Year of Publication

2018

College

Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Executive Summary

Since their inception in 1991, charter schools have become a widely-adopted school choice policy intended to increase educational outcomes through competition and innovation. The details of how states structure their charter school laws are diverse across states, which raises the question of whether certain law parameters are better than others at attracting and maintaining high-quality charter schools.

Charter schools are designed around the basis of market accountability; they must attract students in order to remain in operation. The threat of closure is an incentive built into the charter model that is intended to increase school performance. For this reason, I define charter school success across states in terms of charter school closures, with the understanding that the closure rate should not be zero (indicating a lack of enforcement) but it should also not be too high (indicating poor authorizing practices).

Charter school advocates have strong beliefs about which law parameters are most conducive to the health of a state’s charter environment. I chose two law components that are recommended by two prominent advocacy groups and examined their effect on state charter school closures. Contrary to the claims of the interest groups, I did not find that these parameters impacted charter school closings.

Through a series of case studies, I further examined the advocacy groups’ policy preferences by comparing their state charter school law ranking systems. The findings of this project demonstrate that state policymakers are being pulled in different directions over policies that may actually have no real impact on charter school outcomes.

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