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Report Calls for Fairer Funding for Charters, and Stronger Oversight

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A bunch of Southern states have rewritten their laws in recent years in the hope of encouraging charter school growth. But a new report suggests they can do a lot more to ensure academic quality and adequate oversight—while also taking steps to make sure that charters are given access to a sufficient pool of public funding to succeed.

The report, released this month by the Southern Regional Education Board, says states need to set clearer goals for charters on a number of fronts. State laws and policies should:

• Set firmer guidelines for charter school authorizers—whose identities and numbers vary by state—on how they should be reviewing charter school performance and making decisions about renewing or revoking their contracts;
• Track the enrollment effects of all public schools, paying particular attention to whether charters "skim the highest-achieving students or cause racial re-segregation in public schools." Charter authorizers should be required to track and analyze this data or engage academic researchers to do it;
• Require that charter contracts include "meaningful measures of academic performance," which are reviewed periodically; and
• Ensure that if smaller authorizers don't have the ability to fulfill various oversight duties, that the state step in and find ways to help them, such as by capitalizing on the kind of leadership that larger authorizers can provide.

The report also says states should address funding disparities for charter schools, including policies that provide them with lesser amounts of per-pupil funding than traditional public schools, and inadequate funding for facilities. (Charter advocates often complain they're not competing on a level playing field with regular public schools on those fronts.)

While some Southern states cited in the report have taken action to help charters find facilities, states need to develop "appropriate and adequate funding streams" to reduce existing disparties, the authors say.

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