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Some Charters Can Use Weighted Lotteries, New Federal Guidance Says

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Charter schools receiving federal charter-school program funds may now hold weighted lotteries in favor of disadvantaged students, according to new non-regulatory guidance from the U.S. Department of Education released today.

Previously, the Education Department had threatened to withhold federal funding from charter schools that held weighted lotteries (most notably, from the Success Academy charter school network in New York City run by Eva Moskowitz.) However, the new guidance says that as long as it is permissible within an individual state's charter school law, charters can provide admissions preferences for students "who are economically disadvantaged, students with disabilities, migrant students, limited English proficient students, neglected or delinquent students, and homeless students."

The move is one that many charter advocates have been pushing for. Michael J. Petrilli, the executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute posted an op-ed in the Washington Post two days ago, in fact, that called for the creation of weighted lotteries in the nation's capital. This morning, he praised the new guidance on his blog.

Nina Rees, the president and chief executive officer of the Washington-based National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released a statement commending the new guidance. "For years charter schools across the country have been giving preferences to these students in their lotteries, only to find themselves barred from federal funding by the [U.S. Department of Education]. This new guidance brings the federal government in line with policies several states have already put into place so charters can enroll disadvantaged students in alignment with their missions."

Richard D. Kahlenberg and Halley Potter, from The Century Foundation—a nonpartisan think tank—and authors of a forthcoming book about charter schools wrote about the implications of the change on this Washington Post blog. "If we want to encourage the creation of new diverse charter schools, and the expansion of successful integrated examples already out there, opening federal funding to schools with weighted lotteries is important," they write. 

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