The school choice fight is going federal as three U.S. Senators are introducing an budget amendment that would “support the expansion and replication” of successful charter schools all over the country. Senator Mitch McConnell, Senator Mary Landrieu and Senator Lamar Alexander want to make it easier for charter operators who are already running a charter school with a proven record of helping students to open others to broaden their network of success.
According to Alexander, the measure would allow more children access to good schooling, all the while giving parents choices about which learning options work best for their children. The 6,000 charters currently operating in the United States are publicly funded but are operated independently of the public school system, giving innovative educators more freedom to try new approaches to improve academic outcomes of their students.
Senator McConnell said, “I am proud to support this measure that prioritizes school choice initiatives that incentivize the expansion of successful charter school models. If our schools are failing, America fails with them. Students, parents and communities in Kentucky and across America must demand schools put students first, produce results, and reward outstanding teachers. One successful approach that has been implemented in 42 states, but not in Kentucky, is the establishment of public charter schools.”
A number of recent studies have shown that a well-run charter school can have a substantial impact on its students’ academic outcomes. The Center for Research on Education Outcomes at California’s Stanford University found that charter schools in Massachusetts – especially ones serving at-risk youths – provide what amounts to an additional 1.5 months of learning in reading and 2.5 months of learning in math over the course of a year.
For Boston schools, the gains were even more impressive. The city’s charter school students receive double the instruction in both math and reading over the course of the academic year compared to their traditional public school peers.
Similar results were shown by KIPP schools when compared against public schools in the same district. KIPP students receive an equivalent of 11 months of instruction in reading by the time they leave middle school compared to students who entered the lottery for spaces in KIPP schools but didn’t win a place.
Senator Landrieu said, “Public charter schools provide quality options for families that are not fortunate enough to live in areas with a robust public education system, or do not have the means to pay for private schools. In Louisiana, we are seeing dramatic gains in educational outcomes with quality public charter schools. Parents who are doing everything they can to give their children every opportunity for success deserve not only a quality choice, but a solution to educating them. Successful charter schools provide that choice and that solution. The time is now to make them a central component of our education strategy all across the country.”