Today, the House of Representatives passed the Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act (H.R. 2218) by a vote of 365-54. In response to reports that students with disabilities lack access to and services in charter schools, CEC successfully advocated for the inclusion of numerous new provisions in this bill to strengthen protections for students with disabilities in charter schools.
But this successful effort was nearly thwarted when Congressman Steve King (R-IA) took to the floor of the House of Representatives late last week to introduce an amendment to change the definition of high quality charter school by striking language that would require demonstration of achievement gains for students from historically disadvantaged groups, including students with disabilities
Together with its members, CEC called on Congress to reject the King Amendment, which was ultimately defeated by a vote of 374-43. CEC applauds the quick, strategic work of its members who called Congressional offices and urged a “NO” vote. Passage of this amendment would have undermined the many other CEC-supported provisions in the Act.
Specifically, CEC was pleased to see that all of the following provisions were included in the legislation:
- A requirement that State entities describe how they will ensure charters meet the educational needs of students with disabilities;
- An assurance that State entities require charter authorizing agencies to ensure charter schools meet the obligations of IDEA and section 504;
- An assurance that State entities adequately monitor and help charter schools recruit, enroll, and meet the needs of all students with disabilities; and
- The definition of High Quality Charter School specifically includes schools that have demonstrated success in significantly increasing academic achievement for all students, and specifically students with disabilities.
These provisions represent a step forward for education policy in our nation and an acknowledgement that charter schools must include and do more for students with disabilities.
This legislation marks the passage of the first ESEA reauthorization bill. The House Education and Workforce Committee have been working to address ESEA reauthorization in a series of bills focusing on specific issues including: eliminating “wasteful” programs and funding flexibility, two bills CEC has opposed. This fall the Committee is expected to address teacher quality and accountability. Stay tuned!