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"The charter school movement is a real grass-roots revolution in education, and we must do everything we can to support it."

President Bill Clinton
Friday, February 11, 2000

Today, the White House released a new report detailing the growth of charter schools across the country, and announced that the President's FY 2001 budget includes $175 million for the Public Charter Schools Program a $30 million increase over last year's levels. Today's report, produced for the Department of Education, reveals that charter schools are growing more widespread each year, and are bringing benefits through smaller size and diversity.

New Report Highlights Popularity, Size, and Diversity of Charter Schools. Charter schools are independent public schools founded by parents and teachers, and open to all students. In exchange for high levels of accountability for student achievement, charter schools are given more autonomy and flexibility than traditional public schools in staffing, curriculum, and other areas. Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia have now passed legislation allowing the creation of charter schools. Today's report shows:

  • More than 250,000 students nationwide are now enrolled in charter schools in 30 states and DC;
  • 7 out of 10 charter schools are so popular that they have waiting lists for students;
  • Most charter schools are small, with median enrollment at 137, compared to 475 for public schools;
  • 7 of 10 charter schools are newly created schools, 18% are public schools that converted to charter status, and 10% are converted private schools; and
  • Charter schools enroll a higher percentage of students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch than other public schools in their states, and reflect similar racial diversity.

President Clinton's Leadership Key To Growth Of Charter Schools. President Clinton has long been a champion of charter schools. When the President was first elected, there was only one public charter school in the United States. This year, according to today's report, 1,605 charter schools were in operation as of September 1999 more than half of the President's goal of 3,000 charter schools. National leadership has played a key role in this rapid growth: federal funds have supported the creation of charter schools and helped disseminate best practices and strategies among these schools. Local charter schools use federal funds for planning and development as well as for start-up costs, which are a major barrier to the creation of such schools.

Improving Public Education And Empowering Parents. Charter schools help strengthen public education and provide benefits to parents and students by:

  • Using a standards-based approach to education. Every charter school works with a public authority to establish clear performance standards. A charter school that fails to meet the terms of its charter is closed down. The Public Charter Schools program, which was reauthorized with the President's leadership in 1998, gives priority to states that have strong standards for academic accountability. Charter schools receiving federal funding must be measured by the same state assessments as any other public school.

  • Empowering parents through public school choice. States and districts around the country are using charter schools and other innovations to offer students high-quality, well-tailored educational options. Public school choice can spur school improvement, and surveys find high levels of support and satisfaction among parents of charter school students.

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