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On the Second Day of Christmas CER Gave to Me…

Model Legislation
And a Nominee for Opportunity!

 

The second in our 12-ish days of Christmas series, intended to bring gifts to education reformers everywhere!

 

screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-6-18-13-pmby Ted Rebarber*

Charter schools have become the single most effective public school reform to date. They provide opportunities to families and the freedom for schools to innovate, improve and address pressing needs without delays from bureaucracy or political pressure.

But laws make all the difference in the degree of opportunities afforded to families and freedom afforded to schools.

Of the 13 strongest charter laws, 12 were passed between 1991 and 1999, and it is these 12 states alone that account for over 56 percent of existing charter schools.  Only nine states passed a charter law between 2000 and 2015 and they opened a combined total of 233 schools, serving so few students that their impact on a national scale is almost negligible.

Strong laws provide for:

  • operational autonomy for charters, allowing a wide range of providers to innovate and meet the needs of their particular students;
  • multiple charter authorizers in order to guard against regulatory creep, including at least one independent entity focused on authorizing charters;
  • a high or no cap on schools and few obstacles to growth, allowing charters to scale up and offer parents multiple options in convenient locations;
  • accountability to parents through choice, while authorizers maintain public trust by eliminating fraudulent or obviously incompetent operators;
  • equitable funding for students and families in charter schools, including capital (facility) funds as well as operational funds.

We know from 23 years of research and practice that strong laws result in strong schools. That’s why we’re relentless in our pursuit for strong charter school laws that allow charter schools the freedom and flexibility. We hope 2017 brings the gift of stronger

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“For Too Many Families, The Skies Have Not Cleared”: Massachusetts’ Time To Shine for Education Opportunity

On Thursday, July 14th, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker stood in front of the  State House among families, students, legislators, and residents to advocate for the importance of expanding educational opportunities for children.

Students and their families — likely some of the more than 32,000 on charter school wait lists — echoed throughout the downpour of rain as they chanted, “lift the cap!” in support of lifting current limitations — or a “cap” — on charter schools in the Bay State. Currently, there are limits on the number of charter schools allowed to open in Massachusetts, the number of students allowed, and funding limitations.

Recently, Question 2 was added to November’s election ballot as a way to give residents a voice in whether authorizing either the approval of up to twelve new charter schools or the expansion of student enrollment in existing charter schools would provide more opportunities for students to succeed academically.

During the rainy rally, Governor Baker stated that “for too many families and too many kids, the skies have not cleared, the sun has not shined…too many do not get the chance and opportunity to go to the school of their choice and to have the chance to fulfill their dream that most kids and their families do in the Commonwealth.”

As Governor Baker and the families behind him rallied for greater education opportunity through charter schools, the skies cleared and the sun began to shine possibly signifying that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is ready for a bright change of opportunities.

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Mississippi’s Charter School Law: A Sad But Sitting Duck for a Lawsuit

A group claiming to work against poverty has filed a lawsuit against Mississippi’s fledgling and very modest charter school law that was intended to help poor kids. This is ironic at best, and harmful to kids, at worst. The Southern Poverty Law Center should be about eradicating poverty through the very foundation that holds the key to a child’s future and upward mobility – education! That great charter schools all over the nation are solving the achievement gap for the poor should be their model.

But then again, Mississippi’s charter school law was a sitting duck. sittingduck

As we argued when it was being debated, proponents should have demanded a law that allows for authorizing by school districts and universities, and provide for a high number of charters that could create a natural support base from the get-go. Allowing for institutions already publicly approved to spend taxpayer dollars to authorize charter schools not only avoids the creation of new bureaucracies but is legally sound.

Charter commissions, while held up as model, are fraught with challenges. In the few states that have them, commissions are becoming agents of charter-loathing state education departments who tack on more regulations and have narrow views of what innovation really is in public education.

That’s why we support and are advocating for strong laws that provide for multiple authorizers, a high or no cap on schools, fiscal equity and operational autonomy.

Laws that don’t provide for these are not laws worth having. They take just as much political capital to pass as does a pilot or weak law, but once enacted, they create more momentum to withstand increasing political pressure to roll back and over-regulate.

