The Problem with Authorizer Shopping
The public charter school movement is premised on the exchange of increased autonomy for increased accountability. Individual schools are given more flexibility in their actions, and then must meet agreed-upon benchmarks of quality. If a school fails to fulfill the terms of its charter or achieve its stated goals, it can be closed.
However, charter schools that are identified for closure do not always shut their doors. Even as charter school authorizers have become more adept at evaluating school performance and enforcing accountability, some schools have tried to avoid closure altogether. One way that schools evade closure is through authorizer shopping: when a struggling school transfers to a new authorizer to avoid accountability. Experience shows that authorizer shopping is a threat to a state’s overall charter school quality if even one authorizer is willing and able to accept failing schools.
NACSA Policy Recommendations
To prevent authorizer shopping NACSA recommends that states focus on enacting policies that hold both schools and authorizers accountable to high standards. States should enact policies that:
- Regulate the transfer of charter schools from one authorizer to another;
- Prevent charter schools that are closed by one authorizer from securing a new authorizer;
- Strengthen the authorizing laws that hold authorizers accountable for their actions. This starts with clearly defined standards and expectations for authorizers and includes regular authorizer reporting, evaluation, and, when necessary, sanctioning of failing authorizers.
Authorizer Shopping FAQ
The public charter school movement is premised on the exchange of increased autonomy for increased accountability. When failed schools attempt to avoid accountability by authorizer shopping, the charter agreement is undermined and all stakeholders lose.