The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) advances and strengthens the ideas and practices of authorizing so students and communities–especially those who are historically under-resourced–thrive. NACSA engages authorizers who oversee more than two-thirds of all charter schools in the country and reflect the organizational and geographic diversity of the field, including local school districts, state departments of education, independent chartering boards, institutions of higher education, non-profit organizations, mayors, and others.
The Empower Charter School Leaders Act would provide state entities with greater flexibility to use federal Charter School Program grant funds to meet the needs of the charter school community in their state. Specifically, NACSA applauds the flexibilities that would help state entities (SEs) address known barriers for starting and growing community-initiated charter schools.
We believe the combination of activities in this bill can be particularly impactful as the authorizing community works to rethink the new school application process so that there are more excellent schools led by diverse groups of community members and educators.
The vast majority–more than 85%— of individuals preparing an application to open a new charter school do not have external support from a non-profit foundation or a charter school incubator before submitting an application to a charter school authorizer. Yet charter schools that do have such support are nearly 1.5 times more likely to have a high-quality application that can be approved. Enabling SEs to fund educators and community members as they prepare their charter application can greatly increase their likelihood of being approved and opening with a strong foundation for success.
SE grantees are using Technical Assistance funds in meaningful ways to improve charter school quality in their states, improve charter school oversight, and address the needs of students with disabilities and English Learners. An example of these initiatives is the Texas Authorizer Leadership Academy (TALA), created by the Texas Education Agency in partnership with NACSA, to improve and enrich charter school authorizing in Texas. TALA orients school district leaders to the work of authorizing and equips staff with the authorizing tools, practices, and resources that help increase the number and variety of high-quality, best-fit school options for students and families. As a result of TALA, district authorizers in Texas have helped facilitate the opening of more, higher-quality, community-driven charter schools in Texas communities. NACSA has heard first hand from multiple SEs who would like to enhance these technical assistance activities to reach more schools, but under the current restrictions they lack the funds to do so. Allowing SEs to use more funds for Technical Assistance, if they choose, gives SEs the flexibility to propose meaningful initiatives that can touch all charter schools in a state.
Learn more about the bill here.