National Charter School Alliance Congressional Action Update
July 26, 2013
Dear Charter School Friends,
As Congress wraps up its activity for the summer, we wanted to update you on Congressional action that impacts the charter school community.
Congress has continued it work on the long overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). To this end, on July 19 the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, which is a comprehensive rewrite of ESEA. H.R. 5 passed on a party-line vote, 221-207, with no Democrats in support of the bill. The White House has issued a veto threat should the bill come to the President’s desk in its current form.
While the vote on the overall bill was partisan, the CSP section of the bill mirrored a bipartisan compromise reached in 2011 with Rep. George Miller (D-CA). In addition, we are pleased that a number of key changes were made during negotiations and floor consideration that reflect provisions outlined in our ESEA paper, “Free to Succeed.”
Specifically, the charter school provisions in H.R. 5 were strengthened in Committee and on the floor by:
- Adding charter support organizations as a new statewide eligible entity to apply for CSP grant funds
- Expanding authorized uses of CSP funds to include costs associated with teacher preparation; purchasing instructional materials and implementing teacher and principal professional development programs; and providing the necessary renovations and minor facilities repairs (excluding construction)
- Clarifying that funds from the Credit Enhancement program can be used for predevelopment costs such as soil-testing, or lead paint or asbestos screening that are necessary to commence or continue the operation of a charter school
- Requiring the Secretary of Education to consult with charter school representatives when issuing non-regulatory guidance
Outside of the CSP section of the bill, the National Alliance secured provisions in the bill to ensure that public charter school representatives are consulted in the same manner as other public school representatives in the Title I program. For example:
- States and school districts must include “public charter school representatives” as required entities to consult with in developing the state and local Title I plans.
- Public charter school leaders and representatives of public charter school authorizers must be included on state Committee of Practitioners. The Committee of Practitioners is a state level entity, authorized in Title I of ESEA, that reviews any state rules, regulations and policies related to Title I.
The National Alliance also supported a successful amendment to H.R. 5 that will allow states to make Title I funds “portable,” so that they follow low-income children to any public school they attend, including a charter school.
What the House Bill is Missing
Of note, the House bill does not authorize a direct competition for CMOs for the purposes of replicating and expanding successful models.This issue is addressed in the Senate approach, and will be worked out in a Conference Committee.
H.R. 5 authorizes only $300M for the CSP, which is far below the needs of the charter school community. The authorization level for a program serves as a cap; thus under this bill, it would be very difficult to fund the CSP at a higher level.
A summary of CSP Provisions in H.R. 5 is attached, as well as the letters from the National Alliance to Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) about the CSP sections of their respective bills.
Next Steps on ESEA
Now that the House has completed its work on ESEA, the focus turns back to the Senate. As you may recall, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP) considered their version of ESEA reauthorization in mid-June. The bill was passed by the Senate HELP Committee on a party-line vote of 12-10, with all Republicans opposing. At this time, the Senate has not scheduled any further consideration of ESEA.
The Senate Appropriations Committee recently passed the FY2014 Labor-HHS-Education bill, which provides funding for all federal education programs, including the CSP. The bill included $254M for the CSP, nearly restoring the sequester cuts made to the program. The House Appropriations Committee has not yet considered this bill. The National Alliance is closely monitoring funding levels for the CSP and other K-12 education programs.
Connect ED–Updating the E-RATE Program
President Obama has unveiled an initiative, ConnectED, that would build upon the current E-rate program. If fully implemented, ConnectED would upgrade the connectivity of schools and libraries and invest in teacher training. The Federal Communications Commission has issued a notice for rulemaking. The National Alliance is monitoring the developments of this process, and will update the community when there are developments. Please let us know if you have questions or concerns about this program.
Have a great August, and please contact us with any questions or concerns.
Senior Vice President, Government RElations