Charter Schools Program: Federal Investment In Educational Opportunity

Key Points

If small groups of teachers, parents or community members were going to fully implement the charter vision and start new schools from scratch, they needed access to seed funding to pay for upfront costs related to hiring staff, developing curriculum, purchasing materials, etc.
As compared to the rancor of today’s education politics, the Charter Schools Program’s (CSP) creation was bipartisan and relatively swift. In 1991, Sen. Durenberger introduced the “Public School Redefinition Act,” which authorized $50 million in annual charter school funding and was co-sponsored by Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT). In 1992, Representative Dave McCurdy (D-OK) introduced a bi-partisan House bill. President Clinton signed the federal Public Charter Schools Program into law in 1994 as part of the comprehensive Improving America’s Schools Act (IASA) ESEA reauthorization (P.L. 103-382).
Leaders in the charter sector credit the Charter Schools Program for fueling the growth of charters throughout the country, both by encouraging the passage of state charter laws and providing charter school developers with start-up funding. The Charter Schools Program has awarded approximately $4 billion in charter schools start-up funding and related charter schools grants since its inception. CSP has had a substantial impact as the charter movement grew from a small group of charter states and schools in the early 1990s to 45 states with charter laws and over 7,000 charter schools serving 3.2 million students today. When the federal Charter Schools Program office analyzed CSP grants awarded between the 2006-07 and 2013-14 school years, they found that CSP funded nearly 60% of charter schools opened in that period.

The Charter Schools Program provides the nation’s K-12 education system with start-up funding for mission-driven schools that operate with more flexibility, creativity, and innovation than “frozen-pond” district schools. Many diverse organizations have been inspired to open charters with the objectives of approaching education differently and/or providing historically-underserved students with educational opportunities. CSP provides funding for them to launch that mission.

Press release: Why the Federal Government Must Continue Investing in the Charter Schools Program

Image credit: connel

Featured Publications