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Why the latest battle about charter rules matters

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Why the latest battle about charter rules matters

“I’m not a fan of the charter school,” Joe Biden said said when he ran for president.

Now supporters of charter schools are also not supporters of President Biden.

The Biden administration proposed a new one rules for a federal program that offers starting money for charter schools. Reflecting long-standing criticism of the charter sector, the rules will consider how future charter schools affect nearby district schools.

The move has received support from politicians and organizations that are skeptical of charter schools. But supporters of the charter see this as a conspiracy to limit their growth. Their campaign of pressure against the rules has won the support of conservatives and politicians as well Governor of the Colorado Democratic Party and the Washington Post.

This is a long-awaited struggle – the culmination of more than a decade of policy shift around statutory schools, in which they have moved from bipartisan dear office polarizing politics. At the same time, the reaction underscores the significant political capital held by Charter supporters. Statutory schools as a political force at the federal level may not work, but they do not.

“This move is likely to appeal to teachers’ unions and Democrats,” said Zachary Oberfield, a political scientist at Heverford College, where he studied charter schools. However, he believes officials may have underestimated the backlash. “I don’t think it’s a political dunk for the Biden administration.”

Rules can affect where and whether charter schools grow

The proposed regulations will apply for the federal charter school program, established in 1995, to help charter schools open and grow. The education department has awarded billions of dollars in grants in recent years, and most charter schools that opened between 2006 and 2016 received CSP dollars.

The new rules will not affect existing statutes. But for proposed schools seeking federal assistance, the rules will be, among other things:

  • Prioritize charter schools that work with school districts. Schools that do things like sharing best practices or coordinating transportation plans will be given priority for funding.
  • Require a “community impact analysis”. This would allow us to delve into whether the future charter school has the support of society and whether it is a response to “unmet demand”, as evidenced, among other things, by the “excessive set of existing public schools”. This analysis should also provide evidence that the statutory school will not exacerbate school segregation.
  • Prohibit the use of part of the funding until the charter school has a facility and is approved for opening.
  • Prohibit charter schools controlled by a commercial company from receiving a grant.

How the rules will affect the growth of charter schools is unclear. Biden has not looking cut grant funding or discontinue the program altogether. In general, the regulations will only affect how the grant applicants rank.

Analysis of community impact, for example, will be one of the indicators in the grant competition, the regulation said. The rules also note that schools that serve mostly students of the same racial or economic background will still be eligible for the grant if the segregation was due to “community demographics”.

The “priority” for partnering with charter areas can be developed as an absolute requirement, a bonus or just a friendly invitation for such applicants. The regulations do not say.

According to proponents of the charter, these new rules – especially the first two – capitulate to arguments against the charter and could prevent schools that deserve to receive start-up money.

They are concerned that additional rules may prevent some applicants from applying in the first place because they find them too difficult or do not think they meet the requirements. Lawyers also fear that funds will be diverted from cities where they believe charter schools are most needed and successful because there is also training in counties decreases the most.

“Most of the rules will be lost by the people this administration wants to support – teachers, leaders, community organizers at the local level, who have no other funding,” said Nina. Reese, president of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools.

Luke Jackson, a spokesman for the education department, declined to give anyone from the department available to record the interview. Jackson recommended Chalkbeat talk to supporters of the proposal, including Carol Barris, executive director of the Public Education Network, a group that opposes charter schools.

Representatives of the department insist that the proposal is modest in size and that the administration is not against charter schools. “I support high-quality public charter schools, and I’ve seen examples of their effectiveness,” Education Minister Miguel Cardona told a recent congress. hearing. “I think we have reasonable expectations as to how to understand the needs of the community.”

He too described critique of the proposal as based on “misinformation”.

This struggle is a test of the political strength of the Charter

Reaction to offered the rules were swift and fierce.

The pages of the articles were filled with condemnations of the proposal. “Stop the war between Biden and Democrats with charter schools,” reads the headline Fox News article. Washington Post called the rules are “awfully wrong.”

A number of republican elected officials criticized rules, as well as several Democrats, including the Governor of Colorado. Jared Polisthe founder of the charter himself, and three Democratic representatives of the United States senators. The National Alliance of State Statutory Schools has sent a number of announcements to its supporters. “Act now: Bureaucrats of the District of Columbia are planning a new attack on charter schools,” – said in an email.

The department received more than 20,000 audiences comments in response to the proposed rules – many were critical, but many were supportive.

Other support came from outstanding democratic rep. Rosa Delawareas well as long-standing critics of statutory schools, including nat teachers unions and Public Education Network.

“Community impact analysis will consider one of the most important features of urban charter schools in the United States – their potential to accelerate the concentration of the poorest and most demanding students in the public schools from which they study.” wrote Philip Tegeler and Oluvatoin Edagun of the Poverty and Race Council, a DC-based advocacy group that supports the rules.

The sentiment in the proposed rules reflects years of criticism of statutory schools – that they are exacerbate segregationpainful school district financeand sometimes run for profit. These ideas clearly influenced the Biden administration – unlike other presidential administrations, which have consistently supported charter schools.

“It was one of those rare and endangered areas of politics where Democrats and Republicans weren’t on completely different sides,” Oberfield said.

The situation and reaction underscore two key political realities: Charter schools have lost some support from Democrats, but they still retain significant political power, both through elite opinion and now large numbers of graduates, teachers and parents.

What’s next? The department will need to synthesize and respond to the thousands of comments received regarding the proposed rules. Then officials decide whether to make changes or stick to the proposal.

Statutory schools are supporters hoping that the Department of Education will hold this year’s CSP Grants Competition under the old rules.

Matt Barnum is a national reporter covering education policy, policy and research. Contact him at mbarnum@chalkbeat.org.

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