WASHINGTON, DC - In a bipartisan agreement to improve public school education by expanding charter schools and public school choice, Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Judd Gregg (R-NH) joined thirteen original Senate cosponsors today to announce the "Empowering Parents Act of 2001". The act aims to triple the number of charter schools in the country by 2005 and encourages school districts through grants to enact public school choice. "The driving force behind educational innovation and improvement is school competition. But the driving force behind our education debate must be the desire to reach consensus. This bill provides both," said Carper, a moderate Democrat who, as Governor of Delaware, implemented statewide public school choice. "Charter schools are public schools. They deserve the same opportunities. A school of talented faculty and dedicated staff must not be doomed to failure because it cannot afford to rent or renovate a building in which to teach." Carper-Gregg had thirteen original Senate co-sponsors at its introduction, representing a coalition of conservatives, moderates and progressives. Republican Senators Mike DeWine, John Ensign, Bill Frist, Rick Santorum, Arlen Specter and Gordon Smith join Democratic Senators Evan Bayh, Joe Biden, Jeff Bingaman, John Breuax, John Kerry, Mary Landrieu and Joe Lieberman. "This bill expands the opportunity for parents to choose the best public school for their child," commented Gregg, the second-ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee and a strong supporter in the Senate of parental choice options. "It focuses on allowing parents to determine the best course of action for their child's future while ensuring that charter schools receive the same benefits as traditional public schools." Carper-Gregg would:
- Provide $400 million annually in grants for public, private or public-private entities to help charter schools leverage public-private financing for start up costs and facilities costs.
- Exempt all interest on charter school loans from federal taxes.
- Provide $400 million a year in matching grants to encourage states to establish parity between charter schools and traditional district schools in facility financing.
- 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.