Paul T. O'Neill
LexisNexis and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
The Charter School Law Deskbook is an invaluable reference guide for anyone needing federal or state charter-school law at their fingertips. For each state (at least those with charter laws on their statute books), O'Neill lists all charter-related statutes and, as applicable, regulatory guidelines. It's no page turner, though it's kinda fun to use the table of contents to compare the lengths of the state sections. Not surprisingly, Texas (where everything is bigger, after all) wins with 76 pages of single-spaced legalese. The District of Columbia, with 66 pages, and California, with 62 pages, round out the top three. Also interesting is a reader-friendly chart comparing key features of charter law, such as teacher certification requirements and caps on the number of schools. The section on federal law includes a number of relevant guidelines: how charters are affected by No Child Left Behind, what kind of federal grants they're eligible for, etc. The Deskbook also includes a short but comprehensive Q & A section on "Applying Law to Charter Schools," which provides an informative introduction to the forbidding legal issues one needs to consider when starting a charter school. One assumes that, by distributing photocopies of this Q & A with their application materials, policymakers and authorizers could begin to weed out those who are naïve or only half-serious about opening new charter schools. If you do seriously plan to start a charter school, or charter schools in several states, you'll want to read the whole thing. It's $60; order it here.