Charter School Authorizer Types Across the Country

Authorizer Types Across the Country

State Policy Resources

State laws empower a variety of agencies to authorize charter schools, creating a mix of authorizer types, characteristics, and powers in each state. NACSA identifies six types of authorizers:

Note: With a law passed in 2019, Illinois will no longer have an ICB as of July 1, 2020. Tennessee passed legislation such that an ICB authorizer will replace the SEA authorizer, effective January 1, 2021.

TYPE OF AUTHORIZER

ADVANTAGES

DISADVANTAGES

Higher Education Institution (HEI) Independent; may have considerable education expertise; access to university resources and partnerships; research capabilities may lead to innovation and best practices.
May lack experience with K-12 education; may intentionally or unintentionally impose a particular educational philosophy or method on schools; community buy-in may be limited; resources may be mainly reserved for higher education; perceived lack of public accountability.
Independent Chartering Board (ICB) Singular focus on authorizing can build substantial expertise; ability to build authorizing practices from scratch, rather than adapt prior practices.
Community buy-in may be limited; appointed board members perceived as less accountable to voters than elected officials.
Local Education Agency (LEA) Can offer depth of knowledge and expertise as well as services and facilities; charters can be an element of a portfolio of district schooling options. Local approval maximizes political and community acceptance and support for charters.
Primary focus on traditional district schools; may not embrace—or may be hostile to—chartering; potential friction between charters and other district schools.
Non-Educational Government Entity (NEG) Brings political support, high visibility, local knowledge, and access to public and private resources.
Lack of inherent educational expertise or mission; sustainability uncertain in the face of political turnover and shifting priorities.
Nonprofit Organization (NPO) Independent; may be highly visible and credible; may foster innovative schools; can bring valuable areas of expertise.
May lack experience with K-12 education; resources may be mainly reserved for organization’s primary mission; lack of public accountability.
State Education Agency (SEA) Educational knowledge, expertise and capacity; statewide authority; allows charters to be an element of a state portfolio of public schooling options.
Responsibility for all public schools in the state limits focus on charters; may tend to emphasize compliance rather than fostering innovation.

 

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