NSBA expressed disappointment yesterday with the recent vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to provide $300 million in additional federal funds to support charter schools.
On Tuesday, the House voted 365 to 54 in favor of H.R. 2218, the Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act, which expands a federal program to provide state grants for charter school start-ups. NSBA had urged members of Congress to reject the bill.
“This flawed legislation lacks accountability by allowing independent charter sponsorship and is extremely costly in this current economic environment,” said Michael A. Resnick, NSBA’s associate executive director for federal advocacy and public policy.
Although supportive of charter schools, NSBA questioned a number of provisions in the House legislation—and shared those concerns with House members in the days and weeks prior to Tuesday’s vote.
One concern was the priority placed on states using multiple authorizers for charter schools. NSBA’s position is that, to ensure proper accountability, local school boards should be responsible for sponsoring charter schools—and they must have the authority to decertify or not renew the charter of any school that fails to demonstrate improved student achievement.
“Local board sponsorship of charter schools creates a positive synergy between the traditional schools and charters, while charters sponsored by entities other than the local school board frequently result in alienation and negative competition among local schools,” Resnick said.
Another concern about the bill, NSBA argued, was that it fails to specifically direct that charter schools will “abide by the same environmental, labor, due process, and fiscal laws that public schools must.”
Supporters of H.R. 2218 garnered strong bipartisan support by including language in the bill to encourage charter schools to share “best practices” with public schools—and to expand enrollment opportunities to more disadvantaged students. But the legislation’s future remains unclear. It is just one of a series of bills that the House Republican leadership intends to consider as part of a piecemeal approach to the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Meanwhile, the Senate leadership is working on a single comprehensive reauthorization bill, and the New York Times reports that “most people involved in the process say profound partisan disagreements will make it difficult for the two chambers to coalesce around a single rewrite, perhaps until after the 2012 elections.”
As the legislative process continues, NSBA will continue to urge caution in the rush to expand the number of charter schools nationwide.
“Given that only 17 percent of charters outperform traditional public schools, where the majority of our American school children attend, the cost benefit of investing $300 million into this effort rather than into programs within traditional public schools is not justifiable,” Resnick says.
“Instead, Congress must focus on investing in and improving traditional public schools that are currently facing budget shortfalls, laying off teachers, and cutting programs that advance student achievement.”
For more information about the policy implications surrounding charter schools, local school officials can turn to the 2010 report: Charter Schools: Finding Out the Facts released by NSBA’s Center for Public Education.