Charter schools are gaining momentum, and a recently-passed bill in the House of Representatives will help make it easier to start and maintain charter schools. The Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act, an amendment to the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, was introduced to address the growing education sector.
The concerns, elaborated by the House Education and the Workforce Committee, are that charter schools “face difficulty in securing facilities to house their schools” and “have difficulty obtaining the funds necessary to build or rehabilitate facilities.” Also, they [are] concerned about charter school quality and [helping]them to become successful. The committee hoped that the bill would help charters expand their “reach out to special populations, including at-risk students, students with disabilities, and English learners.”
The bill’s summary reads:
“The Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act consolidates the two programs into one, refocuses the new program to promote high-quality charter schools at the state and local level, and allows states to use federal funds to start new charter schools as well as expand and replicate existing high-quality charter schools. Additionally, the bill authorizes a Charter Management Organization (CMO) grant program to support CMO successes in opening quality charter schools nationwide.”
The cost of the bill will be close to $300 million for the upcoming fiscal years 2015 through 2020 and the mandates are made up of several major parts:
“Grants to support high-quality charter schools will be awarded to a State Educational Agency, the State Charter School Board, the Governor, or a Charter School Support Organization. The grants will support the expansion and replication of high-quality charter schools, and new, innovative charter school models. Additionally, each state will use a portion of the funding to support quality initiatives aimed toward improving charter school authorizing.
- Facilities Aid will be awarded to continue credit enhancement activities and support state facilities aid for charter schools.
- National Activities will allow the Secretary of Education to operate a grant competition for charter schools in states that did not win or compete for a state grant and a competition for high quality CMOs. This section also requires the secretary to offer technical assistance to help eligible grantees apply for the grant, as well as to help grantees properly implement the grant. The secretary will also be allowed to disseminate best practices to ensure all public schools may benefit from charter schools’ success. Finally, the secretary will conduct an evaluation to examine the effects of the legislation on charter schools, including student achievement.”