Dear Presidents, We Thank You for Supporting Charter Schools

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It’s been 25 years since the passage of the first charter school law in 1991. When Bill Clinton was sworn in as President in 1993, only Minnesota and California had passed charter school laws. When President Clinton left the office in 2001, there were 1,941 charter schools in operation.

Another crucial piece of legislation passed during President Clinton’s administration: the creation of the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP). The CSP provides essential funding to create new high-quality charter schools, as well as to disseminate information about ones with a proven track record. Federal CSP funds are also available to replicate and expand successful schools; help charter schools find suitable facilities; reward high-quality charter schools that form exemplary collaborations with the non-chartered public school sector; and invest in national activities and initiatives that support charter schools.

“The idea behind charter schools is that not all kids are the same—they have different needs; they have different environments—but there is a certain common level of education that all kids need, no matter how different they are, and that it would be a good thing to allow schools to be developed which had a clear mission, which could reach out to kids who wanted to be a part of that mission, who could achieve educational excellence for children who otherwise might be left behind…” —Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States

There were 2,313 charter schools serving students when President George W. Bush came to office. This number had doubled to 4,640 charter schools when he left office in 2009.

“Charter schools encourage educational entrepreneurs to try innovative methods. They break up the monopoly of one-size-fits-all education. These diverse, creative schools are proof that parents from all walks of life are willing to challenge the status quo if it means a better education for their children. More competition and more choices for parents and students will raise the bar for everyone.” —George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States

When Barack Obama became president, there were 4,913 charter schools. Currently there are 6,824 charter schools operating this school year.

“Whether created by parents and teachers or community and civic leaders, charter schools serve as incubators of innovation in neighborhoods across our country. These institutions give educators the freedom to cultivate new teaching models and develop creative methods to meet students’ needs. This unique flexibility is matched by strong accountability and high standards, so underperforming charter schools can be closed, while those that consistently help students succeed can serve as models of reform for other public schools. In an economy where knowledge is our most valuable asset, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity — it is an imperative. Our children only get one chance at an education, and charter schools demonstrate what is possible when States, communities, teachers, parents, and students work together.” —Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States

Charter school enrollment has grown sixfold over the past 15 years. The National Alliance thanks these three presidents for their support which made this tremendous growth in the number of charter public schools—and most importantly, the number of students who have access to a public school of their choice—possible.