WASHINGTON, D.C. | September 8, 2011 -
The Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act is a bill that will have a direct impact on our nation’s children. Expanding access to high-performing charter schools has the potential to make a world of difference for students across the country, simply by adding a much needed layer of choice and competition that is good for every aspect of the school system—not just charters.
Unlike traditional public schools, the charter school model is not limited by a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, these institutions enjoy increased freedom from state and local rules and regulations in exchange for greater accountability.
Also, the flexibility afforded to charter schools allows teachers and school administrators to adjust schedules and coursework to better serve a wide range of students in their individual communities, including disadvantaged students.
For example, a Louisiana charter school established in the wake of Hurricane Katrina enrolled many students who had fallen significantly behind other students their age after the disaster forced them to miss a full year of school. Despite these difficult circumstances, dedicated teachers tailored ground-breaking coursework to meet the needs of these students. Student achievement levels soared and this charter school is now the third most successful high school in New Orleans.
Improved academic achievement in even the most troubled school districts is one reason why charter schools are in such high demand, with more than 400,000 students across the country on waitlists.
Even so, many states have imposed arbitrary caps on the total number of charter schools permitted, as well as the total number of students allowed to attend these schools. These provisions unnecessarily stifle parental choice and keep students trapped in low-performing schools.
Charter schools also have difficulty securing adequate funding. Current law awards funding for the establishment of new charter schools, but does not support funds for replication, updates or improvements. As a result, charter schools with a proven record of high student achievement may be unable to secure funding to replicate its educational model in a new community.
The Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act will help put an end to these barriers to charter school growth by streamlining and modernizing the federal Charter Schools Program. The law will facilitate states’ ability to access funding for the expansion and replication of the best charter schools through the simplification of the federal grant program. Additionally, the legislation incentivizes charter school development by offering priority grant funding to states that remove arbitrary caps on charter school growth.
This legislation has garnered praise from numerous outside groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, Chiefs for Change, the Charter School Lenders’ Coalition, the Knowledge is Power Program, and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Each of these groups recognizes the valuable role charter schools play in the nation’s education system, and joins us in our effort to expand access to high-quality charter schools for more students.
Charter schools provide an opportunity for students who might otherwise spend their formative years stuck in subpar classrooms. We cannot allow arbitrary measures or partisan differences to stand in the way of providing all children access to a high-quality education. I strongly encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to unite in support of a better future for the nation’s students and vote yes on the Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act.
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