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New Guidance Allows Charter Schools to Preference Educationally Disadvantaged Students in Lotteries

National charter school group applauds move to bring federal policy into line with state law WASHINGTON, D.C. —  Today the U.S. Department of Education issued updated guidance to public charter schools seeking to use “weighted” admission lotteries when selecting students. This new guidance allows the use of weighted lotteries to preference educationally disadvantaged children and brings federal policy into line with many state laws. The National Alliance has been advocating for these changes for more than two years. When a charter school does not have enough seats for all students seeking to attend, students are admitted through a lottery process to give all students an equal chance of being selected. Previously, the federal government required those admission lotteries to be “blind” if a school wanted to qualify for federal money designated to support the start-up costs of charter schools. This requirement disqualified charter schools that gave disadvantaged students a slight edge in the lottery process, sometimes because state law required them to do so, from receiving these much-needed start-up grants. Nina Rees, the president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools issued the following statement in response to the new guidance:
“We are glad the Department of Education will now allow charter schools to use a weighted lottery to enroll more educationally disadvantaged students and still qualify for federal funding through the Charter Schools Program. These students—students with special needs, those who are low-income or homeless, and learning English—are some of our country’s most underserved. For years charter schools across the country have been giving preferences to these students in their lotteries, only to find themselves barred from federal funding by the Department. This new guidance brings the federal government in line with policies several states have already put into place so charters can enroll disadvantaged students in alignment with their missions. Charter schools are already serving a disproportionate number of low-income and English learner students; and these changes will allow charter schools to continue their focus on these types of students in innovative ways while ensuring that they will be able to access federal start-up grants. We look forward to working with the Department to ensure that charter schools who are awarded funds through the Charter Schools Program are aware of this change and can implement weighted lotteries smoothly.”
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 sector. For more information, please visit our website at www.publiccharters.org.