to pressure by special interests to curb or stop charter schools from being developed or expanded, the effect is a lack of real education equity.”
Photo: CER

The following is an article by the Center for Education Reform (CER) regarding charter school laws.

The Center for Education Reform Wednesday released its 2020 ranking of charter school laws in the United States, revealing that charter school laws in the U.S. have declined in their capacity to serve students.

Since 1996, the rankings have been the only reliable national measure of the extent to which charter school laws do what they were intended to accomplish — foster the creation of diverse, independent public schools that provide a maximum number of families with options.

“The impact of these scores cannot be overstated,” said Jeanne Allen, CER’s founder and chief executive. “When politicians yield to pressure by special interests to curb or stop charter schools from being developed or expanded, the effect is a lack of real education equity.”

Only one state earned an “A” grade this year, more than a third of states are in “D” or “F” territory, and the average grade is a “C.” Since 2018, the number of charters has grown by merely 3.2% and the number of students served only 8.3%. Authorizers in several states have imposed artificial caps or growth restrictions without any reason other than misplaced concerns for charters’ impact on the education establishment.

“And yet today, during a global pandemic when parents desperately need more options, space in these islands of opportunity is comparably scarce,” added Allen. “This is the result of controlled growth policies, politicians who placate the status quo, and a decade of weak advocates.”

In a huge drop, California fell 16 spots. The Golden State plummeted because of adoption of a new law that allows districts enormous power over charter schools’ fate and operations.

As of 2020, there are more than 7,300 charter schools in the United States, educating more than 3.3 million students. By comparison, there are 50.7 million students enrolled in all public schools, and another 5.7 million in private schools. According to the research, despite their size and scope, charter schools were more likely to keep educating after Covid-19’s arrival, and during this back-to-school season, they are more likely to have opened and offered attendance options to parents than traditional public schools.

However, not all charter laws are not created equal. In fact, of the 46 states with a charter law, many are so flawed that they provide minimal opportunity.

In this year’s rankings, the top five states are Arizona, Washington, D.C. Michigan, Minnesota, and Florida, all of which have continued to encourage the development and growth of these innovative opportunities. By contrast, Alaska, West Virginia, Virginia, Kansas, and Iowa round out the baleful bottom, depriving citizens of the capacity to develop independent public schools of choice.

New York and Massachusetts, which used to be in the top 10, also declined.

Since 1996, CER has researched, analyzed, and ranked charter school laws in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia. The rankings score the law in each state on a battery of practices and policies, including authorizers, growth, operations, and equity. Full details of these components and a state by state analysis are forthcoming in CER’s Parent Power! Index 2020, coming soon.

Founded in 1993, the Center for Education Reform aims to expand educational opportunities that lead to improved economic outcomes for all Americans — particularly our youth — ensuring that conditions are ripe for innovation, freedom and flexibility throughout U.S. education.

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