WILMINGTON, DE - Senator Tom Carper today unveiled his first bill, the "Empowering Parents Act," which aims to triple the number of charter schools in the country by 2005 and encourages school districts through grants to enact public school choice. "A building is only as strong as its foundation. Before a charter school opens, its foundation is often already groaning from the weight of debt. We must strengthen its ability to support our children," Carper said. "A school full of talented faculty and dedicated staff should not be doomed to failure because they cannot afford to rent or renovate a building in which to teach. Charter schools are public schools. The deserve the same opportunities." Carper's plan would:
- Reduce initial costs for charter schools through a $400 million annual federal loan guarantee program for start-up charter schools that meet strict requirements.
- Exempt from federal taxes all interest paid by charter schools.
- Make $400 million a year available for states to expand payments to charter schools to help cover the cost of facilities as well as instruction.
- Expand public school choice by creating a $200 million per year competitive grants program to help underperforming schools create universal public school choice, including full access to charter schools. Districts awarded grants would be required to notify parents about the choices available to them and provide eligible students with transportation (or the cost of transportation) to and from the school they choose to attend.
"Competition is the driving force behind innovation and improvement. Here in Delaware, people are responding to the chance to find a school that fits their child's needs," Carper said. "By using some of the surplus to expand charter schools and choice, we have a chance now to fix our roof while the sun is shining. By acting today, we can build schools that will last for decades, and provide educational opportunities that will last our children's lifetimes."