Legislative Trends

 

As the number of charter schools continue to increase in the country, state legislatures continue to be the forum to debate the value and limitations of these semi-autonomous schools. While some state legislation have been passed to allow more proliferation, other state legislation have passed to demand more rigor and accountability. States have removed caps on the number of charter schools, increased the number and type of authorizing agencies, and generally moved in the direction of providing charter schools greater access to district facilities. The federal government has led changes with significant implications for charter schools, including the Race To The Top grant program and the Investing in Innovation Fund (I3). The brief examples provided below are not exhaustive or necessarily representative; for more comprehensive legislative tracking, consult our Education Bill Tracking Database, where enacted charter school-related legislation is listed under the topic "School Choice-Charter Schools." Full text of this and other legislation is available to legislators and legislative staff through StateNet.



 Examples of Legislation

Charter School Caps

In 2009, Illinois Senate Bill 612 raised the cap on the number of charter schools in the state from 60 to 120.

In 2009, Louisiana House Bill 519 removed the existing cap on the number of charter schools, which had been set at 70.

Utah followed in 2010 with Senate Bill 188, which removed a cap on the number of students that could be enrolled in charter schools statewide.

Authorizers

Colorado adopted House Bill 1412 in 2010, which created the Charter School and Charter Authorizer Standards Review Committee and charged it with making recommendations concerning standards for charter schools and authorizers.

In 2009, Louisiana Senate Bill 146 required charter school authorizers to provide for an third party evaluation of a charter proposal. The same year Louisiana also enacted House Bill 519, which reduced the amount that authorizers may charge in fees for oversight.

Wisconsin Senate Bill 373, adopted in 2009, requires school boards to take into account the principles and standards published by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers when authorizing charter schools.

In 2010, Utah adopted Senate Bill 55, which permitted the board of trustees of public colleges and universities to authorize the establishment and operation of charter schools.

Funding and Facilities

In 2009, California Senate Bill 592 changed the law requiring charter school facilities to be held in trust by their local school districts in order to allow charter schools to control the title of their property themselves.

Georgia House Bill 555, passed in 2009, requires districts to allow charter schools access to unused public school facilities at no charge, subject to other terms of agreement between the charter and district.

Louisiana's 2009 Senate Bill 146 required a charter school to pay a portion of a local school board's bonded indebtedness in return for the use of a school district's facility.

General Regulatory Changes

Oklahoma passed Senate Bill 2212 in 2010, making each charter school a local education agency (LEA) for the purposes of federal funding.

In 2008, South Carolina House Bill 4980 extended to the length of charters to 10 years.

After allowing its charter school law to lapse in 2009, Mississippi enacted Senate Bill 2293 in 2010, which permits certain conversion (but not startup) charter schools. 

Federal Legislation

As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Congress provided funds for a few grant programs within the Department of Education that have significant implications for charter schools. The Race to the Top grant program, with $4.3 billion in funding, is the largest. State applications for Race to the Top funds are evaluated in part based on the state's charter school laws, with states that allow more charter schools, fund them closer to the level of traditional public schools, and allow them access to public school facilities on favorable terms evaluated more positively. NCSL's roundup of some of the state legislative changes associated with Race to the Top is available here. Congress also provided billions of dollars for school turnarounds through the School Improvement Fund, which is open to charter schools, although anecdotal evidence indicates that few charter schools are eligible. The Investing in Innovation Fund (i3), designed to help find and scale successful education innovations, has also received a number of applications from charter schools and charter school networks.