Like a weak-kneed bully who goes after the smallest kid on the block, Mississippi’s

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Are We Doing Enough to Affect Change in Education?

On Thursday, May 7th, Paul Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. hosted its 2nd Annual “My Brother’s Keeper…Responding to the Call” event focused on effective efforts to prepare young boys of color for college and community action surrounding those strategies. The forum strengthened the dialogue about key issues like inequality and the achievement gap, an especially significant discussion given the recent happenings in Baltimore, Maryland.

Jami Dunham, CEO of Paul Public Charter School, D.C. native, and Howard University alumna, explained how central education is to helping the country’s most disadvantaged communities, telling those in attendance last night, “What happened in Baltimore is a reflection of the adult culture that has failed those children. We as adults have failed to give them the tools to succeed.”

Dr. Robert Simmons, Chief Innovation Officer at D.C. Public Schools, challenged the audience, saying, “D.C. could easily become Baltimore. We need to ask ourselves if we are doing enough to affect change in education.”

And in fact, just today the Washington Post Editorial Board made this same connection, writing:

The state of Baltimore’s public schools was spotlighted in the aftermath of riots that rocked a city mourning the death of a young black man, Freddie Gray, while in police custody. Bad schools are only one element of urban dysfunction. But they are both a consequence and a cause of inequality, and improving them is essential to keeping another generation from being trapped by poverty. There’s no excusing violence. But as the attorney for Mr. Gray’s family said of the young people who took part in the rioting, “The education system has failed them.

Giving poor parents the kind of alternatives that wealthier families take for granted would help. Some competitive pressure on the school system might help, too. But Maryland is

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Maryland Students Deserve a Break

by Jeanne Allen

When governors win historic elections, one expects legislators to not only respect such a mandate but to try to work collaborate on changes that help those for whom adults should work the hardest, and that’s our kids. Such expectations for Maryland, however, seem sadly out of reach right now. This week, the Maryland Senate Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee took up Governor Larry Hogan’s very modest proposal to amend the state’s charter school law, in order to increase quality educational opportunities for students who currently have no options other than their assigned school, which may not fit their needs. Yet rather than even debate the need for more and better choices, this allegedly thoughtful body ignored his proposals altogether and actually took action to make Maryland’s education law less accountable to parents and taxpayers! They did so by removing the advisory role of the State Board of Education and by taking any authority away from charter school principals to choose their own staff!

This was news to many legislators with whom advocates spoke this week. Indeed even the Governor’s own staff seems to believe that they have made progress. That’s because there has been little time given to actually understanding how charter school laws are supposed to work and a lot of time given to listening to mythology and misinformation about this very successful education reform that has helped 42 other states and The District of Columbia transform schooling for all types of children, particularly the poor and disadvantaged among us.

The reality is that a charter school law that permits school districts to dictate the terms under when and how a new public school is formed and control all of its hiring, curriculum decisions and funding is not a charter school law at all. It’s simply

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States Show Little Progress On Annual Education Scorecard

Nineteen Years Of Charter School Policy Analysis Reveal Lawmakers Must Strengthen State Laws

CER Press Release
Washington, DC
March 16, 2015

Of the 42 states and the District of Columbia that have charter school laws, only one-third earned above-average scores for implementing a strong policy environment according to the 16th Edition of Charter School Laws Across the States 2015: Rankings and Scorecard released today by The Center for Education Reform (CER).

“It is abundantly clear that little to no progress has been made over the past year. Charter school growth does continue at a steady, nearly linear pace nationally, especially in states with charter laws graded ‘A’ or ‘B,’ but an even more accelerated pace would allow charter schools to play a more central role in addressing the demands and needs of our nation’s students,” said Kara Kerwin, president of CER.

“Strong charter laws feature independent, multiple authorizers, few limits on expansion, equitable funding, and high levels of school autonomy,” said Alison Consoletti Zgainer, CER Executive Vice President and the report’s lead editor. “Many states that appear to have all of the critical components of a strong law struggle with the implementation of key provisions, which is why the rankings over the past few years have shown little variance and have remained relatively stagnant.”

