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Bipartisan Federal Charter Bill Introduced in U.S. House

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This blog post, written by Alyson Klein, originally appeared in the Politics K-12 blog.

It's official: Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, and Rep. George Miller, the top Democrat on the panel, are planning to introduce a bipartisan charter school bill. (We previewed this announcement here.)

Kline announced the legislation during a trip back to his home state of Minnesota, where he toured two charter schools, the Global Academy in Columbia Heights, Minnesota, and Aspen Academy in Savage, Minnesota. Kline was joined by Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind., who heads up the House School Choice Caucus.

The charter school bill is likely to look similar to a bill that passed the House by a huge bipartisan margin of 365-54 back in 2011.That legislation would have allowed states to tap federal funds to replicate charter school models that have a track record of success. It also sought to help charters gain access to high-quality facilities and encouraged states to work with charters to help them serve special populations, such as students in special education.The major difference in this new version, sources say, could be a greater emphasis on ensuring that federal funding goes to charter management organizations (such as KIPP or Aspire).

The Senate never acted on the 2011 bill, but Kline said in an interview back in his home district today that he's optimistic for its chances this time around.

The House already passed a bill to reauthorize the NCLB law, which includes a section on charter schools that looks very similar to what's in the forthcoming bill. But while the portion of the legislation had Democratic support, the bill's provisions on areas like accountability, school turnarounds, and funding were decidedly partisan. Kline said it's not fair to "hold [charter] families hostage" to the broader politics surrounding the bill.

"I thought it was important to pull this charter piece out of the bill so that more families have an opportunity for their children to have success," he said. 

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