18 GOP Governors Oppose Proposed Federal Rule on Charter Schools

Today, 18 Republican governors, led by Governor Bill Lee (TN), issued a joint statement to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona expressing their opposition to new mandates altering the U.S. Department of Education Charter School Program (CSP) and asking the Biden administration to reconsider and allow public comment to remain open.

More parents have sought to enroll their children in high-performing public charter schools following Democrats’ insistence on extended remote learning post pandemic. Democrats’ restrictive policies led to significant learning loss, a decline in college enrollment, and a rapid rise in mental-health challenges experienced by students.

These new mandates from the Biden administration threaten charter schools’ ability to secure federal funding; create burdens that ultimately harm the students from minority and low-income households; and institute a top-down approach that undermines the authority of parents to choose the educational option best for their child.

Signatories to the joint comment include: Governors Bill Lee (TN), Kay Ivey (AL), Mike Dunleavy (AK), Doug Ducey (AZ), Asa Hutchinson (AR), Ron DeSantis (FL), Brian Kemp (GA), Eric Holcomb (IN), Kim Reynolds (IA), Larry Hogan (MD), Charlie Baker (MA), Tate Reeves (MS), Mike Parson (MO), Pete Ricketts (NE), Chris Sununu (NH), Mike DeWine (OH), Kevin Stitt (OK), and Greg Abbott (TX).

Portions of the comment included below:

“We oppose any attempts by the federal government to act as a national charter school board, impose a top-down and one-size-fits-all approach, and undermine the authority of parents to choose the educational option best for their child.  Specifically, we take issue with both the substance and process of the proposed rule, and therefore, we ask that the comment period be extended, the community impact analysis requirement be removed, and implementation be delayed by one year.

“Charter schools are public schools, and many of the 3.5 million American students enrolled in charter schools are educated through the public education system in our states.  Charter school leaders are essential partners in offering high-quality options that deliver outcomes for students and provide competition to lift academic achievement in nearby schools.

“The Administration seeks to impose a new standard that will require charters to demonstrate that the relevant school district is ‘over-enrolled.’ By focusing on the number of seats, rather than the number of ‘high-quality’ seats, the new standard fails to consider that a driving force in a parent’s decision is the desire for their child to attend a school that meets their child’s unique needs.

“It is a certainty that the expansion of such burdensome regulations will make it more difficult—if not impossible—for independent and smaller charter schools to access federal funds.  Accordingly, we ask that the Administration: 

  1. Extend the unprecedentedly short comment period to reflect the magnitude of changes proposed and solicit meaningful public comment;
  2. Remove all provisions that limit local control, including the new requirement for a community impact analysis, which would mandate school districts be over-enrolled and put federal officials in the place of local parents in determining the need for high-quality choices; and
  3. Delay any changes to the program to the next fiscal year so that the current program can be administered under rules that are long-standing and well understood by applicants.”