Connecticut lawmakers should pass comprehensive charter school reform

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Connecticut’s charter school law is old-fashioned. It lags behind nearly every other state in the country in how it handles important topics like accountability, autonomy, and transparency.

Modern charter laws —which dozens of states have now adopted— ensure public charter schools uphold their promises to our children, our communities, and our taxpayers.

Many charter schools in Connecticut are doing a great job. But their performance gets overshadowed by high-profile cases that reveal the deficiencies in Connecticut’s charter school law. In On the Road to Better Accountability, my organization’s annual analysis of state charter school policies, Connecticut ranked last among 21 similar states.

Cover of NACSA report on state charter school policies. Click to view report.

Cover of NACSA report on state charter school policies. Click to view report.

This is an opportunity to do more and to do better for Connecticut’s school children, and the policies that Connecticut needs to implement are no mystery. After more than 20 years of charter school history, we know which policies are needed to right the ship.

Two current proposals put forth by Gov. Dannel Malloy and the legislature would do much to ensure Connecticut taxpayers that charter schools are spending their money wisely and being well-managed. School management would be required to undergo criminal background checks and submit to regular monitoring, helping identify signs of mismanagement early.

The governor’s proposal goes further for Connecticut schoolchildren, making charter schools accountable for performance results. Schools would be required to enter into legally binding charter contracts that clarify what results the school will need to achieve in order to remain open. This is a necessary improvement that the General Assembly should embrace.

But none of the proposals have the missing piece needed to effect true and lasting change within the state’s charter sector: strong standards for the entities that approve and monitor charter schools. Professional standards help clarify exactly what an authorizer is responsible for doing and how they should do it. They not only promote consistency across decisions to open or close charter schools, but serve as a strong framework to help address unforeseen issues in the future.

We encourage the General Assembly to focus on passing comprehensive charter authorizing reform that implements all of the policies above.

Connecticut children need new, high-quality school options, and Connecticut taxpayers need an updated charter law that ensures those schools are well run and successfully monitored. Let’s do both, not one of the other.

Greg Richmond is the president and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.  NACSA is committed to advancing excellence and accountability in the charter school sector and to increasing the number of high-quality charter schools across the nation. 

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