From Gerard Robinson and The AEI Blog
We need to understand the importance of authorizers in our current debate about charter schools. Movies such as “Waiting for Superman,” “The Cartel,” or “Won’t Back Down” have popularized the political themes of the charter-school movement: the challenges of teacher tenure, parental choice, per-pupil spending, and students left behind in the traditional schools. Most questions I field about charter schools fall under one or more of those categories. Historically, I have relied on university and think tank academic studies, state statutes and court decisions, or first-hand knowledge about the market to answer those questions. I added charter-school authorizers to my list of sources because they are an overlooked voice in our national conversation.
According to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), we have 1,015 authorizers in 43 states and the District of Columbia. It is worth noting that 90% of all charter authorizers are school districts. The remaining authorizers are city governments, higher education institutions, nonprofit organizations, and state departments of education. Authorizers have authority to approve and close a school, direct the timetable for delivery of funds to it, and shape student and teacher accountability measures, among other things. Although authorizers have a lot of power, we do not know as much as we should about their work in the charter-school space. I recommend reading reports published by NACSA, The Center for Education Reform, and state charter school associations to answer questions about charter schools.
In North Carolina the only entity that can authorize charter schools is the State Board of Education. The single biggest hindrance to a charter school revolution in North Carolina is that is not in the best interest of the State Board of Education. That’s a law that must be changed. Higher education institutions, non-profits and city governments should have the authority to authorize charters. The strong record of success in other states makes a compelling argument why North Carolina should have multiple authorizers.
Sadly it won’t happen this year. But when it does, both charters, public schools and all students will wonder why it took so long.