Charter Schools

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Big Backing

Compared with last year, the U.S. Department of Education significantly increased the amount of resources it devoted to marking National Charter Schools Week. Officials fanned out last week across the country to underscore the Bush administration’s support for the independently run but publicly financed schools.

No fewer than 17 senior officials gave speeches during the week in 20 charter schools in 17 states and the District of Columbia, as well as at one statewide charter conference. Last year, eight officials visited 12 schools in six states, plus the nation’s capital.

"Charter schools are creative, innovative, and accountable," U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige said during a May 3 speech to kick off the week at the SAIL (School for Arts in Learning) Charter School in Washington. Run by a local nonprofit organization that provides arts programming for children with special needs, the 6-year-old, 114-student school for grades K-6 won praise from Mr. Paige as an example of the "innovation that makes education great."

To mark the fifth annual charter schools week, other senior department officials spoke at schools in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

In contrast, the department’s recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week—which also fell May 3-7—was more subdued. The main event was a statement by Mr. Paige on May 4 announcing that the department would be holding a "Research-to-Practice Summit" in Washington on July 20 to bring together effective teachers and prominent education researchers.

On the charter front, department officials noted last week that President Bush’s proposed budget for the 2005 fiscal year calls for lifting spending from $37.3 million to $100 million for grants to organizations that leverage funding for charter school facilities.

Funding would remain flat for a $200-million-a-year program that supports the planning and start-up of new charter schools. Also holding steady would be a $18.7 million allocation for matching grants to states that provide per-pupil funding for charter school facilities. That program is in its first year; the federal department is accepting applications until July 1.

Caroline Hendrie

Vol. 23, Issue 36, Page 9

Published in Print: May 12, 2004, as Charter Schools

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