Positive Indicators for Charter Schools
According to Market Watch, a division of the Wall Street Journal, a recent national survey shows that charter school closure rates dropped during the 2010-2011 school year. While this trend may be partially attributable to authorizers not shutting down schools that technically should be shut down, it seems more probable that other factors are contributing to the decreased closure rates. Some of those factors include state laws influencing charter oversight, an improvement in the quality of teachers, and positive changes in authorizing practices.
To ensure that the quality schools are being permitted to open stay open and that poor charter schools are being closed, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers has issued a set of 12 practices essential to proper authorizing. These guidelines can be found in the NACSA’s Index of Essential Practices.
The National Alliance for Charter Schools also provided positive indicators for charter schools when they recently released their annual report detailing their assessment of charter school law and policy throughout the United States. Among other noteworthy landmarks, the report shows that Maine has become the 42nd jurisdiction in the United States to enact charter school legislation. In fact, Maine’s statues ranked #1 in the nation in their first year. Impressive.
Regarding building and financing charter school facilities, HighMark School Development’s specialty, The Alliance noted that 10 states improved their support for charter school funding and facilities, Indiana and Texas being chief among them.
Finally, the annual report concluded that the positive changes that are being made are facilitating what the charter school movement needs most—the marriage of growth and quality.
Bipartisan Support for Charter Schools Increasing
Much to the chagrin of Karen Lewis and the Chicago Teachers’ Union, Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s notoriously Democratic mayor, has spoken out clearly supporting charter schools in Chicago and the state of Illinois. Historically, the Democratic Party and Teachers’ Unions have been in lock step. However, Mr. Emanuel and other Democratic politicians are increasingly supporting the charter school movement, breaking formation with the Unions, illustrating the bipartisan support that charter schools have been seeking for so long.
Parents Empowered In Indiana?
Recent state legislative sessions across the country have produced policy that empowers parents to be able to “trigger” the conversion of a failing public school into a charter-operated school. The trend began in Los Angeles in 2009 and has spread to other states, including Texas and Mississippi. In addition to Indiana, Arizona and Florida are also considering the legislative change this year.
The new law essentially gives parents the power to petition the state to take control of a failing school and to convert it into a charter school, so long as the parents have the support of at least 51% of all parents whose children attend the school in question.
On paper the law seems to work, but assembling 51% of the parent population, in addition to potential court battles, have made the parental empowerment provision difficult to act on. Only two schools have attempted to use it—an elementary school in Compton, California, which led to incessant litigation, and a rural California school called Desert Trails, whose parent-petition was just submitted days ago.