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Report: State charter school laws lack proper oversight

Only five states’ charter school laws rated “mediocre” or better in new NEA analysi

WASHINGTON - May 09, 2019 -

Charter school statutes for nearly every state received failing grades in new report cards issued in a national study published by the National Education Association. The report, titled “State Charter Statutes: NEA Report Cards,” analyzed the laws governing charter schools in every state that authorizes them. The study, which provides a roadmap for states to improve their oversight and accountability laws, found that across the country, charter school laws fall short of protecting students and leave taxpayers on the hook for fraud, waste, and abuse within the charter school industry.

“Charter schools were started by educators who dreamed of schools in which they would be free to innovate, unfettered by bureaucratic obstacles,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Handing over students’ education to privately managed, unaccountable charters jeopardizes student success, undermines public education and harms communities. As the report card shows, state leaders have a long way to go to ensure that charter schools actually function to improve public education offerings for students. This study provides them with a path to accountability.”

The report cards grade charter school statutes on a scale of zero to 100. To earn full points, state statutes must require that charter schools be genuinely public, transparent and accountable, governed by local school boards, and high quality. The metrics used to grade the statutes are derived from NEA’s Policy Statement on Charter Schools, which sets forth NEA’s position that charter schools must be genuinely public, transparent, accountable, high quality and subject to local democratic control. The NEA report cards do not make an assessment of the quality of the schools themselves, but rather judge the states’ ability to ensure charter schools are held to the same high standards as traditional public schools.

Effective charter school oversight, like that described by NEA’s Policy Statement on Charter Schools, would prevent scandals like Woodland Prep in Washington County, Alabama, where even the National Association of Charter School Authorizers recommended the state reject a charter school that was opposed by the local, poverty stricken community with traditional public schools exceeding state averages. Lacking any requirement for authorization by the local community, the state charter board approved the school over the objections of the local community and even permitted school executives to pocket a percentage of any federal, state, or local funds the school receives.

NEA released this analysis as America experiences a wave of pro-public education activism that educators have dubbed the #RedForEd movement. Educators, students, parents, and community members have stood up for well resourced, quality public education in states and cities across the country over the year, resulting in a public mandate for decision makers to act in the interest of our students.

NEA reviewed the charter statutes for each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico and found that charter school statutes in nearly every state failed to meet basic standards for public oversight, accountability, transparency, local school board governance, and high quality education. In total, 40 states received “F” grades. Four states received “mediocre” ratings with grades ranging from “D” to “C-“. Only one state, Maryland, received an “adequate” rating with a grade of “B-”. Six states do not have laws establishing charter schools.

NEA posed 13 questions of each state’s charter school statute. Those questions emanate directly from NEA’s Policy Statement on Charter Schools, which outlines the requirements NEA believes are essential for public charter schools: they must be genuinely public schools in every respect; accountable to the public via open and transparent governance; approved, overseen, and evaluated by local school boards; and providers of high quality education for their students. The number of points allocated for a particular question reflects the relative importance of the factor according to the Policy Statement. Affirmative answers were awarded full or partial points, depending on the degree to which the legislation met the Policy Statement requirements. The Policy Statement was developed by a working group that included NEA leaders, state education leaders, education policy experts, and educators from both charter schools and traditional public schools. This evaluation reflects the laws in existence as of November 9, 2018.

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing nearly 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers. Learn more at

Richard Allen Smith, NEA Communications


State Charter Statutes: NEA Report Cards

NEA Policy Statement on Charter Schools