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Report: Colorado’s charter school laws are the second best in the nation

A student does classwork at James Irwin Charter Elementary School in Colorado Springs. (Denver Post file)
A student does classwork at James Irwin Charter Elementary School in Colorado Springs. (Denver Post file)

Last year’s compromise on funding equity led the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools to move Colorado up to second place in its national ranking of the legal and regulatory environment in which charter schools have to operate.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools releases an annual ranking of which states have the best laws to support charter schools. Indiana remains at the top of this list for the third year in a row, while Colorado moved from No. 5 in 2017 to No. 2 in 2018.

The Alliance looks at how states measure up against a model charter law with 21 elements, the first of which is no caps on the number of charter schools that can exist. Other criteria include having multiple authorizers; transparent processes for application, renewal, and revocation; performance-based contracts; comprehensive monitoring and data collection; clear responsibilities around special education; automatic exemption from collective bargaining; and equal access to public funds for both operational and capital needs.

A compromise reached in the final days of the 2017 legislative session requires that school districts share revenue from voter-approved mill levy overrides with charter schools in those districts. Statewide, this change will mean tens of millions more dollars for the operating budgets of charter schools.

Here’s what else the Alliance had to say about Colorado:

Colorado’s law does not cap public charter school growth, provides a fair amount of autonomy and accountability to charter schools, and provides multiple authorizers or a robust appellate process for charter school applicants. It has also made notable strides in recent years to provide more equitable funding to charter public schools — although some work remains to be done.

Potential areas for improvement in the law include continuing to strengthen equitable access to capital funding and facilities and strengthening accountability for full-time virtual charter schools.

You can read the full report here.

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