National Alliance Statement on Proposed Cut to the Federal Charter Schools Program and the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force

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Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, issued the statement below in response to two important issues that impact charter schools:

  • The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee this week approved fiscal year 2021 legislation, which included reducing the Charter Schools Program by $40 million below the 2020 enacted level.
  • The Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force offered suggestions on charter schools as part of recommendations to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Platform Drafting Committee.

“This is an important week for charter schools and recent developments underscore the critical work we have before us as charter school advocates.

We are disappointed that the House Appropriations Committee voted to reduce funding for the Charter Schools Program by $40 million in fiscal year 2021. These innovative public schools currently serve 3.5 million students across the country, and at least five million more students would attend one if it were available. Our disappointment is, however, tempered because the committee wisely chose not to follow the President’s budget request to eliminate the program in favor of a block grant. Even in these difficult times, we acknowledge the leadership of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) Subcommittee in affirming the value and necessity of the Charter Schools Program.

Although the committee voted to reduce funding, we would like to applaud the leadership of Representatives Harris and Cole, who stood up for charter school students. Congressman Andy Harris, M.D. (MD-01), voiced his concern about the decreased funding of charter schools in this bill, noting the impact on students of color, including those in his home state of Maryland. In addition, Ranking Member Tom Cole (OK-4) offered an amendment to restore the $40 million cut from the Charter Schools Program. He expressed disappointment about the cut, noting that the program has enjoyed bipartisan support and done so much to support charter schools, which offer an alternative for students trapped in chronically underperforming schools.

This week, we are also disappointed by the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force recommendations on K-12 education which are harmful to charter schools. I encourage Mr. Biden to reject these recommendations because they will hurt the most vulnerable students in America. If adopted by the Biden Campaign, these recommendations would send a clear signal that the campaign values the status quo more than the needs of schools that serve predominately Black and Latino students, and students from low-income families. This is not the time to move our country backwards on education.

We urge several important changes to the platform recommendations. First, charter schools should be listed among the multiple public school pathways that provide access to the opportunities students deserve. To omit charter schools from this groups suggests either a lack of understanding or a deliberate snub. Further, federal charter school funding for charter schools should not be contingent upon a review by a school district. This is clearly problematic because districts have a conflict of interest and often see charters as competitors. In addition, increased federal regulation of charter schools would override local control by charter school authorizers, even though states already hold charter schools accountable to higher standards of transparency than district schools.

Mr. Biden should be careful not to turn his back on the Black and Brown families who support him, and who also overwhelmingly support charter schools. In communities across the country, these voters showed up for him and secured his place as the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. The Biden Campaign should remember these facts:

  • Charter schools are an important part of public education and they deserve fair funding and support.
  • Charter schools disproportionately serve Black and Brown students and students from low-income communities. When you shortchange charter schools, you shortchange those families.
  • There are 3.5 million students in charter schools across the country, and their parents, teachers and school leaders vote.
  • The federal Charter Schools Program has enjoyed bi-partisan support since the first grant was awarded in 1995, because it works.”