The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools on Tuesday ranked Colorado fourth – up from seventh last year – in the nation in terms of the quality and robustness of its charter school laws.
The comparison included the 43 states with charter school policies on the books. What this means is that the alliance believes Colorado is among the states “best positioned to support the growth of high-quality charter schools.”
Minnesota’s law ranked first and Mississippi’s charter school law remained last.
Now in its fourth year Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Public Charter School Laws ranks states on the 20 key components from the NAPCS model law, including measuring quality and accountability, equitable access to funding and facilities and limited caps on charter school growth.
“Colorado moved up in the rankings because the state improved its quality control policies,” said Todd Ziebarth, vice president, state advocacy and support, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and lead author of the report.
However, the charter advocacy group also believes Colorado has more work to do – even though its charter law has been around for two decades.
Ziebarth said potential areas for improvement include clarifying student recruitment, enrollment and lottery procedures and enacting statutory guidelines to govern the expansion of high-quality charter schools through such changes as multi-school charter contracts.
State charter advocates concerned about school finance
State charter school advocates, though, are most concerned about school finance. Some 11 percent of the state’s K-12 students now attend charter schools and that figure is growing, according to the Colorado League of Charter Schools.
Jim Griffin, president of the league, said it’s nice to be ranked high by what he considers the most reliable measure of state charter policy but that policy rankings have their limitations.
No major legislation pertaining to charter schools is expected to be introduced in the 2013 legislative session, but Griffin said he’s focused on discussions surrounding school finance.
“We definitely have a dog in the fight on the school finance stuff,” he said.
However, he said even if charters ultimately got more acknowledgment in school finance legislation, he’s still not sure it would help.
“We could triple charter school funding for facilities in a new school finance act, but I’m not sure that would change anything in the model law ranking,” he said.
For Griffin, facilities issues remain one of the largest hurdles facing charters in Colorado. Right now, the state allocates $6 million for charter facilities – but that amount must be spread among 180 schools, he said.
Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said the rankings this year prove “that the public charter school movement is continuing to build upon its recent momentum.”
“States with weak or no charter laws are basing new legislation on the experiences of states with stronger laws, while states that fell in the rankings did so because other states enacted stronger laws,” Rees said.
Four states saw significant drops in their charter law rankings. New Hampshire dropped from 19th to 30th because the state board of education enacted a moratorium on the approval of state-authorized charters, for instance.