Latest Federal Budget Proposal Is a Big Loss—Not Only for Charter Schools, But All Public Schools

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Latest Federal Budget Proposal Is a Big Loss—Not Only for Charter Schools, But All Public Schools

The President’s recently-released 2021 budget proposal would be harmful to public education, especially charter schools.

While President Trump and his administration have expressed a commitment to school choice, this proposal abandons dozens of educational values that Americans support and seeks to radically change the federal government’s role in education in the process.

Title I grants would be combined with 28 other programs—including the federal Charter School Program (CSP)—into a single block grant. The cumulative funding for these 29 programs would then be slashed by nearly 20 percent, from a combined $24.1 billion to $19.4 billion.

Any reduction in Title I funding would have a significant impact on public education in general and charter schools in particular. Title I funding allocates additional resources and support to low-income students. Charter schools are more likely to serve low-income students than district schools, and in higher concentrations. Analysis of NCES data shows that, in 2015-16, the more than 3,000 charter schools that operate as their own school district (about half of the charter sector) received more than $833M in federal education funds, including $406M in Title I funds.

While formulas for allocating Title I funding could be improved to more fairly serve charter schools, we wholeheartedly oppose any reduction in the program.

Combining 29 different grant programs into a single block grant would all but eliminate the important role the Department of Education plays in education policy, specifically holding states accountable. By allocating funds for specific programs and priorities, the federal government ensures that states invest across a spectrum of areas, from high-quality teacher training to after-school programs to school safety and more. A single block grant would inevitably spur some states to ignore or drastically underfund important programs.

Finally, rolling the Charter Schools Program into the proposed block grant, especially in the current politically polarized environment, could—in certain places—be the same as eliminating the program altogether. States where charters are under attack might outright cut the program, while other states could quickly redirect any funds to voucher programs and stymie the growth of high-quality public school options. The new federal Charter School program under ESSA contains the only source of federal funds explicitly set aside to improve the quality of charter school authorizing and oversight across the country, and losing those resources could have a ripple effect of school quality in dozens of states.

A federal budget proposal that slashes federal education funding, eliminates the important role the U.S. Department of Education plays in holding states accountable for the use of taxpayer funds, and potentially harms the growth of public charter schools across the country?

To all that we say: the United States can and should do better.

Jason Zwara analyzes and develops charter authorizing policies as part of NACSA’s policy team. He tracks state and federal charter school legislation and develops policy resources for members and advocacy partners. Have policy questions? Please reach out to Jason at jasonz@qualitycharters.org


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