|Empowering Parents Through Quality Charter Schools Act|
|Tuesday, 13 September 2011 00:00|
Mr. Chair, I rise today in support of the Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act, H.R. 2218, which is a bipartisan bill to reform and strengthen the charter school program.
I recently gave the graduation speech at the Princeton Charter School, a high quality charter that opened its doors more than a decade ago and was recognized as a blue ribbon school by the U.S. Department of Education in 2004. And I was pleased to see the success there. But I urged them to make sure they are well-integrated in the public school system in their community.
We need to reinvigorate America's education system and give each and every child the opportunity to learn and thrive. I am an advocate of alternative forms of education including charter schools. I think these institutions can be viable and beneficial in promoting academic achievement and diversity.
It is important to remember that charter schools are part of the public school system, and we must hold them to the same standards of broad educational access and same standards of accountability--which means we have to be willing to shut down charter schools that fail to meet expectations. Otherwise, charter schools are not true to their reason for being: to inject innovation and experimentation into the public school system. I am pleased that this bill increases accountability for charter schools and ensures states use a schools performance as a primary factor for charter renewal.
I have long believed that charter school innovations and best practices must be shared with other school districts--urban, rural, and suburban school districts alike. This requires work on both sides: outreach by the charter schools and acceptance by the traditional public school system to learn what there is to be learned. I worked with Rep. Polis to include such language in his ALL-STAR Act.
That is why I am pleased that the bipartisan legislation before us today includes provisions to require charter schools to disseminate best practices with other public schools.
This legislation also ensures that States work with charter school authorizers to put in place the quality controls necessary for holding charter schools accountable, including annual performance data and financial audits. These provisions will lead to more replication of high-quality charter schools nationwide.
I share the concerns of some that more can be done to improve the accountability, equity and transparency of charter school, and as we continue to move this bill through the process, I hope additional improvements can be made. But we should all recognize that this bill makes a great deal of progress from the existing program and deserves our support today.