Two months into the 2022 state legislative sessions, we are seeing a significant amount of activity on charter school legislation.
In some states, the legislative sessions have come to a close, but the fight is still alive in others. The National Alliance and on-the-ground partners will continue to advocate for our schools in at-risk states and ones on the cusp on something big for schools.
A Facilities Win in New Mexico
In what was the biggest victory for charter schools so far this year, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a facilities bill into law last week. This bill is notable for two reasons. First, it significantly boosts the state’s support for charter school facilities by providing a $700 per-pupil lease assistance allotment, creating a $10 million revolving loan fund, and ensuring unused district facilities are offered to charter schools.
Second, it was passed with unanimous bipartisan support. The vote in the House was 64-0 and the vote in the Senate was 41-0. Every Republican and every Democrat voted for this bill—a remarkable result in this hyper-partisan moment achieved by our partners at Public Charter Schools of New Mexico, NewMexicoKidsCAN, the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, Excellent Schools New Mexico, and Teach Plus New Mexico.
Charter School Legislation Still in Session
While no other major charter school bills have been enacted yet, we are seeing progress on such bills in several states. In Florida, HB 225 has passed the House and the Senate and is awaiting the governor’s signature. This bill makes a number of changes to the charter school contract modification, consolidation, and renewal processes, including requiring authorizers to provide a 90-day notice to a charter school of the decision to renew, terminate, or non-renew before a vote and allowing automatic renewal of a charter if an authorizer does not vote on such renewal at least 90 days before the end of the school year.
In Idaho, bills that would create a charter school revolving loan fund and allow charter schools to certify their own teachers are advancing through the legislative process. A bill has been introduced in Kentucky that would create a permanent funding mechanism for charter schools and create additional authorizers. We expect it to start moving in the House there soon.
In Indiana, a bill that would increase funding for charter school students passed the House but stalled in the Senate. Advocates there are still working to get this language enacted before the end of the session this week. In Missouri, a bill that would increase funding for charter school students is facing its final vote in the House this week, though it still needs to pass the Senate.
In Oklahoma, a bill that will overhaul the state’s authorizing structure for charter schools is moving through the Senate. Tennessee is working to both revamp how it funds all public schools and change the state’s authorizing structure to allow founding groups to apply directly to the state.
Setbacks to Passing Charter School Legislation
We have also seen some setbacks this year. Mississippi failed to pass a bill that would have created additional authorizers, South Dakota failed to enact a bill that would have allowed two community-based schools focused on Lakota language and culture, and a bill to create regional authorizers passed the House in Virginia but was voted down in the Senate Education Committee.
Notwithstanding these setbacks, when all is said and done this year, we expect to see many more victories for charter schools than defeats.
Todd Ziebarth is the senior vice president of state advocacy and support at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.