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Charter Schools One Step Closer to Big Win with Senate Passage of ESSA

Washington, D.C. – As the U.S. Senate passed the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA) today with overwhelming bipartisan support, charter school advocates are one step closer to a big victory in achieving their slate of priorities, including critical updates to the federal Charter Schools Program. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law as early as this week.

“This is an exciting moment for the charter school movement,” said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “The National Alliance worked side-by-side with members of Congress and their staff to improve this law on behalf of students, educators and charter schools. We are extremely grateful to the members on both sides of the aisle who recognize that public education is strengthened by supporting the growth of high-quality charter public schools nationwide.”

Specifically, changes to the Charter School Program (CSP) include the following:

  • The CSP now includes dedicated funding for the replication and expansion of high-performing charter schools. In addition, state grants can also be used for the same purpose.
  • The state grant program can now be administered by governors and charter support organizations in addition to state educational agencies.
  • The state grant program prioritizes funding to states that provide equitable resources to charter schools and that assist charters in accessing facilities.
  • The state grant program provides schools with additional spending flexibility for startup funds. For example, they will be allowed to use CSP funds to purchase a school bus and make minor facility improvements.
  • The state grant program includes new protections to ensure funds go to charter schools with autonomy and flexibility consistent with the definition of a charter school.
  • Charter school representatives must be included in Title I negotiated rulemaking and must be included, like other stakeholders at the state and local level, in the implementation of many federal programs.
  • CSP recipients will have more flexibility to use a weighted lottery to increase access to charter schools for disadvantaged students. CSP grantees will also be permitted to use feeder patterns to prioritize students that attended earlier grades in the same network of charter schools.

Other provisions that affect charter schools include:

  • New and expanding charter schools are required to receive timely allocations of Title I allocations and to be “held harmless” in the same manner as other eligible Title I traditional public schools.
  • The highly qualified teacher requirement has been repealed. Charters are free to design personnel systems and hire staff that meet the unique needs of their school.
  • States are required to administer annual reading and math assessments in reading and math in grades 3-8, and once in high school. Science assessments are required once in each grade span: 3-5, 6-9 and 10-12.
  • States must hold all public schools accountable for improving student achievement of all students, as well as all subgroups of students.
  • Schools are also accountable for adjusted four year and extended cohort graduation rates.
  • LEAs have flexibility to use Title I funds for school improvement to increase the number of high-quality charter schools serving students attending failing schools.
  • New provisions to demonstrate compliance with the “supplement not supplant” requirement include additional flexibility in aligning federal program funds with their educational programs.

“There’s no question that overhauling the No Child Left Behind Act was long overdue. We look forward to working with the U.S. Department of Education and the broader charter school community to achieve its successful implementation,” added Rees.

About Charter Schools
Charter schools are independent, public, and tuition-free schools that are given the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. Since 2010, many research studies have found that students in charter schools do better in school than their traditional school peers. For example, one study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that charter schools do a better job teaching low income students, minority students, and students who are still learning English than traditional schools. Separate studies by the Center on Reinventing Public Education and Mathematica Policy Research have found that charter school students are more likely to graduate from high school, go on to college, stay in college and have higher earnings in early adulthood.

About the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the leading national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the public charter school movement. Our mission is to lead public education to unprecedented levels of academic achievement by fostering a strong charter movement. For more information, please visit www.publiccharters.org.