House Passes Charter School Bill While Senate Introduces A Nearly Identical Measure

The bipartisan charter school bill, known as the “Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act,” (H.R. 10) which consolidates and updates the existing charter school programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday May 9th on a bipartisan vote of 360-45. The bill passed as written of Committee with a few minor amendments that are worth noting:

  • A bipartisan amendment from Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), which ensures that there are no barriers to children in foster homes attending charters;
  • An amendment from Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN), which requires state entity grantees to report how they will work with subgrantees to support the opening of charters that are secondary schools;
  • An amendment from Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), which requires state entity grantees to report how its charter schools have fostered community involvement;
  • An amendment from Rep. Susan Bonamici (D-OR), which clarifies that state entity grantees are required to report—to the extent known—whether the sharing of best practices between charter and other public schools has led to the adoption of these practices by other public schools;
  • A bipartisan amendment from Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) which requires that charter schools make information required by the State report card publically available so parents can make informed decisions;  and
  • A bipartisan amendment from Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) that adds comprehensive career counseling to the list of criteria the Secretary will consider when prioritizing grants to support high-quality charter schools.

A few days before the House charter bill’s passage, Senators Kirk (R-IL), Landrieu (D-LA), Alexander (R-TN), and Bennet (D-CO) introduced the Senate’s own bipartisan charter school bill titled, “Expanding Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools” (S. 2304) that very closely mirrors the House version in general structure and tone. Both the House and Senate bills focus on promoting high-quality charter school programs by authorizing the use of federal funds to acquire and renovate facilities, support charter management organizations, start new charter schools, and replicate and expand well-performing charters.  The bills increase the focus on the oversight of charter school authorizers and place increased attention on how charters serve students with disabilities and English learners.

Under the Senate bill, the consolidated program would consist of the same three grant components as the House version, which is grants for (1) High-Quality Charter Schools, (2) Facilities Financing Assistance, and (3) National Activities.