House Passes Charter Expansion, First of Five NCLB Bills
The House of Representatives passed 365-54 the first of five bills planned to reauthorize No Child Left Behind. HR 2218 would streamline and expand federal charter school funds and outlines a new monitoring process.
“Approving the Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act is an important first step in our efforts to improve current elementary and secondary education law, and it signals our shared commitment to the reform process,” said House Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-Minnesota).
The Obama administration, after Education Secretary Arne Duncan demanded Congress reauthorize NCLB by this fall, has begun issuing waivers of the law's accountability requirements in exchange for states making unspecified policy changes. Policy analysts and legislators have widely denounced the decision.
"the issueance of conditional waivers is detrimental to our country's shared goal of educational success for every student," Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) said in a statement on Sept. 12. "This initiative is an overstep of authority that undermines existing law, and undermines the constitutional separation of powers."
NCLB was due for reauthorization in 2007. Budget bills and congressional partisanship have delayed Congress from taking it up until recently. All Democrats voted against passing HR 2218 out of committee in summer 2012.
Encouraging States to Expand Charters
If passed by the Senate, HR 2218 would replace NCLB's charter school provisions. Kline has said his committee plans to reauthorize NCLB by the end of this year, in five bills eliminating redundant education programs, expanding charter schools, giving districts flexibility in spending federal education dollars, detailing federal teacher effectiveness standards, and rewriting federal education accountability requirements. The charters bill passed the House on Sept. 13.
In addition to consolidating several federal charter money streams into state-level grants that will allow more flexibility in awarding grants for charter school start-ups, HR 2218 provides funding for expanding high-quality charters. Currently, charter operators can get federal grants only for opening new schools, not for expanding existing ones that have proven successful.
The measure also calls for “proper monitoring of authorizers and charter schools” and expands the grant period from three to five years to ensure sufficient time for schools to stabilize.
“Done right, charter school authorizing creates and maintains a space for charters to succeed or fail on their own merit, protecting them from political agendas and special interest demands,” said David Hansen, vice president of policy and advocacy for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.