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July 24, 1998

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Across our nation, public school choice, and in particular, charter schools, are renewing public education with their energy and new ideas. Charter schools are creative and innovative, they are public, with open enrollment, and are strengthened by the commitment of parents and educators in the communities they serve. They can be models of accountability for public schools, 'chartered' only when they meet rigorous standards of quality, and remaining open only as long as they meet those standards.

President Bill Clinton
July 24, 1998

Today, President Clinton hosts an event honoring the Boys Nation class of 1998 and announces the release of Department of Education estimates that at least 1,130 schools have received charters to provide public education to more than 200,000 students nationwide. The President will renew his call for Congress to pass legislation strengthening federal support for the charter school movement, announce a new report on the progress of charter schools, and release a guidebook for communities and states to ensure that their charter schools become models of accountability and high standards for public education.

Over 1,100 Charter Schools In Five And A Half Years. In 1992, only one charter school existed in the United States and only two states had legislation authorizing charter school education. Under President Clinton's leadership, at least 1,130 charter schools projected to serve over 200,000 students have been created, and 33 states and the District of Columbia now have laws that authorize charter school designation.

A Charter School Progress Report. Today's release of a new Department of Education study of 381 charter schools in 17 states shows that:

  • Most charter schools are significantly smaller than public schools, with a median of 149 students in a charter school compared with 505 students in a public schools in the 17 states included in the study;
  • Charter school staff report that over 80 percent of parents and students in charter schools identify a safe, nurturing environment, reinforcement of values, quality of the academic program, high academic standards, and small class size as the most attractive features of charter schools;
  • The primary obstacle to starting a successful charter school is a lack of start-up funding.

Guidelines For Making Charter Schools Models Of Accountability. The President will release a new guidebook developed by the Department of Education to help public agencies make careful decisions about awarding charters to schools and holding these schools accountable for results. The guidebook recommends that before awarding a charter, evaluation of a school's academic program, ability to manage its operations and finances effectively, and set performance standards should be assessed.

A Call For Bipartisan Legislation To Support Charter Schools. Last year, the House of Representatives passed a bill with bipartisan support to direct federal resources for charter schools to states that increase the number of charter schools, provide them with maximum flexibility, and periodically review their performance. The Administration has worked with Senators of both parties to strengthen the bill to increase accountability for academic performance in charter schools and ensure that charter schools receive their fair share of other federal education funds. The President calls on Congress to send him legislation that meets these goals before the end of the session.

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