As part of a broader effort to reform the education system, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) cosponsored legislation -- the Charter School Quality Act of 2011 (S.686) -- yesterday to implement more rigorous charter school authorizing standards and practices.
"Part of our effort to ensure American competiveness and success in the future must include strategic investments in areas like education," said Sen. Carper, a long-time advocate for charter schools. "Public charter schools can help propel our students to a brighter, stronger future, but we need to make sure that we are emphasizing quality, and not just quantity, in establishing these schools. The Charter School Quality Act will encourage states to adopt tougher authorizing standards to ensure that our nation's charter schools are more than just an option for students, that they are an exceptional option. The legislation will also help spread innovations from charter schools to all schools in Delaware, improving our entire education system through increased sharing of high-quality and effective education practices."
The Charter School Quality Act of 2011 seeks to improve the quality of the sector by modifying the existing Public Charter Schools Program, authorized in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provides grants to states for planning, designing and implementing new charter schools. Grant priority would be given to states that ensure their charter school authorizers follow research-based standards, evaluate the effectiveness of their authorizers and require that student academic achievement be a primary factor in charter school approval, renewal and revocation decisions.
The legislation would also establish a new national competitive grant program -- without any new cost -- for high-quality public charter schools, authorizers and nonprofit charter support organizations to disseminate best-in-class innovations to other schools, authorizers and states.
The legislation was also cosponsored by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). Additionally, the bill is endorsed by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS).
Charter schools have expanded significantly in the past two decades, from only one in Minnesota in 1992 to over 5,000 across 40 states today. Delaware currently has 19 charter schools teaching more than 8,500 students, and four new charter schools are expected to open this year. Charter schools are unique public schools in which teachers have significant flexibility to innovate, yet are held accountable to high student achievement goals.
Education reform is a top priority for Sen. Carper. At the beginning of the 112th Congress, Sen. Carper and 9 other moderate Democratic Senators put forth a Statement of Principles for education reform designed to improve the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. To watch a video of Sen. Carper's remarks at a press conference announcing the Statement of Principles, please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDwdo8k0HTQ.