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Committee Discusses the Power of Charter Schools

Today, the Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), held a hearing to examine the value of charter schools. 

“Every student is different, and families should be empowered to choose whatever school best suits their child’s strengths, rather than being forced into a one-size-fits-all approach. For many, charter schools are the best option for their student to hone his or her individual abilities and build a successful life,” Chairwoman Foxx said in her opening statement.  

Having first opened just over 25 years ago, charter schools have proven a popular option for millions of families. Presently, there are 7,000 charter schools serving nearly 3.2 million students nationwide, while surveys show another five million students would enroll in a charter school if given the chance.

“[I]f we truly want all children in America to get a good education, then we need a system of education that is diverse and contains many paths,” said Greg Richmond, President and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. “Charter schools are an important part of that diverse system, now serving 3 million students and growing. More importantly, students who have traditionally been underserved are benefiting: studies show Black, Hispanic, low-income, and special education students at charter schools all show positive gains in math and reading compared to their peers at traditional schools.”

Students in underserved areas often face reduced access to educational opportunities, and thus experience more barriers to building a successful life. Charter schools can be pivotal in helping more students from all income brackets achieve lifelong success. Citing research from his home state of Massachusetts, Dr. Martin West, Associate Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, described the positive outcomes that students are achieving in urban charter schools. 

“In our urban centers, each year of attendance at an oversubscribed charter middle school increases students’ achievement by 15 percent of a standard deviation in reading and 32 percent of a standard deviation in math. These effects are among the largest on record for an educational intervention implemented at scale, and large enough in math to close the entire black-white achievement gap while students are enrolled in middle school,” West told members.

As well as providing students and families with greater educational opportunities, charter schools are also held to a high level of accountability. Charter schools not only must comply with the same federal accountability requirements as all other public schools, but they must also maintain the trust of students’ parents.

“Accountability is a central value of charter schools, and the National Alliance has taken a leadership role in promoting quality throughout the sector and improving shortcomings where they exist. We know that for public school choice to be truly meaningful, public school choices must be high-quality. In addition to being answerable to policymakers and authorizers, charter schools are also held accountable to parents. As schools of choice, charter schools must continuously earn the confidence of parents and caregivers who want the best for their children,” said Nina Rees, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Charter schools present families with choices and give students the opportunity to receive an education that challenges and inspires. The Committee on Education and the Workforce remains committed to strengthening access to these innovative institutions so that more students from all walks of life have a shot at building a prosperous life.

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