With the start of the 118th Congress getting underway, it is time for us update and reaffirm our top policy priorities for charter schools. As families and schools continue to grapple with the impacts of the pandemic, what will make a difference for students in 2023?
Access to a high-quality education can change the trajectory of a child’s life, and students and communities also benefit when there are more options of where to attend school. Charter schools in particular help strengthen public education and provide millions of students with the opportunity to attend a school that meets their needs.
Here are 5 education priorities at the federal level that could help make a difference for kids in 2023:
1. $500M for the Charter Schools Program
The Charter Schools Program (CSP) is the only dedicated source of federal funding to support the growth of public charter schools. Increased funding for the CSP is a small but critical step toward an education ecosystem in which every child has the opportunity to attend a school that meets their needs.
The CSP is currently funded at $440 million—the same allocation it has received each year since FY 2019. Given the steady increase in parents choosing charter schools for their children, the CSP should receive at least $500 million to meet demand.
2. Flexibility to prioritize CSP funds to meet community needs
In addition to increased funding, we support some flexibility for the U.S. Department of Education to allocate funds among programs to meet changing needs in the community. In any given year, more or less funds may be needed to support state grants, replication and expansion, facilities, and other programs within the CSP.
Enhanced flexibility will allow CSP funds to go to the programs with the highest impact year to year.
3. Improve charter school access to facility funding
Access to affordable and appropriate school facilities continues to be one of the biggest challenges for charter schools. Without dedicated funding or access to public buildings, many charter schools are forced to operate in subpar spaces and use funds meant for instruction to pay for a building.
We propose a reboot to the existing State Facilities Incentive Grant within the CSP to provide additional flexibility and resources to support more schools in more states. Check out the bipartisan legislation introduced last year by Senators Cassidy (R-LA) and Bennet (D-CO).
4. Empower educators to open their own schools
Current educators may have some of the most promising ideas for innovative new schools, but often lack the time and resources to develop a charter application.
We propose a new preplanning grant authority which would allow a percentage of state CSP grant funds to go to teacher-led planning or school incubation projects, opening up a new pipeline of educator-led schools to meet community needs.
5. Increase resources and strengthen equity for all students
The National Alliance supports increased funding for the federal programs that support all public school children, including Title I, Title III, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Charter schools, like all public schools, depend on funding from these programs to provide a high-quality education to their students, especially those with the greatest needs.
Across the country, public charter schools have grown to serve 3.7 million students—7.5% of America’s public school students—in 7,800 schools. During the pandemic, more than 240,000 additional students enrolled in charter schools and public support for charter schools is strong.
We know there is demand for charter schools. Now we just need our federal legislators to help them grow.
Learn more about the National Alliance’s education priorities for 2023 in The Charter School Community’s 2023 Priorities for the 118th Congress.
Fiona Sheridan-McIver is the director of policy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.