Earlier this year, Vice President Joe Biden’s administration proposed a new set of rules for giving grants. Some critics think that these rules could stop the growth of charter schools for good.
New requirements for charter school proposals would be imposed by the rules that govern the distribution of federal start-up grants, which would necessitate greater cooperation between proposed charters and existing public schools. Those in favor of charter schools argue that the rules are an overdue crackdown on for-profit management models, while others argue the opposite. The original deadline for comments was Tuesday, but the Biden administration has now pushed it back to Thursday, April 18.
For privately run and publicly funded schools, the Charter Schools Program (CSP) was established in 1994 under the administration of President Bill Clinton. Since 2006, nearly 60 percent of all new charter schools have received start-up funding from a CSP grant, according to a Department of Education report released in 2019. President Joe Biden’s proposed budget for 2023 gave $440 million of the $88.3 billion that could be spent on education on charter schools.
Anti-charter advocacy group the Network for Public Education said the new rules would help stop “the spread of charter schools run for profit.” As of Wednesday, more than 4,000 people had signed an online petition in support of the proposed regulations put forward by the group. According to the organization’s website, “charter scandals” are defined as “student/family dissatisfaction, academic failure, financial issues, closure, theft or fraud, and administrative failure.” The website keeps a running list of these “charter scandals.” For-profit managers would not be able to apply for CSP grants under the proposed rules. For-profit concerns are just one aspect of the rules, according to supporters of charter schools.
The new rules, according to Thomas B. Fordham Institute president Michael Petrilli, “could really grind the charter school movement to a halt.” When it comes to Petrilli’s concerns, it is the requirement that any proposed charter school submit a “community impact analysis,” which includes proof that it will not exceed the number of public schools needed to meet the community’s needs. To put it another way, the new rules say that if there are enough public school openings for local students, then a new charter school isn’t necessary.
As a result of the pandemic, “they basically say, you cannot start a new charter school in a place that has flat or declining enrollment,” Petrilli said.
Schools that cater to local needs will be hindered by new regulations, according to Karega Rausch of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. To meet the needs of families and communities, he wrote, charter schools must be more than just an option for those who want to enroll their children. NAPCS’ national director, Nina Rees, called the proposed rules “a back-door attempt to prevent new charter schools from opening.”
After receiving a letter from six Republican senators last week, the Obama administration was asked to drop its plans to amend federal education regulations. The senators said the proposal “is a blatant reversal of three decades’ worth of bipartisan support for charter schools.”
In an interview with The Washington Post that came out on April 7, Cardona said that the new rules won’t make it harder for new charter schools to open.
Ohio’s Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a joint venture between the Fordham Institute and the foundation, has authorized 12 charter schools in the state of Ohio. An authorizer evaluates a school’s performance, sets standards, and decides whether or not new schools can open. What determines who can serve as an authorizer in states that allow charter schools? In some states, such as Ohio, nonprofits are allowed to take on the role of school districts or state boards of education.
Proponents of smaller charter schools would be unable to open schools under the Biden administration’s proposed regulations, but wealthy organizations would still be able to open schools. “The beauty of charter schools is that it says, ‘Hey, if you’re a teacher, or you’re a parent, or you’re a community member, you have a dream for your dream school, give it a shot,'” he said of the initiative. “Because it would be incredibly difficult for any of those organizations to secure any of these grants.”