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Model Legislation for Charter Laws

Forty-two states and the District of Columbia allow charter schools to operate, but most of these states need to overhaul their laws governing these schools, according to a report from the Center for Education Reform (CER). In October, CER released “The Essential Guide to Charter School Lawmaking: Model Legislation for States” to provide a format for creating strong charter laws that can withstand political changes with regard to funding, operations, and accountability.

In CER’s 2012 annual report card of charter laws, more than half of states’ legislation received a grade of C or below. CER examined four key components of successful charter laws to draft the model legislation, and concluded that effective laws:

• Permit independent sponsors to create and manage charter schools. States with an independent state charter school board or university managers have more schools, and higher quality schools. “School boards still see charters as competition and don’t want to invite them into the area,” says Alison Consoletti, CER vice president of research. “Also, these people already have another job, and most states and school boards don’t have the staff to also manage a charter.”

• Not limit the number of charter schools that can be built, or the number of students who can attend.

• Establish blanket waivers, giving charters an automatic exemption from basic rules and regulations of traditional public schools.

• Require that charter students are allotted the same amount of funding as public school students. This funding is not equal in any state, Consoletti says, and most don’t give charters any assistance regarding facilities, which creates a barrier in purchasing buildings.

The report highlights states with laws that have created strong, accountable charter schools, including Arizona, New York, Michigan, and the District of Columbia. “This legislation is out there not just for the remaining states that don’t have laws, but so states can look at the strengths and weaknesses of the laws already in place, and take out the pieces of this legislation that they need to strengthen their laws,” Consoletti says.

To read the report, visit