Charter Schools Program
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National Conference Highlights Federal Grants to Charter Schools

When charter schools and their supporters are looking for federal funds, most head straight for the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s (OII’s) Charter Schools Program (CSP). With a FY 2013 budget of about $242 million, the CSP administers eight grant programs, which have contributed to what Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently described as the “extraordinary accomplishments” of charter schools in the past two decades.

Topping the list of accomplishments, Secretary Duncan indicated in his recent keynote address at the National Charter Schools Conference, “is that high-performing charters have irrefutably demonstrated that low-income children can and do achieve at high levels.”

CSP’s grant programs aim squarely at helping disadvantaged children to achieve academically through the creation of more high-quality educational options. These include the Replication and Expansion for High Performing Charter Schools program, which provides funds for nonprofits, including charter management organizations, to grow existing charter schools or open new ones based on models that have demonstrated success.

But two other highly competitive and high-profile Department of Education grants outside of CSP have similarly supported at-risk children attending charter schools — the Investing in Innovation (i3) Fund and the Race to the Top‑District (RTT-D) programs. One session at the national conference focused on these programs, which have allowed charter schools and charter management organizations to grow in number, in impact, and in quality.

Special Education Strides Highlighted at National Charter Schools Conference

In his recent keynote address at the National Charter Schools Conference, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan challenged charter schools to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. “I want to see charters pioneering solutions that do a better job of educating students with disabilities,” he told the gathering last month of more than 4,000 charter school leaders in Washington, D.C.

The conference, organized annually by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, provided a variety of sessions with a special education focus. Was there a common thread? Yes, strong partnerships make for better services for students with disabilities.

U.S. Department of Education Awards $12 Million in Grants to Support Charter School Facilities

(July 18, 2013) The U.S. Department of Education recently announced that it awarded three grants totaling $12 million to three different organizations that are working across the country to help charter schools obtain facilities through the purchase, lease, or donation of real property, the construction of a new facility, or the renovation, repair or alteration of existing facilities under the Credit Enhancement for Charter Schools Facilities Program (Credit Enhancement). The recipients include a non-profit organization called The Reinvestment Fund, a consortium of non-profits called Build with Purpose, and the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency.

One of several grants under the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s Charter Schools Program, the Credit Enhancement program helps to improve educational options for students and parents by targeting funds to areas with the greatest need for public school choice.

"Every child deserves a high-quality education in a safe learning environment," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "These grants help ensure that children learn in adequate facilities. The Credit Enhancement program supports charter schools, helps put the schools on stable financial footing and allows us all to continue working towards President Obama's goal of leading the world in college graduates by the year 2020."

Uncommon Schools is Broad Prize Winner

Uncommon Schools, a network of 32 public charter schools in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — and current grantee of the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s Charter Schools Program (CSP) — is winner of the 2013 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. Roberto J. Rodriguez, special assistant to the President for education, announced the winner on July 2nd at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ annual conference in Washington, D.C.

In a press release announcing the winner, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation congratulated Uncommon Schools for their “progress in raising student achievement and their steadfast commitment to ensuring that every child — regardless of family income or background — deserves a world-class education,” citing the schools’ students as the “real winners.” “It is our hope,” said Rebecca Wolf DiBiase of the Broad Foundation, “that the success of Uncommon Schools serves as an example for traditional public schools and others in the charter sector of what is possible.”

National Study Points to Charter Sector Gains

Charter schools are making gains in their overall performance, including the performance of minority and low-income students, compared to traditional public schools, according to the National Charter School Study 2013 from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University. The independent national study of charters and matched traditional public schools in 26 states updates data and comparisons of charter and traditional public schools’ performance in CREDO’s landmark 2009 study that involved 16 states.

The average charter school student in the 26 states gained an additional eight days of learning each year in reading beyond their local peers in traditional public schools, according to the latest study. This compares with a loss of seven days each year in reading for the average charter school student in the 2009 study. In mathematics, charter students went from a 22-day deficit in learning compared to their traditional public school counterparts in 2009 to being on an even par with them in the 2013 study.

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