H.R. 2218: Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act

H.R. 2218

Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act

Date
September 9, 2011 (112th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

On Thursday, September 8, 2011, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 2218, the Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act, under a rule.  The rule provides for one hour of general debate, equally divided and controlled by the chair and ranking minority member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce.  The rule makes in order eight amendments, each debatable for ten minutes, and provides for one motion to recommit with or without instructions.    

The bill was introduced by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) on June 16, 2011, and referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce.  A mark-up session of the Committee on Education and the Workforce was held on June 22, 2011, and the bill was reported (as amended) by a vote of 34-5.

Bill Summary

H.R. 2218 would do the following: provide financial assistance for the planning, program design, and initial implementation of charter schools; expand the number of high-quality charter schools available to students across the nation; evaluate the impact of such schools on student achievement, families, and communities, and share best practices between charter schools and other public schools; encourage States to provide support to charter schools for facilities financing in an amount more nearly commensurate to the amount the States have typically provided for traditional public schools; improve student services to increase opportunities for students with disabilities, English language learners, and other traditionally underserved students to attend charter schools and meet challenging state academic achievement standards; and support efforts to strengthen the charter school authorizing process to improve performance management, including transparency, monitoring, and evaluation of such schools.

State Grants to Support the Development of Charter Schools:  Under the current Charter School Program, funds are provided to states to plan and start new charter schools, as well as disseminate information about existing charters in states with charter school laws.  Grants are awarded to state educational agencies, which then award subgrants to charter school operators in the state.  The annual Labor/Health and Human Services/Education Appropriations Act includes language authorizing funds to support the replication and expansion of high-quality charter schools.

H.R. 2218 would consolidate funding streams into the existing state grant program, allowing state educational agencies, state charter school boards, or governors to award subgrants to support new charter school start ups in addition to the replication and expansion of high-quality charter schools and new charter school models. 

The bill would require grantees to describe how they will work with charter schools to instruct all prospective students, including students with disabilities and English language learners, and how they will provide technical assistance to ensure proper monitoring of authorizers and the charter schools in the state.  The bill would extend the grant period from three years to five years.

Incentives to Support the Development and Expansion of Successful Charter Schools:  Some states are promoting education reform policies that increase access to high-quality charter schools.  Indiana, North Carolina, Maine, Michigan, and other states are pushing laws to lift arbitrary caps on the growth of charter schools, which can stifle options for parents and students trapped in low-performing schools. 

H.R. 2218 would give priority in accessing funding to those states that agree to repeal caps on the number or percentage of charter schools permitted or the number or percentage of students that may attend charter schools in the state.  The bill would also provide priority to states that: (1) allow more than a state educational agency or a local educational agency to be a charter school authorizer; (2) provide financing to charter schools that is comparable to traditional public schools; (3) support full-blended or hybrid-online charter school models; or (4) use charter schools to help improve struggling schools.

Facilities Financing Assistance:  Unlike traditional public schools, public charter schools typically do not receive facilities funding and cannot raise funds through the imposition of local property taxes.  Some states have established per-pupil facilities aid funding to assist schools with their needs, though many public charter schools are forced to use already limited operational funds to address facilities needs.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) authorizes two grant programs that provide financial assistance to charter schools: the Credit Enhancement Grant and Facilities Incentive Grant programs.  The Credit Enhancement Grant program provides funds to public and private non-profit entities to help charter schools secure private sector capital to buy, construct, renovate, or lease appropriate school facilities.  The grant has been awarded to one national project in each of the past few years, due to the lack of funding. Facilities Incentive Grants help states establish or enhance and administer "per-pupil facilities aid" for charter schools.  These grants have not been awarded since FY 2009.

H.R. 2218 would consolidate both programs into the existing Charter School Program, allowing the Secretary of Education to compete a portion of the funds to State Educational Agencies or another eligible entity to support credit enhancement activities.  If enough funds are available, the bill would allow the Secretary to award one or more grants to support charter school facilities activities. 

National Activities:  Under current law, the Secretary of Education awards grants to individual charter schools in states that do not receive a grant under the state competition.  H.R. 2218 would continue to provide authority to the Secretary to award funds directly to charter schools in states that did not win a quality charter school grant or did not compete in the competition to support the expansion and replication of high-quality charter schools, as well as new charter school models in these states as well.  The bill would also support technical assistance to applicants and the dissemination of best practices of charter schools.  Lastly, the bill would support an evaluation of the program to measure its impact on charter schools.

Background

According to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, H.R. 2218, would provide additional educational options for parents and students by supporting the growth of public charter schools.  By expanding the development and replication of high quality charter schools, H.R. 2218 would empower parents to play a more active role in their child's education, open doors for teachers to pioneer fresh teaching methods, encourage state and local innovation, and help students escape underperforming schools.        

Despite high demand and an estimated 420,000 students on charter school wait lists, significant barriers to quality charter school growth exist.  Charter schools are public schools created through a contract with an authorized agency or local school district.  The federal government supports the opening of public charter schools through competitive grants issued by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act’s Charter Schools Program.

The current Charter School Program does not support funding for the replication or expansion of high-quality charter schools.  Many charter schools also have difficulty securing financing to build or rehabilitate facilities.  Additionally, few guidelines exist to monitor charter school quality and support successful charter schools.

Cost

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), implementing H.R. 2218 would cost about $1 billion over the 2012-2016 period, assuming appropriation of the authorized amounts.  Additional authorized amounts under H.R. 2218 would be spent after 2016.  The cost of this legislation would fall within budget function 500 (education, training, employment, and social services).  Enacting the bill would have no effect on direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.  

Amendments

Under the rule, the following eight amendments are made in order.  Each amendment is debatable for ten minutes.

Amendment No. 1—Reps. Kline (R-MN), Miller (D-CA):  The amendment would make technical corrections to the bill as well as additional policy changes including provisions regarding parent input, annual grants, education for at-risk students, diverse charter school models, transportation needs, high quality applicants, and school lunch participants.

Amendment No. 2—Rep. Davis (D-CA):  The amendment would add a purpose to H.R. 2218 that would state that the bill should seek to improve the United States education system and educational opportunities for all Americans by supporting innovation in public education in public school settings that prepare students to compete and contribute to the global economy.

Amendment No. 3—Reps. Paulsen (R-MN), Polis (D-CO):  The amendment would change the duration of subgrants in the Grant Limitations Section from five years to three years to allow successful and eligible operating schools replicate and expand faster.  The amendment would also require that the school demonstrate successful operation data for no less than three years.

Amendment No. 4—Rep. Lujan (D-NM):  The amendment would include instruction and professional development in science, technology, engineering, and math studies as an objective, where appropriate, in the requirements for running a quality charter school program.

Amendment No. 5—Rep. Polis (D-CO):  The amendment would require that in the case of a state entity located in a state that allows an entity other than a local educational agency to be an authorized  public chartering agency, the state must have a quality authorized public chartering agency that is an entity other than a local educational agency.

Amendment No. 6—Rep. Moore (D-WI):  The amendment would strike “governor of a state” from the definition of “state entity” on page 20, thus removing a Governors’ eligibility to apply for federal grant funding to oversee charter school operations in their states.

Amendment No. 7—Rep. Holt (D-NJ):  The amendment would require the Secretary of Education to give priority to states that encourage green school building practices and certification.

Amendment No. 8—Rep. King (R-IA):  The amendment would strike subparagraph (d) of subsection (6) of Sec.(9) which is part of the definition of "high quality charter schools."  The amendment would strike the following language: "(D) has demonstrated success in increasing student academic achievement for the subgroups of students described in section 1111(b)(2)(C)(v)(II)."