As the 2022 state legislative sessions kick-off, the National Alliance is working in a variety of states to ensure positive conditions for charter schools to flourish. There are six states in particular where we’re working with partners to advance charter school bills.
Last fall, newly inaugurated Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin upset former Governor Terry McAuliffe for the seat, with education a major issue in the race. The contrast between the two candidates on the charter school issue could not have been starker. On the campaign trail Youngkin pledged to support the creation of 20 new charter schools in the state, while McAuliffe vetoed a charter school bill that we championed there in 2017.
In addition to Youngkin winning the governor’s race, Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears—another charter school champion—won her seat and the House flipped to Republican control. Democrats still maintain control of the Senate.
We are working with our partners on the ground in this challenging political terrain to get a bill enacted that would overhaul the state’s weak charter school law (HB 356/SB 125). This bill is similar to the one vetoed by McAuliffe in 2017 and addresses some of the key shortcomings of the current law, especially as it pertains to authorizing, autonomy, accountability, and funding. We feel 2022 is our best shot yet at getting a strong law on the books in Virginia that will support high-quality public charter schools.
In New Mexico, we are working with our partners to get a bill enacted that would enhance the state’s support of charter school facilities in several ways, including by providing a $700 per-pupil lease assistance allotment, creating a $10 million revolving loan fund, and ensuring that unused district facilities are offered to charter schools. We expect this bill (HB 43) will be heard soon in the House Education Committee.
We are working with our partners in New Hampshire on three bills addressing charter school facilities. One would establish a procedure for a charter school to elect to include its facilities costs in the local school district’s vote to authorize bond indebtedness. Another adds charter schools to grants for school building aid. And yet another establishes a new facility planning and development program to assist all public schools with facilities expenses. The last two bills have been heard in the House Education Committee. The first one will be heard there next week.
In Idaho, we are working with our partners on a number of bills, including one that would allow charter schools to certify teachers, another that would create a revolving loan fund for start-up facility costs, and one that would allow full-day kindergarten.
We are also working with our partners in Kentucky to get a bill enacted that would fix the charter school law’s funding flaw and improve the authorizing climate. In Iowa, we’re working with our partners on a clean-up bill after getting a law enacted there last year to overhaul the state’s previously weak charter school law.
Beyond our priority states, there are numerous pro-charter school bills being advanced this year. Some that have caught our eye include funding equity legislation in Indiana, multiple authorizer legislation in Mississippi, and bills pertaining to funding equity and the charter school cap in Washington state.
2022 is an election year so it is hard to say how many of these and other bills will actually make it into law this year. State lawmakers are sometimes hesitant to take votes on tough political issues like charter schools when they are facing re-election in the fall.
Still, we are encouraged to see charter school advocates pressing forward on these important policy priorities. Even if we don’t succeed on all of them, we are building momentum for these and other efforts in 2023, after what will likely be very consequential gubernatorial and state legislator elections this fall.
Todd Ziebarth is the senior vice president of state support and advocacy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.