Caroline Roemer

Louisiana has the second best charter school laws in the nation, a national advocacy group for the schools announced Tuesday.

The ranking is up from third last year among the 43 states and District of Columbia that have such laws, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C.

The state was ranked sixth and 13th in the two previous years.

Charter schools are public schools run by nongovernmental boards.

About 70,000 students attend the state’s 134 charter schools in 20 parishes.

Charter schools are supposed to offer innovative alternatives to traditional public schools, and New Orleans is a national leader in the presence of charter classrooms.

Opponents contend the schools have a mixed record of academic success and strip needed dollars from traditional public schools, especially during state budget downturns like Louisiana is experiencing.

Les Landon, a spokesman for the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, said meeting some of the group’s standards has the effect of moving charter schools further from the control of local taxpayers.

Caroline Roemer Shirley, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, noted that charter schools were authorized in Louisiana two decades ago. “So I applaud all the people over the past 20 years that got us to No. 2,” she said.

A key concern, Shirley said, is a lawsuit set for a hearing in March in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge.

The challenge was filed by the Louisiana Association of Educators and questions the legality of $60 million in annual state spending on two types of charter schools.

Attorneys for the state dispute the claims.

LAE President Debbie Meaux said in an email that while she had not studied the rankings “perhaps a more compelling report would come from an unbiased organization examining the comparability of charter schools to traditional public schools and the criteria in which they are held accountable.”

The national alliance came up with its rating by studying how states fared on what officials called 20 key components to successful school governance.

The state earned 167 of a possible 228 points, the same as last year.

Minnesota, which has been rated first for five of six years, collected 174 points.

Maryland was ranked last among states that have the laws.

Louisiana won praise for not imposing caps on the number of charter schools, allowing multiple groups to authorize the schools, autonomy and accountability.

One weakness, according to the report, is the lack of a law to ensure equitable funding for charter buildings, including revolving loan programs, bonding authority and the right to first refusal to purchase a closed public school.

Other categories include transparency, types of charters, data collection and exemptions from some state rules, including certified teachers.

The same organization ranked Louisiana as second of 26 states reviewed nationally in October in growth, performance and innovation.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics blog at