Pre-K and Charter Schools: Where State Policies Create Barriers to Collaboration

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In Pre-K and Charter Schools: Where State Policies Create Barriers to Collaboration, authors Sara Mead and Ashley LiBetti Mitchel examine thirty-six jurisdictions that have both charter schools and state-funded pre-K programs to determine where charters can provide state-funded pre-K. Among the findings:
  • Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia have both state-funded pre-K and charter laws. Of those, thirty-two have at least one charter school serving preschoolers.
  • Charter schools in all but four states face at least one significant barrier to offering state pre-K. Nine have statutory or policy barriers that preclude charter schools from offering state-funded pre-K; twenty-three 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.

Recommendations for state policymakers:

  • 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.

Recommendations for federal policymakers:

  • Include pre-K in the federal definition of "charter school."
  • Ensure that federal preschool programs, including Head Start, provide charters equitable access to funding.

State Profiles

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If you have questions about the book, please email David Griffith.