Preston C. Green III *
Bruce D. Baker **
Joseph O. Oluwole ***
Julie F. Mead ****
Since 1992, forty-three states and the District of Columbia have passed charter school legislation. Charter schools are commonly defined as public schools that are given considerable latitude from state rules and regulations that apply to traditional public schools while being held accountable for student achievement. There are more than 6700 charter schools nationwide, serving nearly three million students, which accounts for 6% of public school enrollment.
* John and Carla Professor of Urban Education, Professor of Educational Leadership and Law, University of Connecticut.
** Professor of Education, Rutgers University.
*** Associate Professor of Educational Administration, Montclair State University.
**** Professor of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Analysis, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Jerusha Conner *
Kelly Monahan **
Over the last decade, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB or the Act) has proven to be a boon to the charter school industry. The law enabled districts to turn over the responsibility for running a school to a charter provider if that school has gone five years without consistently raising the test scores of students in any one subgroup or demographic category for which there are more than forty students. The student sub-groups governed by this legislation include, among others, those with special needs, English language learners, low-income students, and students of a particular racial minority. Many districts across the country have availed themselves of the charter conversion option, which the law intended as a sanction that would compel struggling schools to improve. No additional sup-port or resources were provided to these struggling schools under the law.
* Associate Professor of Education, Villanova University.
** Graduate Student, School Counseling Program, Villanova University.
The authors gratefully acknowledge Jason Hodge and Joseph Szesko for their technical assistance and Neil Horgan for sharing his expertise.
Katherine E. Lehnen *
Charter schools have become a hot topic in education nation-wide. Advocates believe the hybrid public and private structure of charter schools enables them to provide education superior to traditional public schools. Charter schools have more freedom than their traditional public school counterparts because they are not subject to the same laws and restrictions. Charters use that freedom to set high standards for themselves and their students, and then strive to meet those standards using alternative, experimental curricula and teaching methods. However, the schools are not without controversy, and opponents question the educational effectiveness of charters, while entities such as teachers unions and local school boards often staunchly combat their formation. Still others believe charter schools conflict with integration efforts. In addition to ideological challenges, charters face various legal battles regarding issues such as religion and equal protection. Nevertheless, the charter school movement has swept across many states in the nation.
David G. Hinojosa *
School finance litigation, whether equality-based or adequacy-based, has helped steer state legislators and policymakers toward fairer, more appropriate school finance laws for over five decades and counting. Yet, a common criticism of these cases lingers: simply asking for more dollars for schools will not create the systemic changes needed to help students achieve in the classroom. Those criticisms often fail to acknowledge the research evidencing gains in student performance, including a longitudinal study showing long-term impacts on the most challenging student groups. While those gains are important markers for the school finance movement, the results are limited.
* National Director of Policy for the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA). The author previously litigated education civil rights cases at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). The opinions expressed here are solely of the author in his individual capacity and do not reflect the opinions of IDRA or MALDEF. The author thanks the many attorneys and advocates continuing to push for equity and adequacy in public education for all students through the courts, in the state and national capitals, and in the schools. The author also gives thanks to the University of Richmond Law Review forgoing outside the box by engaging the community on education and civil rights in its symposium.
Molly A. Hunter *
Kathleen J. Gebhardt **
Since the 1600s in New England and at least the late 1700s more broadly, colonies, states, and the U.S. Congress have recognized the importance of educational opportunity to prepare children for the responsibilities of citizenship and the challenges of changing times. While a Massachusetts court decided the first litigation for fair school funding in 1819, the modern era of these cases began with decisions in California, New Jersey, and the U.S. Supreme Court in the early 1970s. An attempt to rely on federal equal protection for funding equity in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez led to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring that education is not a fundamental right under the federal Constitution.
* Director, Education Justice, The National Program at the Education Law Center.
** Executive Director, Children‘s Voices in Colorado; Plaintiffs‘ Lead Counsel in Lobato v. State of Colorado and Dwyer v. State of Colorado.
The authors thank Courtney B. Warren, Associate at Bryan Cave LLP, for research essential to this article.
Gerard Robinson *
Education in the United States is governed by principles of federalism that guide the constitutional relationships between our national government’s three branches and state governments. American federalism was an ideological break from the old ideas of sovereignty under the English governance model that took root in the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, which occurred from May 25 to September 17, 1787. On July 13, 1787, while delegates met in Philadelphia to strengthen the Articles of Confederation (later agreeing to abandon it for a Constitution), members of the Congress of the Confederation convened in New York City and enacted the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. It, along with a then prevailing ideology of encouragement, shaped the early foundation of the federal government’s role in state education.
* Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and former Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Ed.M., Harvard University; B.A., Howard University; A.A. El Camino College. Many thanks for the thoughtful comments of the editors of the University of Richmond Law Review and Professor Kimberly Jenkins Robinson.