Last week, the House of Representatives passed, in a 360-45 vote, legislation that would reauthorize charter schools. The measure, the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter School Act (HR10), would authorize $300 million per year for fiscal years 2015 through 2020. It would also consolidate the Charter School Program and the Charter School Credit Enhancement Program into one program. According to the summary provided by the House Education and Workforce Committee, the new program would consist of three parts: grants to high-quality charter schools, aid to facilities and national activities.
The measure has enjoyed bi-partisan support in the House and is very similar to the language the House passed last year and in 2011 when they attempted to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Since charter school programs have not been authorized since “No Child Left Behind” (P.L. 107-110) first passed, the primary vehicle used to make alterations and fund the program has been the Labor HHS Education appropriation bill each year.
For more than a year, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has led the effort to push forward with charter initiatives on the House side. The issue has enjoyed further momentum with the formation of school choice caucus by Representative Luke Messer (R-Indiana) and Majority Whip, Kevin McCarthy, urged members to visit charter schools during a recess in April.
The Senate, however, has not been as focused or supportive of the issue and it remains unclear if they will address charter schools this year. The Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said he had no intention of working the charter school legislation through his committee. Senator Harkin is planning to retire at the end of this year and his focus has been geared more toward Early Education and Higher Education. However, the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) introduced a charter school reauthorization bill last week in the Senate that is similar to the one passed by the House. Even if the Senate were to take up the legislation, many question if they would ever be able to bring such a bill to the floor. As the elections begin to gear up, the number of legislative days is starting to diminish for the year, leaving the Senate with a long list of items to cover and not enough calendar days to address them.
We will continue to monitor this and keep you updated as information becomes available.