State’s charter school law once again earns an “F”

Amidst all the turmoil and tumult that defines the state of education finance in Kansas, at least one education issue is a steady-as-she-goes: Kansas gets an “F” in its charter school law.

The just-released 2018 National Charter School Law Rankings and Scorecard 2018 once again gives the Sunflower State a failing grade when it comes to allowing public charter schools to exist, expand and autonomously thrive. Kansas is one of only four of the 44 states with charter school laws to earn this dubious distinction.

The report, an annual production from the Center for Education Reform, analyzes four aspects of charter laws: authorizers, growth, operations and equity. Points are allocated based on how the charter law addresses each of those.

Here’s how Kansas scores:

  • Authorizers 0 out of 10. Kansas gets zero points because only school districts can authorize a charter school which also requires State Board of Education approval without any provision for appeal for rejected applicants.
  • Equity0 out of 15. Kansas gets another zero because there is no provision for charter school funding in the law, thereby making charter funding a decision left up to the school districts that authorize them.
  • Operations 2 out of 20. There are several factors that lead to this low score.
    • Charters get no blanket exemptions from regulations that affect school districts.
    • Charters must request exemptions from specific regulations in their charter applications.
    • The state requires charter teachers to be traditionally certified, which hinders the ability of charters to staff the schools the way they see fit.

Even the two points awarded are undeserved. They get 2 (out of 7) for what’s called “Ability to Innovate.” How can Kansas charter schools be innovative with all the built-in restrictions?

  • Growth10 out of 15. Wow! Why so many points for growth when there are only 10 charters in the entire state? Because the law does not cap the total number of charters allowed. That is extremely misleading, because if only school districts can authorize, there is no provision for separate funding, and there are no exemptions from regulations, it amounts to a self-inflicted cap.

Charter schools play an important role in public education across the country. They stand as beacons of choice in the sea of a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all approach that is failing millions of students nationwide, including thousands here in Kansas.

As the Legislature grapples with how much more no-strings-attached money to give public schools, it’s long overdue to break the vice-grip of the traditional public school approach to education.

Why is it that the Kansas Legislature continues to allow parents from having a greater choice in the education of their children? The Legislature would better serve the students if the new finance law included a real charter school law.

Because KPI and other scholars have showed over and over that more money will not improve student outcomes, expanding charter schools would be one step in addressing the 25% of students identified by the Supreme Court as not receiving an adequate education.