WASHINGTON – This week, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) co-sponsored two charter school-related bills. On Tuesday night Sen. Carper co-sponsored a Senate Resolution, authored by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), to formally recognize the week of May 4 through May 10 as the 15th annual National Charter Schools Week. The resolution was unanimously adopted by the Senate. On Wednesday Sen. Carper co-sponsored another bill introduced by Sen. Landrieu, along with Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), named the Expanding Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Act, that makes smart updates to the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) that provides startup, replication and expansion funding for high-quality public charter schools.
“As a father whose two sons attended charter schools, I have seen firsthand how these schools help encourage innovation and excellence in our public education system, and play a key role in helping propel our students to a brighter, stronger future,” said Sen. Carper, a long-time advocate for charter schools who signed the Charter School Act of 1995 into law as Delaware’s governor. “The support of strong leaders, skilled educators, passionate students and supportive families help to ensure American competitiveness in the global marketplace. I am proud to join my colleagues in celebrating and strengthening charter schools in the First State and the rest of the nation and I thank my friend and colleague Sen. Landrieu for her leadership on this issue.”
The Expanding Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Act updates and streamlines two existing programs into one Charter Schools Program, consisting of three grant competitions:
- High-Quality Charter Schools: Grants to State entities to start new charter schools and to replicate or expand high-quality charter schools, including by developing facilities, hiring and preparing teachers, and providing transportation.
- Facilities Financing Assistance: Grants to public or private nonprofit entities to demonstrate innovative methods of enhancing credit to finance the acquisition, construction, or renovation of facilities for charter schools.
- Replication and Expansion: As part of national activities, grants to charter management organizations to replicate or expand high-quality charter schools.
The bill would also:
- Authorize the Charter Schools Program at $300 million for fiscal year 2015 and such sums as may be necessary for fiscal years 2016 – 2020;
- Solidify federal support for expanding and replicating high-quality charter schools with a demonstrated record of success, while giving states flexibility to invest in new school models and encouraging them to strengthen charter school authorizing practices;
- Continue federal support for financing charter school facilities and encourages states to ensure their charter schools are able to access suitable facilities;
- Offer more flexibility to charter school developers to fund startup costs associated with charter school facilities and providing transportation to students.
- Encourage charter schools to focus on special populations, including at-risk students, students with disabilities, and English learners.
The federal Charter Schools Program was authorized by Congress in 1994 and most recently reauthorized in 2001.
In addition to Sen. Carper, the other cosponsors of the resolution, S.RES.438, to recognize National Charter Schools Week are Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and David Vitter (R-La.).