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NEA Hearing Comments on Charter Schools’ Role in K12 Education

March 11, 2014

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the three million members of the National Education Association, and the students they serve, we offer our views on the role of charter schools as will be discussed tomorrow’s hearing, “Raising the Bar: The Role of Charter Schools in K-12 Education.”

NEA supports high-quality charter schools that: operate in a manner that is transparent and accountable to parents and taxpayers; ensures equity and access; and solicit and benefit from input from parents, educators, and the communities they serve. Educators support innovation in our nation’s schools, and public charter schools that operate in a transparent, accountable manner can contribute to that goal. We caution, however, that charter schools are not a panacea for solving all education challenges.

Charter schools are public schools, so they should be held to the same accountability standards as traditional public schools, including those in ESEA and other federal requirements. We believe there should be clearer requirements for charter school authorizers to work directly with charter schools to conduct annual financial audits. In addition, there should be quality control measures that require authorizers to meet or exceed the principles established by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. States should require charter schools to disclose publicly all funding sources (public and private), student attrition rates, and student demographic characteristics.

Improving the authorizing processes and decisions would increase the proportion of high-quality charter schools and reduce the number of charter schools that need to be closed due to poor quality. Research shows that in comparison with other public schools, charter schools as a whole spend more on administrative overhead and less on student instruction.

Charter schools should be required to comply fully with state open meetings/open records laws applicable to all other taxpayer-funded schools, with compliance monitored by authorizers. Failure of schools to release documents pertaining to governing board meetings, school policy and data, or to require members of the public to file formal freedom of information requests to obtain these documents must be swiftly addressed and corrected by the authorizer.

The best studies of charter schools to date, including the 2013 national study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University, have yielded mixed results with regard to student achievement. Charters come out ahead of, the same as, or behind traditional public schools in terms of student growth depending on the subject area, the demographic characteristics of individual students, and the length of time a school has been in operation. While many statistically significant differences have been found, the size of these effects is generally quite small.

The experience of our members guides us in firmly believing that charter schools – as with any public school – are most successful when parents, educators, and whole communities support their existence and success.

We thank the Committee for holding this important hearing and look forward to working with you on this issue.


Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations