October 22, 2016
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Feds Need to Re-Think Charter School Policy

Department of Education wants to tie state funding to charter school quotas.

PHILADELPHIA – For many states, charter schools provide an alternative to struggling schools. In other states, charter schools are nonexistent. It’s up to individual states to set standards for charter schools with the goal of bridging achievement gaps among poor and minority students.

Now, the U.S. Department of Education is considering a plan to set a quota for the number of charter schools in each state and then evaluate state charter school laws. They would link federal funding to this pre-determined quota, which inadvertently punishes states without charter schools. Additionally, this effort, if implemented, could preempt states’ rights and usurp state chartering authority.

In a move to urge the Department of Education to refrain from linking a state’s charter school laws with its eligibility for federal assistance, the National Conference of State Legislatures enacted a policy resolution detailing its position on federal school reform efforts.

The policy states the Department of Education’s emphasis on charter schools as a means to improve struggling schools is a regulatory step that goes beyond the limits of the legislative intent of Congress.  Furthermore, the federal government should focus on the results of school reform efforts and not on the processes used to achieve reform goals. That should be left up to the states to determine.

“We have already seen and experienced the damage that can be done when the federal government adopts a component of reform from one state and imposes it upon the other 49,” according to the policy.

The policy on charter schools enacted at the NCSL Legislative Summit in Philadelphia states that education reform efforts must respect states’ interests and not preempt state law. NCSL policies on state-federal issues guide lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill.

The policies enacted were passed at the annual business meeting by three-fourths vote. Most policies are in place for three years. Other NCSL policy statements enacted contain this same theme: the federal government should avoid unfunded mandates and preemption of state authority and provide states flexibility to innovate in developing their solutions to policy challenges. 


NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the states, commonwealths and territories. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues and is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of the states in the American federal system.


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