FEDERAL POLICY

Money, Fairness & State Policies

Most decisions about public education are made at the state level- by State Legislatures, Governors, State Boards of Education, Chief State School Officers, and State Education Agencies-and at the local level, by local school boards. The federal government has two primary levers to shape education policy: money, in the form of federal education funding, and ensuring fairness, generally through mandates that focus on ensuring equity in education.

How Federal Policy Influences Education

US Congress and Federal Law

Congress creates the federal law, with most federal education policies advanced through the Education and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The new bill is called the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA. ESSA dictates what a state must do to receive federal education MONEY, and also, along with additional federal law, establishes mandates to ensure FAIRNESS for all students.

US Department Of Education

The US Department of Education interprets the law and sets regulations, rules, and/or guidance. These specify how the Department will determine if a state is doing what it must to keep receiving MONEY, as well as ensuring FAIRNESS by complying with all federal mandates.

State Legislature and State Law

The State Legislature determines how the state will fulfill the requirements set by federal policy, which in turn places requirements on the State, local school districts, and individual schools. This secures MONEY for the state and ensures FAIRNESS for all students.

Authorizer, School District & State Education Agency

Requirements from the state often impact policy implementation at the authorizer, school district, and State Education Agency levels. Interaction with charter schools vary.

Charter School

Individual charter schools may interact with several bodies at different times—such as their authorizer,the local school district, and the State Education Agency—to verify the school is fulfilling these requirements.

US Congress and Federal Law

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Money:

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act is the largest and most comprehensive federal law that authorizes federal spending on K-12 public education. In order to receive this money, states must continue to meet certain requirements. If a state doesn’t meet these requirements, the federal government can withhold federal funding. Each state’s legislature determines how the state will fulfill the requirements set by federal policy. This state law, with some direction from federal law, will place requirements on the state, local school districts, individual schools, and authorizers. The state education agency officially receives this money from the federal government and, as the funding recipient, has primary responsibility for verifying that the state is meeting these requirements.

Title I includes the most well-known requirements a State must meet to continue receiving the largest pot of federal education dollars: set challenging academic standards for core subjects; assess students annually on their proficiency according to these standards (commonly through standardized tests); let the public know how every school in the state is performing each year (commonly called the State Report Card requirement); and engage in activities to improve performance in low-performing schools. There are other requirements tied to other pots of money as well that address topics like teacher and principle quality, education of English learners and other special student populations, and education in some geographic areas.

Fairness:

Federal policy also guides what states, districts, and schools must do to ensure they are serving each and every student fairly and appropriately. This is commonly done through mandates, which apply regardless of whether the school receives federal education funds or not.

Many of these mandates—such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act—focus on educational equity for all students and are rooted in the equal protection clauses of the constitution.

Federal mandates also address family privacy and the health and safety of students and school personnel.

State Policy:

Good charter school policy must be part of the solution to address our public education system’s greatest problem: too many children lack access to a transformative school. When done well, authorizing is a catalyst for charter school quality and growth. Yet the quality of charter laws and authorizing institutions varies across the country, which can lead to uneven charter quality and authorizing that creates barriers to access, innovation, and growth. Getting authorizing policy right is critical because good authorizing has the power to transform the lives of not just a few children, but millions. See our state policy resources for more information.

More Policy Resources
Impact on Charter School Oversight
Charter schools are commonly exempted from many state laws—autonomy and flexibility are hallmarks of the charter school model—but federal law cannot be waived.
State Policy
Effective state charter school policy must be part of the solution to address our public education system’s greatest problem: too many children lack access to a transformative school.
Federal Policy
NACSA advocates for federal policies that support and provide resources for strong authorizing activity across the country.