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State charter schools among the best

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Indiana charter schools and charter school laws are among the best in the country, according to a recent report.

The Center for Education Reform (CER), a Washington-based education reform advocacy group ranked each state based on the strength of its charter school laws and found significant disparities. For example, Minnesota had the strongest charter laws in the nation, while Mississippi had the weakest.

Indiana had the eighth strongest charter law, according to the study.

"If Mississippi parents want to get the most value out of the school taxes they pay, they may want to consider moving to Minnesota," Jeanne Allen, president of CER said. "The effectiveness of charter schools is directly related to the strength of the underlying laws. States with the strongest laws have the most successful schools and parents in those states are getting the best educational value."

Each state received a grade, A through F, based on dozens of criteria including having multiple charter school authorizers, the limits placed on the number of schools allowed, funding that follows the students to whatever schools they attend, the ability for charters to operate without burdensome controls and freedom from local collective bargaining obligations.

Minnesota leads a pack of 40 states and Washington D.C. with the nation's strongest charter school law, according to the annual analysis. In all, eight states received an A.

In addition to Minnesota, the A states include D.C., Michigan, Arizona, California, Florida, Delaware and Indiana.

Allen points out that parents often spend much time reviewing college rankings when deciding where their child should attend and ought to pay similar attention to the rankings of their state's K-12 school system.

In all, more than half the nation's 41 charter school laws have created a strong environment for charter schools to open and grow, earning a grade of A or B.

Charter schools are independent public schools, designed by educators, parents, community leaders, educational entrepreneurs and others who want to provide quality education tailored to student need.

Charters operate outside the educational bureaucracy that too often stifles innovation in traditional public schools.

There are 41 charter schools operating in Indiana, and can be converted public schools, new start up schools and virtual schools, according to the 2001 law.

In a 2007 amendment, funding was cut for virtual schools, essentially eliminating them.

Charter schools must show improvement year to year through accountability measures like the ISTEP+ test and the Graduation Qualifying Exam.

Currently, the closest charter school to Clay County is in Sullivan, Rural Community Academy. The kindergarten through seventh-grade school opened in 2004, and 102 students are enrolled.

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