The U.S. Department of Education announced today new grants totaling more than $157 million through its Charter Schools Program (CSP), which funds the creation and expansion of public charter schools across the nation.
Since the program’s inception, the Department has invested over $3 billion in the charter school sector, and worked to strengthen accountability and quality of charter schools that are creating opportunities for students facing challenging circumstances.
These grants have had a major impact on the nation’s charter school sector. During the 2013–14 school year, for example, nearly half of the nation’s public charter schools benefited from CSP investments. Today’s announcement follows a period of significant growth, as well as academic and operational improvement, within the charter sector. Educators are leading innovative, community-based public charter schools that educate almost 3 million students across the country. The Department is proud to support high-quality public charter schools, especially those that are creating pathways to college, credentials and careers for low-income students and first-generation college-goers.
“All students have the right to an education that prepares them for college and their careers, and we’re thrilled that a growing number of charter schools create opportunities for students to achieve just that,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “In particular, we are excited to see so many high-quality charter management organizations focused on replicating successful models in high-needs communities. As we celebrate charter schools that help children from disadvantaged backgrounds, we must continue empowering educators to create great schools while holding ourselves to the highest possible standards of excellence.”
This year’s state grant program awarded $125 million in new grants to eight states. The funding will enable them to run state-level grant competitions to support approximately 400 new and expanded public charter schools.
This year’s CSP replication and expansion program will invest more than $32 million in 12 high-quality charter management organizations (CMOs) that serve students from low-income families. These organizations have a history of effectively serving high-need students, and will use these funds to replicate their successful programming for more than 40,000 additional students. Most of this year’s grantees are newer CMOs who are receiving their first charter grant. They are particularly focused on educating students who would otherwise be enrolled in low-performing schools and on encouraging diversity within their student populations. Prior to today’s announcement, the CMO program had previously invested over $230 million in planning and implementing more than 400 high-quality public charter schools and opening over 250 public charter schools across 20 states.
Many public charter schools, especially those serving students in high-poverty, urban areas, have seen promising improvements in student achievement. According to a 2013 study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), the relative performance of charter schools compared to traditional schools has improved each year. The most recent CREDO study showed that charter school students in urban areas gain roughly 40 days of additional learning per year in math and 28 additional days of learning per year in reading.
The Department is committed to working with its partners at the state and local level to hold charter schools and their operators to high expectations for academic and operational excellence. While the charter schools sector has improved quality and oversight in recent years, the Department continues to be concerned about charter schools’ impact on student learning and about proper financial management of scarce public dollars. As part of this effort, the Department asked this year’s state grantees to focus on establishing rigorous performance expectations for all public charter schools, including ensuring equity for all students.
To help bring more clarity to states’ responsibility when it comes to fiscal oversight of charter schools, the Department is releasing a Dear Colleague Letter to states today emphasizing the importance of financial accountability for charter schools receiving federal grant funds. And as part of its commitment to transparency, the Department is also planning on releasing initial data on the more than 4,000 charter schools funded under CSP since its inception.
In my opinion, this is just more “cash in the trash”. It’s a waste of money to an industry that hit its peak, but desperation leads to desperate measures. As more US citizens wise up to the corporate education reform, look for more funds thrown charter schools way…