School Choice & Charters

House Members Question Charter School Access to Federal Funds

By Joetta L. Sack — September 24, 1997 3 min read

Washington

Most directors of charter schools feel they have adequate access to federal funding for at-risk and disabled children, according to preliminary results of a study by the General Accounting Office.

But some members of Congress remain skeptical that such schools receive their fair share of federal dollars, compared with traditional public schools--or that charter school administrators are even aware they can receive such funds.

Rep. Frank Riggs, the California Republican who chairs the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Youth, and Families, brought funding questions to the forefront at a hearing on charters last week.

Mr. Riggs and other subcommittee members said they were worried that charter schools--which are publicly funded but typically operate free of many state and local regulations--were not receiving their full share of support under federal programs such as Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Many of the members’ concerns could not be directly addressed, representatives of the GAO said, because states and districts are given broad discretion over distributing most federal money, and funding varies widely. The full report by the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, is slated to be released in April.

But some charters may have missed out on Title I dollars for schools that serve a high proportion of disadvantaged students because they did not have the data needed to prove that their students had histories of low academic performance, according to Cornelia Blanchette, the GAO’s associate director for education and employment issues. The investigators’ preliminary findings show that charter school operators surveyed in seven states cited inadequate time and resources and a lack of knowledge about the process of applying for federal grants as deterrents to staking claims to federal funds.

Some charter school operators have also resisted applying for aid because of philosophical disputes over the wisdom of accepting federal support and the massive paperwork involved, according to the GAO.

The information did not sit well with Republican members of the panel, who earlier this year vowed to reduce bureaucracy in federal education programs.

Mr. Riggs said that charter school legislation he intends to introduce next month might contain language to ensure that charters receive a fair share of federal funding. The committee was unable to provide further details.

A Charter Priority

While members of Congress have been debating fiscal 1998 appropriations and a plan for new national tests in recent weeks, Mr. Riggs has focused much of his energy on charters.

Mr. Riggs co-sponsored, with Rep. Tim Roemer, D-Ind., a successful amendment to the House appropriations bill to increase federal funding for charter schools to $100 million, the same amount President Clinton requested. The current federal appropriation for charter start-up money is $50.9 million.

And he delivered the Republican radio address on Sept. 13, saying that the GOP was responding to parents who wanted better schools for their children. “We want to expand new innovations such as charter schools and give options for parents who want a greater say in how and where their children are educated,” Mr. Riggs said in the address.

While several Democrats on the subcommittee last week were generally supportive of charters, the ranking member warned against looking at such schools as a silver bullet for education reform.

Rep. Matthew G. Martinez, D-Calif., said Congress must also focus on improving the traditional public schools. Money spent to buy textbooks and supplies for charter schools could be used to buy computers and upgrade technology in existing schools, he suggested.

“What I’m worried about is all those kids we’re leaving behind in public schools,” he said.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning
Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Choice & Charters How the Pandemic Helped Fuel the Private School Choice Movement
State lawmakers got a new talking point as they pushed to create and expand programs to send students to private schools.
8 min read
Collage showing two boys in classroom during pandemic wearing masks with cropped photo of feet and arrows going in different directions.
Collage by Gina Tomko/EducationWeek (Images: Getty)
School Choice & Charters Opinion Taking Stock After 30 Years of Charter Schools
Rick Hess speaks with Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, on charter schools turning 30.
8 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters In Fight Over Millions of Dollars for Charter Schools, a Marijuana Tax May Bring Peace
The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted unanimously to rescind a polarizing lawsuit settlement, pending certain stipulations.
Nuria Martinez-Keel, The Oklahoman
3 min read
Money bills cash funds close up Getty
Getty
School Choice & Charters Full-Time Virtual Schools: Still Growing, Still Struggling, Still Resisting Oversight
Nearly 500,000 students now attend full-time online and blended schools, says a new report from the National Education Policy Center.
6 min read
Student attending class from a remote location.
E+