Only four states and D.C. earned As, with D.C. holding on to the number one seat for seven years in a row. Eight states earned Bs, 19 Cs, and 11 earned Ds or Fs. Thirteen states saw changes to their ranking since last year, but any changes to laws within the past year have been modest at best as this ranking and scorecard demonstrates.

“The lack of progress made in statehouses across the country over the past few years to improve the policy environment for charter schools can be chalked

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Wyoming ranks low on accommodation of charter schools

by Leah Todd, Star Tribune

Wyoming’s charter school laws are among the most stringent in the United States, a new national report from the Center for Education Reform says.

That may be a reason that only four charter schools exist in the state, said Kari Cline, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Public Charter Schools.

Charter schools are independently run, publicly funded schools that operate under a contract, or charter, which establishes the school’s mission.

Such an agreement can allow charter schools to do things not done in traditional schools, Cline said.

Charter schools have grown steadily since the first charter school law was passed in the U.S. in 1991, said Alison Consoletti Zgainer, executive vice president of the Center for Education Reform and lead author of the report, which was released Monday.

The group advocates for laws that will accelerate the process allowing charter schools to gain approval in each state.

To the Center for Education Reform, strong charter laws allow more than one entity to approve a charter school, place few limits on a charter school’s expansion, fund charter schools equally and allow a charter school autonomy.

Wyoming passed its current charter school law in 1995. Under the law, only a local school board can authorize a new charter school.

Other states allow private organizations, a university or a state charter commission to approve charter schools.

“In order for more charter schools to open or for communities to embrace the possibility, we really have to address multiple authorizing structures,” Cline said.

Entities approving charter schools must be trained in what it takes to start a new school, she said.

“For us, it’s not about changing the law or the landscape to allow the proliferation of charters,” Cline said. “Because Wyoming is never going to be a Colorado, with hundreds of charter schools. Many of our communities

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Annual Charter School Law Report Card Issued

Most states only making satisfactory progress. Strong laws in 13 states.

CER Press Release
Washington, D.C.
January 16, 2012

With fewer than half of the U.S.’s state charter school laws earning a satisfactory grade, policymakers this year are faced with enormous challenges. The success of these new public schools is unparalleled, with more than 2 million students today attending in excess of 6,000 public charter schools. Yet, with fewer than half of the states able to meet the demands of parents and educators who want the freedom to choose charter schools, state laws simply must improve to ensure growth and sustainability.

This is the conclusion of the 14th annual Charter School Laws Across the States Ranking and Scorecard produced by The Center for Education Reform. Among the nation’s 43 charter school laws, there are only four As, nine Bs, 19 Cs and the remaining 11 states earned Ds and Fs.

“At 21 years old, the national charter school movement is only making satisfactory progress,” said CER president Jeanne Allen. “Satisfactory progress is not good enough for our students’ report cards and it shouldn’t be good enough for our state report cards. In the past two years, we’ve seen two new charter laws but both are average in their construction, unlikely to yield large numbers of successful charter schools, and only minimal state improvements. Many states failed to advance substantive reform in 2012, a fact we hope to see change this year.”

Only four states improved their laws since the Center’s report card was issued last year, but nowhere near the trends of the late 1990s era when 17 states created or amended charter school laws.

Since 1996 the Center has studied and evaluated charter school laws based on their construction and implementation, and whether they yield the intended result of charter school policy, which

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Advocacy Group Offers a Prototype for Charter School Law

by Sean Cavanagh
Education Week
October 15, 2012

For the past few years, states have been busy writing and revising their laws on charter schools—in most cases, with an eye toward expansion. Today, a pro-charter advocacy group released a guide meant to give states some direction in this regard.

The Center for Education Reform’s model charter school legislation reflects the organization’s view of the features of a strong charter laws, some of which are bound to prompt disagreement.

Read the rest of the article here.

Model Charter School Legislation

An essential guide to charter school lawmaking grounded on experience and practice.

Press Release
Download or print your PDF copy of The Essential Guide to Charter School Lawmaking: Model Legislation for States Grounded in Experience and Practice

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