The Regulation of Charter Schools

By Del Stover

 An estimated 6,000 charter schools are open across the nation, enrolling more than
2.3 million students. Certainly, these schools are having an impact on the educational landscape, but that impact varies widely from state to state. Where state policymakers have adopted sound policies, charters have proven much more likely to provide novel and exciting educational experiences for children.

Elsewhere, however, poorly conceived or weakly enforced policies have allowed charters to evolve into what appears to be a rival education system. This system competes with traditional schools for scarce resources and diverts thousands of students into academically inferior schools.

So what is good charter school policy? What should school boards, working through their state school boards associations, be advocating to ensure the academic success of children attending charter schools in their districts?

A look at state policies by American School Board Journal offers some clues -- but not as many concrete answers as school board members might like. As the charter school movement has matured and more data collected, the need for improved financial and academic accountability has been recognized.

But on other issues, a variety of interests continue to push state policies in directions that are contentious and of which the consequences are still unclear.

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