Dear Charter School Community –

This week, the United States Senate and U.S. House of Representatives will both take action on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

On Wednesday, the House will attempt to pass H.R. 5, the Student Success Act. As you may recall, H.R. 5 was pulled from the House floor the last week of February when it became clear that it did not have the votes necessary to pass. In an effort to attract additional votes for H.R. 5, House leadership will allow the consideration of several amendments intended to address concerns in the Republican Conference. We anticipate debate on proposals that would allow states to opt-out of ESEA requirements (while keeping ESEA funds) and assessments. It is not clear whether these amendments will pass. As a reminder, click here to read the National Alliance’s February letter to the House on H.R. 5 which outlines the parts of the bill that we support, and the areas that need additional work.

Meanwhile, on July 7, the Senate will start consideration of S. 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA). Senate consideration could take anywhere from one to four weeks (NCLB took six weeks!). While we expect vigorous debate on accountability (including but not limited to assessments and intervention in low-performing schools), data privacy, funding formulas, and the appropriate federal/state balance in K-12 education, we remain optimistic about Senate passage. Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray are experienced legislators with a strong track record of guiding difficult bills through the Senate. To date, they have kept a bipartisan agreement together on both process and substance – no easy feat in this environment. The pressure from education stakeholders, including the charter school community, to overhaul ESEA is strong. Finally, a bipartisan coalition of Senators are just as eager to update the law. Click here to read the National Alliance’s letter to the Senate in support of ECAA.

In terms of the Charter Schools Program, S. 1177 retains all of the provisions included in S. 316, the Expanding Opportunities through Quality Charter Schools Act, which was introduced in January by Senators Kirk, Bennet, Alexander and Feinstein. Over the past two months we have secured additional provisions, including the inclusion of charter school representatives in the negotiated rulemaking process at the U.S. Department of Education, and language protecting Title I allocations to new and expanding charter schools.

We expect that Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) will soon introduce a charter school bill that closely tracks the Annenberg Institute’s recommendations on charter school accountability (see the National Alliance’s statement on the report here). The National Alliance partnered with KIPP and Breakthrough Schools in communicating the concerns of the charter school community to the senator’s office. Senator Brown is not going to request a vote, and we are working closely with Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray to address related concerns.

We will keep you updated over the coming weeks. If you are interested in closely tracking Congressional action, we recommend following our partners, The Penn Hill Group, on twitter @PennHillGroup.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions.

Gina

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Gina Mahony
Senior Vice President. Government Relations
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools