The U.S. Department of Education has awarded Tennessee a $6.5 million three-year grant to help plan, design, and create new charter schools and increase the school choices that parents have to provide to their children, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced today.
Tennessee is one of nine states receiving grants through the department’s Charter Schools Program (CSP), designed to increase national understanding of the charter school model and to expand the number of charter schools available to the nation’s students. In addition to providing for the start-up and operation of charter schools, these funds are also used to evaluate charter school effectiveness. The program also aids in the dissemination of information and successful practices.
“Charter schools are empowering parents with new options in public education and as additional educational strategies they’re helping to raise achievement in all our public schools,” Spellings said. “That’s why we’re doing everything we can to support existing ones and help build new ones.”
The other states receiving grants are Kansas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, South Carolina, and New Mexico.
Charter schools are growing annually between 10-12 percent. The department’s program is the most prevalent source of start-up funding for charter schools, with nearly two-thirds having received CSP funds during their start-up phase. The CSP has received more than $1.7 billion from Congress since first being appropriated in 1995 and the department provides some $250 million a year to help sustain and expand charter schools across the nation.
Tennessee will use its grant to continue to support the development and implementation of high-quality charter schools capable of having a significant positive impact on student achievement. It’s objectives are to: provide financial resources to expand the number of and support for high quality charter schools; assist charter school authorizers in making approval, renewal, revocation, and oversight decisions that are sound, fair, well-informed, and in the best interest of students; support the success of charter schools through expanded technical assistance to, and evaluation and monitoring of, charter school sub grantees; and improve academic achievement of students.
"One of my last official acts as Education Secretary was to write a letter to every school superintendent in America urging them to create charter schools," said U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander. "Charter schools play a unique role in public education by offering students a variety of options to meet their different learning needs. They vary in specific mission and focus, but not in their commitment to excellence. This funding will allow Tennessee to create more high-quality charter schools across the state, giving parents choices, teachers freedom and children more opportunities to achieve."
"Charter schools are uniquely able to provide the type of innovation that our education system needs to prepare students to compete in an ever-expanding math and science-driven world economy," said U.S. Senator Bill Frist. "I appreciate Secretary Spellings' support for Tennessee's efforts to offer additional education options to students and parents across our state. Together we are making progress in providing our communities with new tools that ensure our children receive the very best preparation today for the challenges they will face tomorrow."
Charter schools are independent public schools designed and operated by parents, educators, community leaders, education entrepreneurs and others with a contract, or charter, from a public agency, such as a local or state education agency or an institution of higher education. Charter schools are operated free-of-charge to parents and are open to all students.
These schools provide parents enhanced educational choices within the public school system. Exempt from many statutory and regulatory requirements, charter schools receive increased flexibility in exchange for increased accountability for improving academic achievement. The first U.S. public charter school opened in 1992. Today, more than 3,600 charter schools serve more than a million students in 40 states and Washington, D.C.