PRESS RELEASE: DFI Challenges Department of Education’s Proposed Rule for Charter School Program

April 18, 2022

Says proposed rule demonstrates gross Federal overreach, would chill charter school expansion

WASHINGTON—The Defense of Freedom Institute for Policy Studies (DFI) is challenging the Biden Administration’s proposed changes to the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Charter School Program (CSP) grant competition.  In its official comment, DFI makes clear that the new rules represent gross overreach by the Federal government and would chill or possibly halt charter school expansion.

Given President Biden’s support for charter schools and their students prior to his 2020 presidential campaign, DFI has also submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request demanding to see correspondence between the Department and outside interest groups who may have had influence on the proposal, including union bosses who have vocally opposed charter school expansion. ED evidently did not, as required by law, reach out to charter school supporters as it developed the proposed changes.
 
“The proposed rule shows clear hostility toward autonomous charter schools, and by extension, the students and families they serve,” said Jim Blew, DFI cofounder and a former Assistant Secretary under U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “It’s clear the Department wanted to please the Biden White House and labor unions, but they are simply not allowed to remake a law that lays out clearly how CSP should be administered. The department should withdraw its proposal.” 

Union leadership has vocally pushed back on non-union charter schools over the last few years. Despite the success of charter schools with raising the achievement of Black, Latino and low-income students, the National Education Association (NEA) has called public charter schools a “failed and damaging experiment.” The union’s latest policy statement on charter schools reads as if it served as the blueprint for the Biden Administration’s proposal.

“The proposed CSP grant competition is yet another example of the Biden administration putting the demands of outside interest groups, including union leaders, ahead of the needs of parents and students,” continued Blew.  “At a time when kids and families need education options more than ever, we must stop these proposed rules from going into effect. We should be caring first about our students, not union bosses.”  
 
“Campaign promises and union policy statements cannot displace duly enacted federal law,” reads DFI’s public comment on the proposed changes to CSP.  “Congress enacted the CSP provisions in 2015 … [The Department] does not have the authority to twist or add to those provisions to suit its own purposes in the face of CSP’s clear, unambiguous statutory framework.” Some of the more egregious proposed changes to CSP include:

  • Requiring public charter schools to secure sponsorship by a traditional public school or district,
  • Requiring public charter schools to conduct “community impact” analyses that would undermine the ability of disadvantaged students to choose charter schools,
  • Instituting grant selection criteria designed to favor awards to less innovative charter schools, and
  • Diminishing the role of States in the control and administration of their own charter school programs.

Families across the country are demanding charter schools, which tripled in nationwide enrollment between 2005 and 2017 and grew 7 percent during the 2020-2021 school year alone. Despite such rapid growth, hundreds of thousands of students across the country remain on waitlists for charter schools.  

To read the public comment DFI submitted on the proposed changes, click here.
To read the related FOIA, please visit DFI’s Federal Oversight Document Library at www.dfipolicy.org/oversight.