‘A Ranking of State Public Charter School Laws’ (Jan. 2019)

By Jim Shimabukuro

Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Public Charter School Laws, January 2019, is an annual publication by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Nina Rees is the President and CEO, and Todd Ziebarth, the principal author, is Senior Vice President of State Advocacy and Support.

“From our perspective,” say Rees and Ziebart, “the point of our annual state charter school laws rankings report is to figure out which states are creating the conditions for high-quality charter schools by providing, among other things, flexibility, funding equity, non-district authorizers, facilities support, and accountability.”

Click image to view the 116-page PDF.

The rankings are based on 21 criteria, “Essential Components of a Strong Public Charter School Law”:

  1. No Caps on the growth of charter schools in a state.
  2. A Variety of Charter Schools Allowed, including new startups and public school conversions.
  3. Non-district Authorizers Available, to which charter applicants may directly apply.
  4. Authorizer and Overall Program Accountability System Required, whereby all authorizers must affirm interest to become an authorizer (except for a legislatively created state charter school commission) and participate in an authorizer reporting program based on objective data, as overseen by some state-level entity with the power to sanction.
  5. Adequate Authorizer Funding, including provisions for guaranteed funding from the state or authorizer fees and public accountability for such expenditures.
  6. Transparent Charter School Application, Review, and Decision-making Processes, including comprehensive academic, operational, and governance application requirements, with such applications reviewed and acted on following professional authorizer standards.
  7. Performance-based Charter School Contracts Required, with such contracts created as separate post-application documents between authorizers and charter schools detailing academic performance expectations, operational performance expectations, and school and authorizer rights and duties.
  8. Comprehensive Charter School Monitoring and Data Collection Processes so that all authorizers can verify charter school compliance with applicable law and their performance-based contracts.
  9. Clear Processes for Renewal, Nonrenewal, and Revocation Decisions, including school closure and dissolution procedures to be used by all authorizers.
  10. Transparency Regarding Educational Service Providers, provided there is a clear performance contract between an independent charter school board and the service provider and there are no conflicts of interest between the two entities.
  11. Fiscally and Legally Autonomous Schools with Independent Charter School Boards, whereby charter schools are created as autonomous entities with their boards having most of the powers granted to traditional school boards.
  12. Clear Student Enrollment and Lottery Procedures, which must be followed by all charter schools.
  13. Automatic Exemptions from Many State and District Laws and Regulations, except for those covering health, safety, civil rights, student accountability, employee criminal history checks, open meetings, freedom of information requirements, and generally accepted accounting principles.
  14. Automatic Collective Bargaining Exemption, whereby charter schools are exempt from any outside collective bargaining agreements, while not interfering with laws and other applicable rules protecting the rights of employees to organize and be free from discrimination.
  15. Multi-school Charter Contract and/or Multi-charter School Contract Boards Allowed, whereby an independent charter school board may oversee multiple schools linked under a single charter contract or may hold multiple charter contracts.
  16. Extracurricular and Interscholastic Activities Eligibility and Access, whereby (a) charter school students and employees are eligible for state- and district-sponsored interscholastic leagues, competitions, awards, scholarships, and recognition programs to the same extent as district public school students and employees; and (b) students at charter schools that do not provide extracurricular and interscholastic activities have access to those activities at district- public schools for a fee via a mutual agreement.
  17. Clear Identification of Special Education Responsibilities, including clarity on which entity is the local education agency responsible for such services and how such services are to be funded (especially for low-incident, high-cost cases).
  18. Equitable Operational Funding and Equal Access to All State and Federal Categorical Funding, flowing to the school in a timely fashion and in the same amount as district schools following eligibility criteria similar to all other public schools.
  19. Equitable Access to Capital Funding and Facilities, including multiple provisions such as facilities funding, access to public space, access to financing tools, and other supports.
  20. Access to Relevant Employee Retirement Systems, with the option to participate in a similar manner as all other public schools.
  21. Full-time Virtual Charter School Provisions, including specific provisions regarding authorizing structure, enrollment criteria, enrollment levels, accountability for performance, funding levels based on costs, and performance-based funding.


Hawaii is one of the states in the rankings. Its charter school law was enacted in 1994. In 2017-2018, there were 36 public charter schools serving an estimated 11,000 students. Hawaii ranks 31 out of 44 states included in the survey. It earned 141 out of 240 possible points. The NAPCS’s recommendations are:

  • Hawaii’s law does not cap public charter school growth, includes an independent charter board as the authorizer, and provides sufficient accountability. However, the law still provides inadequate autonomy and inequitable funding to charter schools.
  • Hawaii’s law still needs significant improvement in several areas, including beefing up the requirements for charter application, review, and decisionmaking processes, exempting charter schools from collective bargaining agreements, ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities, and ensuring transparency regarding educational service providers.

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