Putting Education Reform To The Test

Florida Tops Nation In Charter School Laws, Study Says

Joe Raedle / Getty News Images

Florida International Academy charter school students in Opa Locka, Florida.

The Sunshine State ranks 3rd in the country for having some of the best charter school laws, according to a study by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS).

Each of the 42 states with charter school laws are scored on how well their laws support charter school growth, accountability and quality.

Actual school performance isn’t a factor in the NAPCS study. The study only looks at the charter school laws on the books. And they compare Florida laws to a model charter school application and contract that NAPCS created in 2009.

“It’s challenging for school boards to do a great job of authorizing essentially what some view as their competition.”

-Todd Ziebarth, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

Florida came in 2nd place last year, even though the state’s charter schools were disproportionately more likely to be graded an “F” school than traditional public schools.

Of the 31 “F” grades handed out by the state, 15 were handed to charter schools.

Todd Ziebarth is the author of the study. He said Florida can do “a better job in holding authorizers accountable for their work and the quality of the charter schools that they approve.”

In Florida, only the school board in each school district can authorize opening a new charter school and renewing an existing one – a model Ziebarth says can get tricky.

“What we find in Florida and other states is that it’s challenging for school boards to do a great job of authorizing essentially what some view as their competition.”

Another issue is autonomy.

Ziebarth said other states are starting to look at how well the authorizers oversee schools “in a way that does not constrain the charter school’s autonomy.”

Meanwhile, some school board members have argued that charter schools have too much autonomy, and that when it comes to holding charter schools accountable, their hands are tied in many cases.

Equal Funding

Charter school funding is another area for improvement, according to the study.

Cheri Shannon, president and CEO of the Alliance, said in a statement, “What most people don’t know is that public charter students are funded, on average, $2,749 less than their traditional district peers.”

That funding disparity is according to a 2010 Ball State University study.

The author of the study, Ziebarth, estimates that about 20% of the funding that goes to every public school student in Florida stays at the traditional public school, if a child decides to go to a public charter school.

“We want to see what’s called a back-pack funding model where all the funds associated with a child follows [the child] from one public school to another.”

Charter School funding equity bills, SB 1852 and HB 903, have been filled in the Florida House and Senate.

Ziebarth said Florida’s rank could improve if Florida continues “to push forward on providing equitable funding and facility support to charter schools.”

You can find the full study, Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Public Charter School Laws, here.


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