Group lauds La. charter schools

Louisiana won high marks Tuesday from a charter school advocacy group, including the state’s lack of any cap on the number of charter schools and the transparency of its application and review process.

The state was rated weakest in extracurricular and interscholastic activities for charter school students, student recruitment and access to capital funds, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Louisiana is rated sixth in the nation for what the group called the strength of its charter school laws, up from 13th last year.

The schools operate in 43 states.

Charter schools are public schools run by nongovernmental boards.

The state has 104 of the schools used by about 45,000 students in 15 parishes, including East Baton Rouge.

The group rates state laws in 20 categories, gives a rating and weight in each and a total score.

State laws were given 151 out of 228 points, up from 119 last year.

Other categories where the state got high marks were the variety of charter schools offered; automatic exemptions from some state and school district laws; and adequate funding for authorizers.

Officials of the group contend that such measures are needed to make the schools innovative alternatives to traditional public schools, as backers claim.

Charter school critics say the schools generally have failed to deliver on those promises.

State Superintendent of Education John White said Tuesday he was not aware of any glaring need for additional charter school laws during the 2013 regular legislative session, which begins April 8.

Caroline Roemer, president of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, made the same comment.

White cited figures that show, between 2010-11 and 2011-12, charter schools grew at a rate faster than all schools in the state in their annual performance scores.

Figures from the state Department of Education show that the percentage of charter schools meeting annual improvement targets during the same two years was 41.6 percent compared with 37.7 percent for all schools.

Nina Rees, president and chief executive officer of the group, said while solid state laws are the first step in paving the way for quality charter schools, future reports will focus on quality and innovation.