Charter schools: House Democrats call for cuts to federal funding for charters

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The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools calls the cut “particularly egregious” and said the move would impact a majority of 3.3 million charter school students, the vast majority of whom are children. of color and from low-income families.

Charter schools, which are publicly funded but generally run independently of local school districts, have received support from the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations. But some Democrats have targeted charter schools in recent years, arguing they are taking money away from other public school students. On the campaign trail last year, current President Joe Biden, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren opposed federal funding for “for-profit charter schools.”

The vast majority of charter schools are not-for-profit organizations, although some states allow for-profit companies to run charter schools, which is 10% nationwide.

The Democrat-backed budget proposal shows how these campaign pledges can lead to legislation that would divert money from certain for-profit charters. The bill would ban any funds going to “a charter school that contracts with a for-profit entity to operate, supervise or manage the activities of the school.”

But Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, told CNN the radical language could have an impact on schools that outsource cafeteria services, particularly educational departments or administrative staff – some of the same things that local district schools hire private companies for as well. Without contracting out, schools may not be able to provide the services to students with special needs that they are legally required to provide.

“I don’t think they fully considered the ramifications of the language they came up with. It’s pretty sloppy,” Rees said.

Michigan Republican Representative John Moolenaar, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Education Innovation and Opportunity, criticized the provision during a committee hearing last week. He argued that it “would make it illegal for charter schools that receive government funding to also contract with private companies for food, buses, janitors, textbooks, and tech students – especially those with special needs – use for their courses. “

“This is unnecessary targeting of charter schools,” he added.

But it is possible that the legislation will be interpreted in a narrower sense and only apply to the small percentage of charter schools that hire a for-profit learning management organization involved in the management of all daily operations, said Conor. Williams, senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank.

“There is some evidence that for-profit charters, many of which are virtual, don’t work as well. Limiting their support is a defensible policy,” Williams said.

The House Expenses Bill is simply a proposal and is unlikely to be approved by the whole of Congress in its current form. But budget bills are often seen as a reflection of values. Biden’s budget request, which is also just a snapshot of spending priorities, did not reduce the $ 440 million in annual funding that charter schools have received in recent years.

This House proposal, which covers funding for agencies related to work, health, social services and education, totals $ 253.8 billion, an increase of 28% over the previous year. . This would, among other things, increase the maximum amount of the Pell Grant for low-income students, strengthen support for workforce training, and send more money to the National Institute of Health and Centers. for Disease Control and Prevention.


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