CALL to ACTION: Common-sense guardrails have been proposed for the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP). Please submit a comment in support of the proposed changes by this Monday, April 18, the end of the comment period. If adopted, the new rules could help lead to powerful improvements in the CSP. The US Department of Education needs to hear from public school advocates in support of these changes.
How many of us have had a charter school open up in our community with lots of big promises and shiny advertising? How many school districts have to make cuts as families and funds leave? (Case in point: Indianapolis Public Schools is looking to close buildings after years of charter schools siphoning students from the district.)
When students and families leave the public school system, communities fracture. Our public schools are sites that bring us together, from disparate political beliefs, religions, incomes, and racial backgrounds. In them, students learn to respect and interact with people different than themselves. Sports, theater, and musical performances bring together families from many walks of life to celebrate our children and our future. The loss of any one family or a group of families tears at this fabric, and it also reduces the collective commitment to maintaining resources and programs that are a source of community pride. It reduces the need to listen to many voices, to reconcile visions that are in tension with each other, and to engage in the hard work of democracy.
In the last decade--specifically, the 2010-11 to 2019-20 school years--Indiana has diverted more than $2.28 billion in tuition support to funding charter schools, which are privately run even though the statute calls them public. That's desperately needed money that leaves the public school system and enters an environment with hazy oversight, no accountability through elected boards, and a record of frequent school closures that interrupt children's relationships and education. Hands down, the most lurid example so far is the Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy scandal, in which the virtual charter schools fraudulently claimed to be educating students who were not enrolled in any classes, at great expense to taxpayers; our attorney general is currently suing the schools' representatives for $154 million.
The proposed rules for the federal Charter Schools Program would not shut down charters and would not reduce the money available to charters; rather, they would affect who is eligible to receive CSP grants and what the process of applying would involve. Two of the most meaningful changes are:
From our state group, the Indiana Coalition for Public Education:
Why this is important:
What we need you to do:
Don't have time to write a personalized comment? Send a letter through the NEA site. This will take about 30 seconds.
Comments must be received on or before this Monday, April 18. Your comment can have a big impact. Please act now.
P.S. The original deadline for comments was April 13, but the comment window was extended.