Report: State Policies Raise Barriers to Pre-School in Chartering

We know that early education brings big benefits for children later in life. So why are there so many barriers to collaboration between chartering and preschool?

A July report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, entitled Pre-K and Charter Schools: Where State Policies Create Barriers to Collaboration, examined 36 jurisdictions that have both charter schools and state-funded pre-kindergarten to determine where charter schools can provide state-funded preschool.  The findings by researchers Sara Mead and Ashley LiBetti Mitchel of Bellwether Education Partners were sobering:

  • 35 states and District of Columbia have both state-funded pre-K and charter laws. Of those, 32 have at least one charter school serving preschoolers.
  • Charter schools in all but four states, however, face at least one significant barrier to offering state pre-K. Nine have statutes or policy barriers that preclude charter schools from offering state-funded pre-K; 23 other states technically permit charters to offer state-funded pre-K but have created practical barriers that significantly limit their ability to do so in practice.
  • The most common practical barriers include low funding levels, small pre-K programs, barriers to kindergarten enrollment, and local district monopolies on pre-K funds.

What can policymakers do?

  • Ensure that the state’s definition of a “charter school” includes pre-K in the activities or grade levels that charters are permitted to offer.
  • Establish clear policies that allow charter schools operating publicly funded pre-K to enroll the children served by those programs directly into their kindergarten classes.
  • Make certain that charter schools have equal access to state pre-K funds.
  • Include pre-K in the federal definition of “charter school.”
  • Ensure that federal preschool programs, including Head Start, provide charters equitable access to funding.

The report offers a profile of each researched state. Only seven states are “hospitable” for charters seeking to offer pre-K. Unfortunately, my home state of Minnesota is ranked “Not Hospitable.” More on that in Tuesday’s blogpost.