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Report Card Ranks State Charter School Laws

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 By guest blogger Alyssa Morones

Although charter schools have been a part of the nation's education landscape for more than 20 years, states still have a long way to go in paving the way for them to successfully educate students, finds a new report from a research and advocacy group that supports charter schools.

The Center for Education Reform released its 2014 Charter School Law Rankings and Scorecard earlier this week, grading charter school laws in 42 states and the District of Columbia.   

The first charter school law was passed in 1991. Since that time, charter school popularity has grown, particularly in jurisdictions with charter school laws characterized as strong by the center. Today, the average charter school waiting list is almost 300 students long—and that number is likely to grow, according to the report. The U.S. Census predicts an influx of over 11 million school-age children over the next 20 years, many of whom will presumably be seeking spots in charters.

The organization rates charter school law on six characteristics that it says are needed for strong charter schools: independent, multiple authorizers; few limits on expansion; equitable funding, and high levels of school autonomy, according to a press release.

"These critical flexibilities and equitable resources must be codified in law, otherwise they fall prey to the whims of politicians," said Kara Kerwin, the president of the Center for Education Reform, in the press release. 

Of the 43 charter school laws studied, only five received As, though. The District of Columbia topped the list, followed by Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan, and Arizona. In the organization's explanation of the rankings details, Iit says even the highest achieving states "still have a long way to go, being 10 or more points away from a perfect score."

There were nine Bs and 18 Cs. The remaining 11 states earned Ds and Fs.

Mississippi saw the largest jump in its score from last year's rankings to this year's, largely due to new legislation that increases charter schools' autonomy.

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