NACSA’s survey results suggest that more local school districts may be embracing charter schools as part of district transformation efforts: data reveals significant growth in the number of authorizers, largely driven by new school-district authorizers. In fact, the net growth in the number of authorizers during the last five years—nearly 100 authorizers—is due almost exclusively to an increase in school district authorizers (a net increase of 93 school district authorizers during this time frame).
Contrary to popular perception, local school districts are by far the largest group of authorizers. Local districts now make up 90 percent of the 1,050 authorizers in the nation.
NACSA notes both negative and positive outcomes in this data:
- Many districts have not developed the capacity to effectively oversee charter schools in addition to their other duties.
- School district authorizers—by far—use fewer nationally recognized authorizing best practices (what NACSA calls “Essential Practices”) compared to any other type of charter school authorizer.
- On the positive side of the ledger, there can be great outcomes when district officials work together to manage a portfolio of both quality traditional schools and quality charter schools to meet community needs. Denver is one example of this kind of partnership.