Whither Arizona Charter Schools?

Posted on November 15, 2005
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On paper, Arizona's charter law allows multiple charter authorizers: the Arizona State Board of Education, the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, and local school districts.

In practice, however, the Arizona State Board of Education stopped sponsoring new charter schools three years ago in a self-imposed moratorium, and local schools districts-limited in part by boundary restrictions-sponsor just 6 percent of Arizona's charter schools. Thus, for all intents and purposes, Arizona has just one authorizer left: the State Board for Charter Schools, made up of 14 political appointees.

Those 14 appointees sponsor 85 percent of Arizona's existing charter schools and are the last real standing body determining which charter schools can expand, and if any new charters will be granted. Today, the State Board approves about half as many applications as a decade ago. More rigorous application requirements may explain part of this decline, but leaving chartering in the hands of a single, politically-appointed board is unwise.

More charter authorizers are needed. Several of the state's top-ranked charter schools report two and three applications for every open spot. Permitting additional authorizers, including non-state agencies such as private universities and colleges, not-for-profit organizations, and businesses like Intel and Google, would help remove chartering from the political process and give more quality schools a chance to open.

Key Links:

-Arizona State Board for Charter Schools: School Search
-Progressive Policy Institute: A Decade of Public Charter Schools in Arizona
- Arizona Republic: "State's rules stifle charter schools, threaten success"

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