President Biden's Proposed Budget is a Commitment to Equity

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With a proposed $102.8 billion in discretionary education spending, President Biden’s budget represents a historic 41 percent increase in education funding above the FY2021 enacted level. As the nation emerges from a pandemic that exacerbated inequities in educational access and left millions of students struggling to make up learning loss, this proposed increase is a bold step. 

Of note, $36.5 billion in proposed support for Title I schools and $15.5 billion for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act clearly indicate that the Administration seeks to support students, families, and teachers. With many programs as part of the American Families Plan to support and develop high-quality teachers, an increase of $400 for Pell grant awards, $100 million to help foster diverse schools, $443 million to Full-Service Community Schools, $1.3 billion for the 21st Century Learning Center, and $1 billion for a new School-Based Health Professional Program, there is much to be hopeful about.

The National Alliance had also hoped the president’s budget would have given a nod to the parents of 3.3 million students who currently attend charter schools and 2 million more students who would attend one if it were available. The budget includes a request for $440 million in funding for the Charter Schools Program (CSP), which would be the same amount as FY2021 funding. The National Alliance advocated for an increase to the CSP, the only federal program that enables the creation of new charter schools and the replication and expansion of existing, high-quality charter schools – which are always open to all students, free of charge.  

“The president’s budget sends a strong message about what his administration values and will prioritize,” said Nina Rees, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “We commend the administration’s commitment to equity in education, as evidenced by the proposed significant increases in Title I and IDEA funding. Because all charter school students are public school students, they will certainly benefit from increased funding in these areas. We were, however, disappointed to see that President Biden’s budget calls for flat funding of the Charter Schools Program. The Biden Administration’s equity agenda would be even stronger by including more high-quality public school options to meet demand. 

“The administration’s pledge to lift all forms of excellence in education cannot be fully achieved without explicit support for all public schools – both charter and district. These innovative, student-centered public schools enroll more than 3.3 million students and overwhelmingly serve students of color, with millions more students waiting for their chance to attend them. Given the strong support for charter schools from families, especially in Black and Brown communities, increased funding for the Charter Schools Program would help to meet the growing demand. During the COVID pandemic, parents voted with their feet and many states saw significant increases in charter school enrollments. Americans across the country are showing that what they value in public education is more public school options.  

“We look forward to working with Congressional appropriators to continue our efforts to increase funding for the Charter Schools Program to $500 million for next year. The Charter Schools Program is the nation’s only source of dedicated federal funding for the creation of public charter schools and represents less than 1% of federal spending on K-12 education.” 

The Charter Schools Program is making a tangible difference in the lives of students. Currently serving 3.3 million students, high‑quality charter schools are delivering life‑changing results, especially for students from low‑income backgrounds and students of color.  Specifically, 59 percent of charter schools were identified as mid-high or high poverty in 2017-18, with more than half of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch. That is why the CSP has earned broad bi-partisan support since its inception. 

Student-centered, public, free, and always open to all students, charter schools are still underfunded compared to district-run public schools. At its current funding level of $440 million, the CSP amounts to less than one percent of federal spending on K-12 education. Research has consistently shown that charter schools across the country still receive nearly 30 percent less per pupil per year in funding than neighboring district-run public schools. Increased funding is essential to ensure that more families in the United States have an equal opportunity to send their children to high-quality public schools.