The President’s Perspective
A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT AND CEO
A wave of federal and state education policy reforms during the last four years has challenged the status quo and created promising improvements for students. Following this year’s election, we now prepare for a new wave of changes. At NACSA, we believe that smart charter policy—giving schools autonomy in exchange for strong accountability—remains a critical strategy to dramatically increase the number of students in great schools.
Since 2012, our advocacy efforts with state and local partners have yielded significant success: more than half of the 44 states with charter schools have strengthened laws by adopting one or more of our eight key state policies.1 Additionally, three states adopted charter laws for the first time (Alabama, Mississippi, and Washington) and these laws are among the strongest in the country. Collectively, our work positively impacted more than one million charter school students.
But we have much more work to do to ensure more children can attend a great charter school.
First, not all recent changes have been positive: North Carolina removed important safeguards from its law that enforced consequences for failing schools. In Louisiana, legislators removed key authorizer quality provisions while addressing a separate issue. If we are to provide quality schools to more children, we cannot afford to move in the wrong direction.
Second, policymakers must address student access to quality schools with the same commitment as accountability. While policies to eliminate failing schools have gained traction, policies that ensure all students have an equal opportunity to attend a quality charter school have proven to be more challenging. For example, 18 states—more than one-third—are expanding access through state chartering boards, but more progress is needed.
Finally, the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act presents a great opportunity for states to re-examine charter laws. For the first time, charter authorizing is recognized in federal law as a key lever for states to improve school accountability, quality, and equity. If done right, these changes to state law can be transformative.
So, in this third edition of NACSA’s State Policy Analysis, we seek to catalyze robust state discussions about how local policies support and inhibit the growth of a high-quality charter school sector. As laws are re-examined, we ask that policymakers draw heavily from the common sense recommendations in this report, informed by years of experience strengthening access, autonomy, and accountability for charter schools.
We look forward to continuing this important work with you.
President and CEO
National Association of Charter School Authorizers
1 Nationally, 43 states plus the District of Columbia have state charter school laws. For ease of communication, this report will refer to all 44 jurisdictions as states. This analysis is about state policies that set expectations and requirements of both charter school authorizers and the schools they oversee. It is NOT about local or individual authorizers’ policies or practices. This report uses the term “state policy” broadly to include state statutes, rules, and regulations. The term also includes case law–or law as established through individual court decisions.