2015 proved to be another active year for charter public school legislation across the country. For starters, we saw significant activity regarding potential enabling legislation in several of the states without charter public school laws. Most notably, Alabama became the 43rd state to enact a charter school law.
We saw a handful of states lift restrictions on growth. For example, New York made some important adjustments to its cap to allow more charter public school growth in New York City and more charter-authorizing activity by the State University of New York. In addition, Oklahoma expanded charters statewide.
We saw several states strengthen their authorizing environments. For instance, Connecticut bolstered its requirements for performance-based charter contracts, Indiana strengthened its charter application processes and authorizer accountability provisions, and Oklahoma strengthened its authorizer accountability requirements and enacted clear processes for renewals and closures (including automatic closure requirements for charter schools ranked in the bottom 5 percent of all public schools in the state, with exceptions for certain circumstances). Also of note, Virginia passed a resolution that amends the state constitution to allow the state board of education to authorize charter public schools. The resolution must be passed again by the legislature during the 2016 session and approved by voters during the November 2016 elections before it becomes law.
We also saw several states improve their support for charter public school funding and facilities. For example, Arkansas created the Open-Enrollment Public Charter School Facilities Funding Aid Program, authorized up to $20 million in funding to this program, and appropriated $5 million in funding to it. Also, Indiana created a new $500 per charter public school student allotment that must be used primarily for facilities and transportation purposes (provided that schools meet performance expectations) and created a new $50 million charter public school loan program that will allow charter schools to borrow up to $5 million each at 1 percent interest for facilities and a wide range of educational needs (qualification for the loan is based on the same performance criteria used to receive the facilities allotment). And Ohio increased per-pupil funding for charter facilities by $50 per year (which takes the total to $150 per pupil in fiscal year 2016 and to $200 per pupil in fiscal year 2017), created a $25 million Community School Classroom Facilities grant program for high-performing charter schools, and expanded the ability of traditional districts to levy taxes for community schools that are sponsored by exemplary sponsors.
Please read the full Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Charter School Laws report to learn more about each state’s charter school law.