- The U.S. Department of Education’s proposed rules for charter schools — intended to better support student outcomes and strengthen accountability — would instead hinder access for students of color and be too burdensome for those seeking to open new schools, one charter school advocacy group said.
- The proposed rules would require charter school applicants to conduct an assessment of community support, as well as an analysis demonstrating the proposed school would not hurt desegregation efforts at surrounding schools. They also call for more transparency for charter schools' connections with for-profit organizations.
- A comment period for the proposed rules ended last week. More than 26,500 comments were submitted by Friday afternoon, according to regulations.gov.
"The proposed rules would greatly complicate and confuse administration of a program that is already one of the Department’s most complex competitive grant programs in terms of its requirements and accountability structures," said the comments from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Specifically, the alliance took aim at several conditions charter school applicants would need to take that it said traditional public schools do not. For instance, the alliance said, applicants would have to submit their targeted student and staff demographics and also how they plan to maintain socioeconomically diverse student and staff populations.
In a separate statement, the alliance called the proposed rules a "sneak attack on charter schools that is politically motivated by special interests seeking to benefit the adults in the system and not the children and families in our country who are clamoring for better education opportunities."
The alliance asked the Education Department to delay new charter school priorities, requirements, definitions and selection criteria until at least FY 2023, which begins Oct. 1.
In the notice for proposed rulemaking, the Education Department wrote that educator- and community-centered charter schools offer opportunities to meet the needs of all students, particularly those who are underserved. The department also wants to see better charter-traditional collaboration on transportation, curriculum and professional development efforts.
"Successful charter-traditional collaborations can lead to information-sharing about best practices for developing systems and processes that benefit all families and students served by the members of the collaboration," the proposed rules said.
The rules would require detailed descriptions of contracts between charter schools and for-profit management entities, including nonprofit charter management organizations operated by or on behalf of for-profit companies.
The idea of for-profit entities accessing federal funding for charter school start-ups is a concern of Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro from Connecticut, who in a letter filed in response to the proposed rules asked the department to strengthen its language in this regard.
"Under these management relationships, charters accept federal funds only to have their schools run by low-quality, for-profit companies rife with conflicts of interest," DeLauro said.
The Center for Learner Equity, formerly known as the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools, wrote that it supports the department's proposed rule to bring more transparency to charter school program grantees that choose to contract with a for-profit management organization.
The proposed rules were created to supplement existing regulatory priorities that guide charter management organizations and developers as they seek federal aid in building new charter schools.
Charter School Program State Entity grants, Charter Management Organization grants and Developer grants — all part of the Ed Department's charter school grant program — are intended to support new charter schools or existing ones that are significantly increasing enrollments. Funds can be used for all levels of students, from early childhood through elementary, secondary school students and postsecondary.
The Biden administration's FY 2023 budget recommends level-funding the charter school grants at $440 million.
The number of charter schools has grown over the past 12 years, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Between the 2009-10 and 2018-19 school years, charter schools rose from 5% to 8% of all public schools in the nation. The total number of charter schools increased from about 5,000 to 7,400.