WASHINGTON, D.C. | May 9, 2011 -
By Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA)
Many students get trapped in failing schools and need a way out and public charter schools offer that opportunity. Charter schools serve as a consistently high-quality alternative to some failing public schools. They put a real premium on quality education and are often held to a higher standard of accountability for student achievement.
Charter schools offer parents the choice and flexibility to escape struggling schools and the education bureaucracy that surrounds them. I believe parents are best equipped to make decisions for their children, including the educational setting that will best serve the interests and educational needs of their child.
It is for that reason that I believe states should lift caps on the number of charter schools that can exist and the number of students these schools can serve. Charter schools have made great strides in raising achievement and tackling unique educational challenges from urban centers to rural areas. But despite their many successes, charter schools are not growing as they should. They face overwhelming barriers to expansion, from arbitrary state caps to hostile state legislatures.
We should incentivize charter school expansion at the state level while increasing awareness about the most effective strategies employed by charter schools, because charter schools rest on the pulse of education.
Innovation thrives within the walls of charter schools across the country. With close to 5,000 charter schools nationwide in 40 states and D.C., serving more than 1.6 million students, this innovation leads students, teachers, and parents to work together to develop an educational program that teaches students to excel in K-12 and sets them up for measurable success in college.
We have all seen the results of inflicting the many unfunded mandates on our nation's public schools, and I believe that the charter school movement, led by states such as California, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, New Mexico, Massachusetts and Wisconsin in the early 1990s, is a direct result of the desire for parents to increase their personal involvement and control of their children's education.
These laboratories of learning are proliferating from coast-to-coast, and the common denominator between them all is a staunch desire for local hands-on control by parents and teachers.
Throughout my congressional tenure I have sought to make sure that public charter schools are given adequate opportunity to prove that they are a viable alternative to traditional public schools.
I have consistently fought for additional funding of the charter schools program and am proud to have worked closely with my colleagues to ensure that public charter schools are not only protected, but continue to thrive.
Parents understand the importance of charter schools and that message became clear for many last year when the movie “Waiting for Superman” made rounds through movie festivals and moved many people and organizations to action. The movie documented the lives of a variety of students making their ways through the educational system, hoping to be selected in a lottery for acceptance into charter schools, which appeared to offer a better opportunity at an education.
That documentary and the fervor behind saving DC Opportunity Scholarships for the children of our nation’s capital were illustrations of the personal value of charter schools to administrators, teachers, parents, and students.
I remember visiting with some of the students enrolled in the DC Opportunity Scholarships program a few years ago when one of them ran up to tell me she just wanted “a chance to learn.”
Charter schools are essential to turning around our nation’s ailing public schools system. They offer choices to parents and children, many of whom would otherwise be trapped in chronically underperforming public schools.
Demand for charter schools remains high, with hundreds of thousands of students on charter school wait lists. I’d like to see these waiting lists cleared and policies put in place to ensure the long-term viability and success of public charter schools. Every child deserves the caliber of education high-performing charter schools provide, which is why these schools deserve our support.
Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) recently received the National Charter School Champion Award on May 5, 2011 and serves as a senior member of the U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee.