Statement

Statement of Raymond C. Pierce, President and CEO, Southern Education Foundation, on Increased Funding for the Federal Charter School Program

Education Equity Leader  Urges Congress to Ensure Charter School Program Supports High-Quality Charters that Share Best Practices

MEDIA CONTACT:  Gretchen Wright, gwright@southerneducation.org, (202) 421-5830

April 19, 2021 (Atlanta, Georgia) — The Southern Education Foundation released the following statement from its President and CEO regarding increased funding for the federal Charter School Program:

Before Congress considers appropriating $500 million to the federal Charter School Program, it needs to ensure that the public charter schools served by this program are high-quality as advertised and require a guarantee that those schools will fulfill the original purpose of charter schools: To serve as hubs of innovation and experimentation that share their best practices in teaching and learning with public schools at large.

That was the original mission of charter schools as envisioned by their creator, Ray Budde, and it was the intended goal two of their key proponents: American Federation of Teachers President Albert Shanker and U.S. President Bill Clinton.

If our nation is going to invest heavily in charter schools, we must know that our investments will pay off for all students, not just a chosen few. The flexibility granted to charter schools as a result of their autonomy compared with traditional public schools, combined with their smaller class sizes and novel teaching methods, puts them in a position to develop and share best practices that can improve public education as a whole.

Greater federal investments in charter schools must also address the fact that not all charter schools are created equal. Currently, there are too many charter schools that are not high-quality, do not share lessons learned, and/or drain funding and the highest performing students from the public school system. As a result, traditional public schools, with a mandate to educate all students regardless of background, struggle to boost achievement with less funding. What we do not want to do is invest $500 million in schools that will only serve to further create inequities in a system that already struggles to provide every student – especially students of color and students from low-income families – with a high-quality education.

Over the past year, the pandemic has compounded inequities in education. That has dramatically increased the need for innovation and information sharing between our nation’s charter and traditional public schools. Given the need for accelerated learning to counteract the pandemic’s effect over the past school year, it is imperative that charter schools be required to identify and share their best practices and that school districts develop designs to infuse those best practices into the larger public school systems wherever practical.

With our nation, our nation’s schools, and our nation’s students still reeling from the impact of the pandemic, we must take this moment to carefully consider how we spend each and every dollar. And we must ensure that every expenditure advances equity in our nation.

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Originally founded in 1867 to educate Black children and children from low-income families in the South, the Southern Education Foundation also has a long history of developing leaders in education and was a pivotal source of research and data to support legislation and litigation aimed at fighting inequity in education during the civil rights era. The organization today conducts leadership development, research, and advocacy to improve educational opportunities for low-income students and students of color and achieve educational equity in the Southern U.S. It is based in Atlanta, Georgia. Find out more at https://southerneducation.org