School Choice & Charters

Minn. Tops List of Strong Charter Laws; Ind. and Miss. On The Rise

By Katie Ash — January 28, 2014 2 min read
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This post, written by Andrew Ujifusa, originally appeared in the State EdWatch blog.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has released its rankings and evaluations of state charter-school laws for 2014, and the top-10 list looks very much like the rankings the group released last year—only one jurisdiction on that list, the District of Columbia, is new (D.C. moved up from 17 to 10 this year). However, there’s been plenty of movement overall on the rankings, and well-ranked states’ raw scores improved over the last year, as you can see below.

Who were the big movers and shakers? Indiana jumped seven spots all the way up to number two, thanks to what NACPS deemed a “major piece” of legislation last year. “This legislation strengthened charter renewal processes, created statutory guidelines for relationships between charter schools and education service providers, and created statutory guidelines to govern the expansion of high-quality charter schools through multi-school charter contracts and/or multi-charter contract boards,” NAPCS states in discussing Indiana’s charter-school environment.

The “most improved” award, however, goes to Mississippi, which rocketed up 29 spots from 43 to 14 on the rankings. The Magnolia State has typically done very badly on these charter-law reports from both NAPCS and the Center for Education Reform, with both groups stating that Mississippi’s previous charter-school law all but asphyxiated them. (Both organizations are strong supporters of charter schools—I haven’t yet seen a year-over-year report card that punishes states for embracing the kinds of laws NAPCS praises.)

But under Mississippi’s new charter-school law passed in 2013, according to NAPCS, more charter schools can open, there is better funding and accountability, and the state becomes the sole authorizer of charters.

Minnesota, meanwhile, the state with the nation’s oldest charter-school law, kept its top spot in the rankings “just barely,” while Idaho and Nevada were big improvers. Decliners included Missouri, Hawaii, and Georgia, although NAPCS states that in many such cases they were simply passed by other states and didn’t make their charter laws substantively worse.

NAPCS scores state laws for charter schools based on 20 categories. States are rewarded if they don’t place caps on the number of charter schools; allow for multiple authorizers of charter schools; and allow charters the same kind of access to capital funding as traditional public schools.

“Despite significant improvements in several states in 2013, our highest-scoring state received only 75 percent of the total points,” NAPCS states in the report’s introduction, “meaning there is still much work to do to improve policies for charters, especially in the areas of operational and capital funding equity.” (Even top-ranked Minnesota only gets a 2 on a scale from 0-4 in the area of equitable capital funding access.)

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.