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Kline Statement: Markup of H.R. 2218, the Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act

Today, the committee will consider the Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act, legislation introduced last week by my colleague and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, Mr. Hunter. This legislation is the second in a series of education bills to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. As you know, the committee approved the first bill in this reform series just last month. 

We can all agree that when it comes to educating our children, the status quo simply does not work. Forty years of more federal spending and more federal mandates have failed to improve student achievement.

Decisions about how to keep children learning and engaged in the classroom should largely be left to the parents, teachers, and school officials who are on the ground, interacting with children and the community on a daily basis. We must get the federal government out of the way of local innovation, and that starts with streamlining and modernizing existing programs and regulations.

The Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act will reform and simplify the federal Charter School Program. There is bipartisan agreement that supporting the development of high quality charter schools is a worthwhile endeavor. However, there are still too many barriers preventing the expansion of these innovative institutions. H.R. 2218 will encourage the establishment and replication of high-quality charter schools, offer incentives to states to remove unnecessary burdens that restrict charter school growth, and promote greater accountability.

Twenty years ago, my home state of Minnesota pioneered the charter school educational model. Since then, 40 states and the District of Columbia have established laws to open charter schools. This is a testament to the success of a system that emphasizes choice, flexibility, and innovative teaching methods.

When high-quality charter schools take root in local communities, students and parents are offered an opportunity to escape underperforming public schools. Not only do charter schools represent a quality education alternative for students, they also empower parents to play a more active role in their child’s education. 

No one has a better understanding of a child’s education strengths and challenges than his or her parents, and no one is more invested in making sure that child achieves their full potential. Parents who take an active interest in their children’s classroom experience are more likely to ask questions, help with homework, monitor attendance, and find ways to get involved.  If these parents believe a school is not meeting their children’s needs, they should have the right to send their children elsewhere.

For many children and their parents, charter schools are a beacon of hope for a better education.  There is incredibly high demand for these schools; in 2010, an estimated 420,000 children were on charter school waitlists. And as we were reminded through the work of some talented filmmakers, no child’s academic success should depend upon his or her luck in a lottery. As we work to ensure all students have access to a quality education, we must recognize charter schools as a valuable alternative to failing public schools, and work together to encourage their growth.

The Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act would cut through the bureaucratic red tape and administrative burdens that exist under current law, and allow successful charter school models to be replicated and expanded across the country. The legislation also ensures states are promoting quality initiatives so taxpayer dollars are dedicated to successful schools with demonstrated results. I encourage my colleagues to support H.R. 2218, and I look forward to a positive debate on this important legislation.

Before we move into debate though, I’d like to remind you that we will also consider the Committee Activities Report for the first quarter of the 112th Congress during today’s markup. This report reviews our actions over the last six months, and illustrates the progress the committee has made to address the many challenges facing classrooms and workplaces. Although we have had only six months to work together on these issues, I am positive we have made some great strides toward advancing meaningful reforms that will improve our schools and help put Americans back to work.

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