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ERIC Number: ED557619
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2015-May
Pages: 26
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
The Paperwork Pile-Up: Measuring the Burden of Charter School Applications
McShane, Michael Q.; Hatfield, Jenn; English, Elizabeth
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
In 1988, Albert Shanker, head of the United Federation of Teachers, suggested that small groups of teachers could design charter (performance-based)schools as alternatives to local public schools. In theory, charter school teachers would be held in check by a performance contract but would be otherwise free from rules, norms, and regulations that have stifled innovation in America's traditional public school system. Charter school leaders would thus make a bargain, trading autonomy for accountability. In practice, however, the charter bargain has become fairly one-sided. Charter school authorizers often include hundreds of tasks in the application to open a charter school, creating an onerous and lengthy process that risks freezing out potential school operators. To be sure, many application tasks are well within authorizers' rights to require, but others are unnecessary and unduly burdensome for applicants. This is a real problem for the groups of teachers that Shanker envisioned, who might lack the time or resources to tackle these outsized applications and create new educational options for students. After coding each of the requirements in applications from 40 charter authorizers, the authors of this report found that while a plurality (43 percent) of the application requirements were clearly appropriate for authorizers to include, the majority of requirements were either unnecessary (34 percent) or clearly inappropriate (23 percent). This means that authorizers could shorten the average application by at least one-third without sacrificing their ability to ensure quality--a change that could save applicants more than 700 hours of work, based on interviewed school leaders' estimates of the amount of time it takes to complete a charter application. This paper describes the study's methodology and results as well as a handful of lessons about charter authorizing based on the interviews and application data. Three appendices are included: (1) How Requirements Were Categorized; (2) Frequency Counts for Major Categories; and (3) Individual Authorizer Breakdown.
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. 1150 Seventeenth Street NW, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 202-862-5800; Fax: 202-862-7177; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research