Correction on Ed Dept and charters
The Education Department’s press secretary e-mailed me to say that I was wrong when I wrote in a recent post that states wishing to win federal money in Duncan’s Race to the Top contest “had to pledge” to open more charter schools.
The spokesman, Justin Hamilton, said that the department did not require states to make such a pledge.
Hamilton is right. My mistake.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan did not ask states to “pledge” -- which is literally “a solemn promise or agreement to do” -- to open more charter schools.
Duncan has, of course, said that states that did not agree to open more charters would be at a disadvantage in the $4 billion competition. He wrote the following last year in an article published by The Washington Post, entited "Education Reform's Moon Shot:"
“The Race to the Top program marks a new federal partnership in education reform with states, districts and unions to accelerate change and boost achievement. Yet the program is also a competition through which states can increase or decrease their odds of winning federal support. For example, states that limit alternative routes to certification for teachers and principals, or cap the number of charter schools, will be at a competitive disadvantage.”
And Duncan told reporters last summer in a conference call that “States that do not have public charter laws or put artificial caps on the growth of charter schools will jeopardize their applications under the Race to the Top fund.”
But Hamilton is right. That is not the same thing as requiring that they pledge to do it.
The Race to the Top criteria gives 40 out of a possible total of 500 points on a state's application for agreeing to do the following regarding charter schools:
(F)(2) Ensuring successful conditions for high-performing charter schools and other innovative schools (40 points)
The extent to which—
(i) The State has a charter school law that does not prohibit or effectively inhibit increasing the number of high-performing charter schools (as defined in this notice) in the State, measured (as set forth in Appendix B) by the percentage of total schools in the State that are allowed to be charter schools or otherwise restrict student enrollment in charter schools;
(ii) The State has laws, statutes, regulations, or guidelines regarding how charter school authorizers approve, monitor, hold accountable, reauthorize, and close charter schools; in particular, whether authorizers require that student achievement (as defined in this notice) be one significant factor, among others, in authorization or renewal; encourage charter schools that serve student populations that are similar to local district student populations, especially relative to high-need students (as defined in this notice); and have closed or not renewed ineffective charter schools;
(iii) The State’s charter schools receive (as set forth in Appendix B) equitable funding compared to traditional public schools, and a commensurate share of local, State, and Federal revenues;
(iv) The State provides charter schools with funding for facilities (for leasing facilities, purchasing facilities, or making tenant improvements), assistance with facilities acquisition, access to public facilities, the ability to share in bonds and mill levies, or other supports; and the extent to which the State does not impose any facility-related requirements on charter schools that are stricter than those applied to traditional public schools; and
(v) The State enables LEAs to operate innovative, autonomous public schools (as defined in this notice) other than charter schools.
Here again, Hamilton is right. It doesn't say anything about "pledging."
The fact that a number of states rushed to pass legislation to raise their charter caps also does not mean that they were being asked to "pledge" to do so.
Now we have set the record straight.
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