Charter Pulse

Selected readings on US charter schools

Legislation encouraging charter schools gaining support by both Democrats and Republicans

landrieu cassidy On both sides of the Capitol, lawmakers are promoting legislation to encourage growth of charter schools.

It’s an issue that has united Democrats and Republicans, even Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. and Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, as they battle in Louisiana’s fall Senate race.

The House is expected to approve legislation, perhaps later today, that would consolidate federal grant programs to provide financial incentives for new charter schools, including help obtaining facilities to house their educational programs. A bipartisan Senate bill, introduced late Wednesday, is similar, though it would put more priority on helping replicate successful charter school programs as opposed to opening up entirely new schools.

Landrieu, noting that New Orleans has far more charter schools than any other city, said the federal government should encourage their growth throughout the United States.

“A child’s zip code should not determine their educational opportunities, but it unfortunately does in many places in America,” said Landrieu who has supported the rapid growth of charter schools in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. “We’ve had proven success from well-designed and well-led charter schools that have transformed student outcomes. By making smart updates to the Charter School Program we can replicate the success across Louisiana and the country.”

Cassidy, who along with his wife Laura helped open a charter school in Baton Rouge for children with dyslexia, is strongly pushing for adoption of the House bill.

“Louisiana sets the standard in Charter School success, simply because they are founded on the idea that teachers should have the flexibility to mold their classroom’s curriculum to fit the needs of their students,” Cassidy said. “For example, when my wife Laura and I found out our youngest daughter was struggling with reading because of dyslexia, we realized she needed an evidence-based curriculum to ensure that she could reach her full potential. Without it, she wouldn’t learn to read.”

Cassidy is offering an amendment that would require the Government Accountability Office to oversee charter school grants to make sure the money is being used efficiently.

Pam Schooler, executive director of the D’Arbonne Woods Charter School in rural Farmerville, La., said government grants are critical. A $1.9 million grant, is helping the school create a program across all grade levels emphasizing science, technology and engineering.

It is hard for rural schools to find qualified teachers, Schooler said in a conference call with Landrieu. But she said her school has had success partnering with nearby colleges and businesses to supplement instruction.

Mary Kusler, director of government relations for the National Education Association, said her union appreciates provision in the House legislation to improve accountability — including a provision allowing the revoking of the authority of education boards to authorize new charters when the performance of the charter schools they approved is persistently poor.

But she said the bill should go further.

“Because research shows that overall, charter schools underserve English-language learners and students with disabilities and that individual charter schools may be more segregated than other public schools by family incomes, ethnicity, or race, states should require charter schools to publicly disclose student attrition rates and student demographic characteristics,” she said.

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, said the House legislation will help bring the success of charter schools in Louisiana to the rest of the nation.

“This bill, which I’m proud to support, provides more tools to expand and replicate high-quality charters, and I hope that the success they have achieved, especially in New Orleans, is something that can be replicated to help even more students in school districts across the country,” Scalise said.

Source: Nola.com – by Bruce Alpert

 

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This entry was posted on May 8, 2014 by in Charter Schools, NATIONWIDE, States.

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