WASHINGTON, D.C. | September 8, 2011 -
The Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act is a key component of our efforts to reform the nation’s education system and ensure more students have access to a quality learning experience.
I join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, who have been strong proponents of charter schools for the breadth of opportunities they offer students and parents. These innovative institutions empower parents to play a more active role in their child’s education, and offer students the priceless opportunity to escape underperforming schools. They also open doors for educators to experiment with the fresh teaching methods uniquely geared to meet the needs of their individual students.
The stories of charter school success are nothing short of impressive. Students who previously had little hope have been inspired by excellent teachers to reach new heights. The tales of groundbreaking programs and initiatives at local charter schools have motivated surrounding public schools to improve. Parents have witnessed children of all backgrounds transition from struggling to excelling as a result of their charter school education.
Unfortunately, there are not enough charter schools to meet demand, and hundreds of thousands of students remain on waitlists each year. The legislation we will consider today takes important steps to encourage and support the establishment of more high quality charter schools in communities across the United States.
The bipartisan Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act will consolidate funding under the federal Charter School Program into the existing state grant program. This will allow state educational agencies, state charter school boards, and governors the freedom to award subgrants to support new charter schools, as well as replicate or expand high quality charter schools.
To ensure states are facilitating the growth and expansion of charter schools, the Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act will give funding priority to those that lift arbitrary caps on the number of charter schools permitted in the state. The legislation also will provide priority to states that take additional steps to encourage charter school growth, such as allowing more than one state or local agency to authorize charter schools, or promoting charters as a solution to improve struggling public schools.
As we work to increase the presence of charter schools in the United States, we must also protect limited taxpayer funds and make sure every dollar is well spent. It has been said that charter schools are the epitome of performance-based education: in exchange for increased flexibility and autonomy, these schools are held accountable for results. The Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act will ensure charter schools continue to be held accountable by supporting an evaluation of schools’ impact on students, families, and communities, while also encouraging shared best practices between charter and traditional public schools.
Charter schools are a valuable part of our efforts to improve the education available to our children. This legislation does not represent the whole solution; all of us recognize that additional measures must be enacted to support excellence and innovation in the American education system. However, the Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act takes an important step in the right direction.
I am very pleased that members of the Education and the Workforce Committee have put their differences aside and worked through a very bipartisan process to develop an exceptional piece of legislation. I’d like to thank members and their staffs for these efforts, and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join with us in supporting this positive legislation.
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