"Alternative" Charter School Authorizers: Playing a Vital Role in the Charter Movement

Louann Bierlein Palmer
Progressive Policy Institute
December 2006

Fordham produced two of the first studies on charter authorizers in the nation (see here and here). Now, Louann Bierlein Palmer, who co-authored the first of our studies, has issued this report on "alternative" authorizers, which are "rapidly becoming the preferred authorizers and are increasingly being asked to develop model authorizing practices." An "alternative authorizer" is defined as a group functioning outside the traditional realm of public K-12 school governance. (To date, just 14 of 41 states and the District of Columbia permit alternative authorizers.) Alternative groups, according to Palmer, are also distinguished by these three characteristics: 1) their desire to work as authorizers, 2) their relative isolation from politics, and 3) their ability to create infrastructure, and not just serve as an overseer. Palmer examines four major types of alternative authorizers (separate state-level charter boards, higher education institutions, municipal offices, and nonprofit organizations) and rates how strongly each embraces the above-mentioned characteristics. The result is an interesting snapshot of the range of strengths and weaknesses that each brings to the table. (Nonprofits are more insulated from politics than are separate state charter boards, for example, and therefore more likely to make data-driven decisions.) Policy makers looking to bring alternative authorizers into their states will benefit from Palmer's detailed descriptions and analysis. Read it here.

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