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Rep. George Miller supports charter bill

By Theresa Harrington
Thursday, September 8th, 2011 at 11:56 am in Education.

Rep. George Miller delivered the following remarks on the House floor today in support of the Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act, according to a news release I just received.

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act.

This legislation is the first bipartisan piece of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

It passed the Education committee with bipartisan support, and I’m hopeful it will receive similar support from the full Congress.

This country is facing a severe education crisis. Our schools are simply not meeting the educational needs of our students. This is a threat to our global competitiveness and our economic security.

Charter schools began 20 years ago as a laboratory for innovation to help tackle the stagnant education system at that time and give options to parents who felt helpless.

These schools often become the myth busters for what’s possible for a demographic of children that was written off.

Currently, they serve about 4 percent of all public school students. In urban areas, that number is much higher.

Charter schools are not a silver bullet and won’t solve all our education challenges. But they have become an important part of our education system. We need to update the law to reflect that reality.

The Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act encourages effective reforms that will help transform schools and communities.

First, this bill makes significant improvements to the existing Charter School Program and addresses issues we’ve heard from education advocates across the country.

It rightfully returns charter schools to their original purpose – public schools that identify and share innovative practices that lead to improvements for all public schools.

It requires that charters be brought back into the traditional public system as opposed to running in a parallel system.

And it requires charters to actually serve all student populations and therefore provides more parents with real choices.

Second, this bill prioritizes accountability.

It puts student achievement first. And it greatly increases the accountability of charter school authorizers.

Third, this bill addresses a recurring problem in charter schools, which is the lack of service to students with disabilities and English Language Learners.

In this bill, we dramatically improve access for underserved populations. We require better recruitment and enrollment practices for underserved populations.

Lastly, this bill is rightly focused on our students and what they need to succeed.

In many states, high performing charter schools are a great option for some students.

These schools are closing achievement gaps and shattering the low expectations that have stood in the way of student success.

Charter schools have been on the forefront of bold ideas and innovation in education. They’ve shown that given the right tools, all students can achieve at high levels.

We’re learning from great charter schools about works for students and what students need to be able to compete in a global economy.

Replicating this success will help our students, our communities and our economy.

With this legislation, we can help replicate that the positive reforms happening at some charter schools will happen at all charter schools. We can help ensure best practices are shared within a school district.

But this legislation is only one piece of the education reform puzzle.

Unfortunately, we’re not taking on the whole Elementary and Secondary Education Act today, just one part.

This country is in the midst of the most dynamic education reform atmosphere I’ve seen in my tenure in Congress.

The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act presents an opportunity to take hold of that momentum and finally bring our education system to the future.

The bill before us today is good, but we need to do much more.

It will be a tremendous disservice to our children and our country if we don’t provide relief for schools who are struggling under an outdated law.

This relief should come in the form of a full, comprehensive reauthorization of ESEA.

To do that, we have to take on ALL of the real issues facing all our schools, not just charters.

We need to address accountability, data, assessments and college and career ready standards and modernizing the teaching profession.

And we have to hold true to the reason that the federal government has a role in education in the first place – to ensure equal opportunity for every student in this country to a great education.

We know what it will take to fix our schools – it isn’t a mystery. But accomplishing that goal isn’t easy. It takes real political will to overcome ideology and to stay focused on what’s best for kids.

I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this bill. And I hope that we can get to a much more comprehensive reauthorization of ESEA in the near future.”

Do you think Congress should pass the Quality Charter Schools Act?

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