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Mississippi charter school law rated worst in the nation

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The following is a press release from The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools:

For the second year in a row, Mississippi has the nation's weakest charter school law according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools' annual ranking of state charter school laws. Maine's law ranks first.

In its third year, Measuring Up to the Model: A Ranking of State Public Charter School Laws analyzes the country's 42 state charter school laws.  Each state is scored on how well it supports charter school quality and growth, based on the 20 essential components from the NAPCS' model charter school law, which include comprehensive monitoring and data collection, equitable access to funding and facilities, and no caps.

"Significant improvements are needed in every aspect of Mississippi's law, most notably by allowing start-up charter schools and virtual charter schools, providing additional authorizing options for charter applicants, beefing up the law in relation to the model law's four quality control components, increasing operational autonomy, and ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities," said Todd Ziebarth, vice president, state advocacy and support, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.  Ziebarth is the lead author of the report.

2011 was a significant year for positive charter school legislation across the country.  Maine enacted a charter school law, becoming the 42nd jurisdiction that allows for these innovative public school options.  As a result of progressive policy changes made over the past year, New Mexico also made a big jump, moving from 20th to fourth; Indiana went from 25th to sixth; and Rhode Island from 37th to 26th.  

Conversely, Georgia's ranking dropped seven spots, slipping from seventh to 14th.  In addition, South Carolina fell six spots from 19th to 25th.  And four states dropped five places:  Missouri (13th to 18th), Oklahoma (22nd to 27th), Connecticut (24th to 29th), and New Jersey (26th to 31st).

"There were a lot of shake-ups on the list this year.  Most notably, Maine's new charter law is ranked number one after passing a strong charter law that is aligned with the NAPCS' model charter law, although it is yet to be seen how the implementation or enforcement of the law plays out," says Ursula Wright, interim president and CEO, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.  "While we see an increasing number of states creating favorable policy environments for high-quality charter schools, we acknowledge there is still a lot of work to be done."

As lawmakers prepare for the upcoming legislative sessions, the rankings provide clear indications of where some states excel and others come up short in their charter school laws.  The report also offers a roadmap for how governors and legislators can take action to strengthen charter school laws.

The 10 states with laws shown to best support the growth of high-quality charter schools are: Maine, Minnesota, Florida, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Indiana, Colorado, New York, California and Michigan.

The complete analysis can be downloaded at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools' website: http://www.publiccharters.org/publication/?id=658. See detailed state-by-state summaries and color-coded maps of how states measure against each component at the http://www.publiccharters.org/law/.