Guest author, Gina Mahony, is the Senior Vice President of Government Relations for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
The first week of May, during National Charter Schools Week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill (H.R. 10) to reauthorize the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP). Every member of the Tennessee Congressional delegation voted YES on H.R. 10, which is a great tribute to the success of the charter school movement in Tennessee!
Since 1994, the federal Charter Schools Program has provided charter schools with start-up and expansion grants and funding for school buildings. It is the only dedicated source of funding to support charter schools in the entire federal budget. The CSP accounts for less than 1 percent of all federal spending on K-12 schools, even though charter schools are educating 5 percent of all students nationwide. Many of our nation’s most successful charter schools would not have been able to open their doors without the CSP program. In fact nearly 4,500 schools have received CSP grants.
New charter schools only receive state and local school funding once they are open and teaching children. Until then, the CSP is the only source of federal money available to school leaders to help off-set the costs of planning and opening a school. Tennessee charter schools have received more than $30 million from the CSP since 2002 – clearly this funding is critical for Tennessee’s 71 public charter schools.
H.R. 10 will better target the program’s limited funds to support the growth of quality public charter schools by:
- Giving priority to states, such as Tennessee, that do not limit the number of charter schools;
- Investing in improving the quality of charter school authorizers;
- Incentivizing the replication and expansion of charter schools that have a strong track record of success in closing the achievement gap, which will be critical recruiting charter operators for the Achievement School District in Memphis and Nashville.
- Allowing charter schools to give educationally disadvantaged students a priority in their school lotteries; and,
- Allowing students to remain within an existing network of charter schools as they move from elementary to middle to high school, without having to reapply through a lottery.
These policy changes will pave the way for more high-quality charter schools to open in Tennessee and begin serving students.
Charter schools are showing us that it is possible for all students – regardless of their backgrounds – to achieve at high levels and be prepared for college and life. Federal CSP funding is critical for the opening and expansion of high-quality charter schools. H.R. 10 makes important improvements to the CSP and we are pleased with the support from the Tennessee Congressional delegation.
Finally, we would also like to thank Senator Lamar Alexander, who was a leader in introducing S. 2304, the Expanding Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act, also during National Charter Schools Week. S. 2304 includes many of the same provisions from H.R. 10, and has the full support of the charter school community.
Please take the time to thank Senator Alexander and the House Congressional delegation!