Durbin, Gregg Introduce Bill to Expand Successful Charter Schools

WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–May 27, 2010.  U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Judd Gregg (R-NH) today introduced legislation that would expand the Charter School Program at the Department of Education (DOE) to make eligible the expansion and replication of successful charter school models.  The bill – the All Students Achieving through Reform (All STAR) Act – also takes several steps to strengthen public charter school accountability, transparency, and governance.

“We must ensure that each and every child has the opportunity to learn and thrive no matter where they live and public charter schools have increasingly become an important part of that effort,” said Durbin. “Already educating 1.4 million students in 40 states across America, many charter schools have shown that with creative thinking and innovative solutions we can achieve tremendous success with some of the most disadvantaged students.  The All STAR Act will expand educational opportunities for students while only allowing this assistance to flow to those schools with proven records of success.”

Senator Gregg stated, “Charter schools hold traditional public schools accountable by providing better education opportunities for students throughout the country.  The success of these schools has brought parents back into the discussion on how to best educate their children and has also illustrated which schools are most effective in meeting student needs.  The All STAR Act builds upon these examples of achievement by providing charter school leaders with an opportunity to replicate this good work and give students more options to excel in the classroom.”

“The best way to spark growth and innovation in the American economy is to give all kids access to excellent schools so they can reach their full potential and realize their dreams,” said Congressman Jared Polis, author of the companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. “The All-STAR Act is central to improving our education system through the expansion and replication of outstanding, innovative public charter schools with a proven track record of getting the job done and closing the achievement gap. I am proud that Senators Durbin and Gregg are at the forefront of the growing, nationwide effort to encourage the growth of top-performing public charter schools that help end the cycle of poverty in communities throughout the nation.”

The Alliance has worked very closely with Senators Durbin and Gregg on this bill,” said Nelson Smith, President and CEO, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.   “It has been unbelievably exciting to see this grow from an idea to a bill that began in the House, and is now moving through the Senate, and is hopefully on the path to authorization as part of a reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  All-Star is one of the Alliance’s top federal legislative priorities, and the organization gratefully acknowledges the leadership of Senators Durbin and Gregg, who are true believer in high-performing charter schools.”

All STAR authorizes new competitive grants within the DOE’s Charter School Program to replicate and expand the most successful public charter schools across the country and raises the authorized level of funding of the Charter School Program to $700 million.  The five year grants can be used to add additional grades in an existing charter school or to create a new school based on an existing successful charter model.

The grants can be awarded to local education agencies, state education agencies, authorized public chartering agencies and non-profit organizations which then award subgrants to individual charter schools.  Priority is given to the top performing charter schools in each state which: have significantly closed achievement gaps; rank in at least the top 25th percentile in the State in achievement; meet benchmarks on an exam selected by the Secretary of Education; serve a high-need student population; and have made Adequate Yearly Progress the last two consecutive years and exceed the state graduation rate.

In order to promote and strengthen accountability, transparency and governance, All-STAR encourages states to be better regulators of charter schools by giving funding priority to states and other entities that require detailed performance reports from and have established polices to encourage successful charter schools.  Specifically, the bill will prioritize states and entities that have:

o A strategic plan for authorizing or approving public charter schools;

o Policies for authorizing or approving public charter schools which examine a school’s financial plan, financial controls and audit requirements;

o A plan for serving students with disabilities, students who are English language learners, students who are academically behind their peers and gifted students;

o The capacity and capability to successfully launch and subsequently operate a public charter school, including the backgrounds of the individuals applying to the agency to operate such school; and

o A transparent, timely, and effective process for closing down academically unsuccessful charter schools.

All-STAR has the support of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, Democrats for Education Reform, Green Dot America, Progressive Policy Institute, Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights, United Negro College Fund, National Council of La Raza, Education Equality Project, Black Alliance for Educational Options, Charter School Lenders’ Coalition, KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program), Uncommon Schools, Achievement First, Aspire Public Schools, Noble Network of Charter Schools, IDEA Public Schools, YES Prep Public Schools, Success Charter Network, Democracy Prep, ICEF Public Schools, NewSchools Venture Fund, Charter School Growth Fund, NCB Capital Impact, The Reinvestment Fund, and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.