Durbin, Kirk, Polis, Paulsen Introduce Bill to Expand Successful Charter Schools

Legislation strengthens accountability, transparency and governance of charter schools

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) joined Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO) and Erik Paulsen (R-MN) today to introduce legislation that would expand the Charter School Program at the Department of Education (DOE) making the expansion and replication of successful charter school models eligible for federal funding. The bill – the All Students Achieving through Reform (All-STAR) Act – also takes several steps to strengthen public charter school accountability, transparency, and governance.


“We must ensure that each and every child has the opportunity to learn and thrive no matter where they live and public charter schools have increasingly become an important part of that effort,” said Durbin who first introduced this legislation in 2010. “Already educating 1.4 million students in 40 states across America, many charter schools have shown that with creative thinking and innovative solutions we can achieve tremendous success for some of the most disadvantaged students. Not all charter schools succeed but those that do can use the All-Star Act to expand their reach.”


“This bill will help proven charter schools, such as the Noble Network of Charter Schools in Illinois, to thrive and expand their best practices that prepare our kids to compete on the global stage,” said Senator Kirk. “As the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee updates the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, my priority on the Committee is to advance successful charter schools.”


“The All-STAR Act is about making the very best educational practices at America’s leading charter schools available to more students,” said Polis. “It’s as simple as finding what does and doesn’t work, funding the best schools, and giving every student the best possible education. This bill will provide hope and opportunity to tens of thousands of additional children at new or expanded charter schools.”


“Charter schools provide students with high-quality, innovative learning experiences and have proven to be a bright spot in our nation’s education system,” said Paulsen. “Giving our children greater access to better educational opportunities is common-sense. I’m proud to cosponsor the All-STAR Act and help ensure that America’s children receive the best possible education, regardless of their zip code.”


All-STAR authorizes new competitive grants within the DOE's Charter School Program to replicate and expand the most successful public charter schools across the country. The three year grants can be used to add additional grades in an existing charter school or to create a new school based on an existing successful charter model.


“Students across the nation stand to benefit greatly from the All Students Achieving through Reform (All-STAR) Act, “ said Peter C. Groff, president and CEO, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “ Not only does the bill authorize much needed funding for the replication and expansion of the nation’s highest performing charter schools, but it paves the way for future policies that will also increase the levels of accountability and autonomy for all parties.”


The grants can be awarded to local education agencies, state education agencies, authorized public chartering agencies and non-profit organizations which then award subgrants to individual charter schools. Priority is given to the top performing charter schools in each state which: have significantly closed achievement gaps; rank in at least the top 25th percentile in the State in achievement; meet benchmarks on an exam selected by the Secretary of Education; serve a high-need student population; have made Adequate Yearly Progress for two of the last three consecutive years; and exceed the state graduation rate.


In order to promote and strengthen accountability, transparency and governance, All-STAR encourages states to be better regulators of charter schools by giving funding priority to states and other entities that require detailed performance reports from and have established polices to encourage successful charter schools. Specifically, the bill will prioritize states and entities that have:


  • A strategic plan for authorizing or approving public charter schools;
  • Policies for authorizing or approving public charter schools which examine a school’s financial plan, financial controls and audit requirements;
  • A plan for serving students with disabilities, students who are English language learners, students who are academically behind their peers and gifted students;
  • The capacity and capability to successfully launch and subsequently operate a public charter school, including the backgrounds of the individuals applying to the agency to operate such school; and
  • A transparent, timely, and effective process for closing down academically unsuccessful charter schools.