Statement from Nina Rees, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, on the House Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill.
“While the House Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill includes a necessary boost in education funding for nearly every facet of public education, it shaves $40 million from Fiscal Year 2021 funding level and from the President’s $440 million request for the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP).
“A cut to the CSP is particularly egregious because these unique public schools overwhelmingly serve students who are Black, Brown, or from low-income families. Across the nation, charter school enrollment increased last year because parents wanted more and better for their children. Congress should listen to what parents are clearly telling them.
“The proposed reduction in the CSP funding at a time when charter school enrollment is increasing and district school enrollment is decreasing would be detrimental to the future of many Black, Brown, and low-income families who depend on the personalized attention and innovative instruction from charter schools and their dedicated teachers and leaders. We urge the full committee to think about what a cut in funding would do to the families that need help the most. These community-based schools provide opportunities to a diverse range of students who would not otherwise have a high-quality public school available to them.
“Student-centered, tuition-free, and always public, charter schools are an important part of the American public education landscape serving 3.3 million students. For 30 years, charter schools have been achieving unprecedented results for students. This is due to the freedom and flexibility to design an educational experience that meets students where they are and ensures they gain the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in college, career, and life.
“The National Alliance believes in quality, accountability, and transparency – not only to the state and authorizing entity, but most importantly to the parents and communities the school serves.
“Language in the bill seeks to make a false distinction between types of charter schools. All charter schools are public schools. Period. Charter schools, just like district schools, contract with private companies to manage certain services and other resources. To call out charter schools for this practice and eliminate their federal funding because of the tax status of the company that provides their curriculum, food, transportation, or back-office support hurts the most vulnerable students served by these schools, including students with disabilities and students of color. It is, in a word, wrong.
“Further, as written, this proposal would strip some public school students entitled to Title I and IDEA funding of the resources they desperately need if they happen to attend a charter school that has a contract with a private company for certain back office services, regardless of the quality of the school.
“This is no time to block access to a public education that works, helps families, and provides opportunity for the communities that need it most.”
Student-centered, public, free, and always open to all students, charter schools are still underfunded compared to district-run public schools. The Charter Schools Program (CSP) is the nation’s only source of dedicated federal funding for the creation of public charter 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. The CSP 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 bipartisan support since its inception.