“The idea was that we needed a way for teachers to create what they knew would answer a need in students,” former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan (AZ-R) said.
In 1994, Arizona became the 11th state to pass a charter school law and the state received an overwhelming number of applications for new schools.
According to Keegan, Arizona was the first state to open its own State Board for Charter Schools, which provides oversight for Arizona charter schools.
“If you wanted to start a new school, you were a group of teachers, you had to go to your school board and ask for a charter school,” Keegan, who founded A for Arizona at the Arizona Chamber Foundation, said. “[Teachers] were able to go to the State Board for Charter Schools or State Board of Education and that was unique to Arizona. That is the reason Arizona developed so quickly.”
By the end of 2003, there were nearly 500 charter schools in the state.
This year Arizona’s public charter schools surpassed 200,000 students for the first time.
“Public charter school enrollment increased by 6 percent from 2017-18 to 2018-19, with charter students now comprising 18 percent of Arizona’s public-school population,” the Arizona Charter Schools Association said.
According to the association, charter school enrollment doubled over the last decade leading to schools being opened in every county.
“There’s something about how they’re governed, their cultures,” Keegan said. “The thing that is powerful about them is that they’re driven by educators. You don’t know what people are willing to do until you’ve made it possible for them.”
From 2015 to 2018, Arizona public charter school students received better than average AzMERIT test results in almost every grade and subject area.
The Arizona Charter Schools Association reported that nearly 70 percent of Arizona charter schools received either an ‘A’ or ‘B’ grade in 2017-2018 and had larger National Assessment for Educational Progress gains than any other state from 2009-2017.
“It’s no accident that charter school enrollment in Arizona has doubled over the last decade, and today stands at a record high,” Jake Logan, President and CEO of the Arizona Charter Schools Association, said in a statement. “Families demand high-quality education options for their children. And for 25 years, Arizona’s public charter schools have delivered.”
“What we know is for sure they’ve added to the array of high-quality options in Arizona,” Keegan added. “Parents are choosing a higher quality school.”
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