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House GOP Seeks to Bolster Charters in ESEA Rewrite

States would be encouraged to set up more high-quality charter schools, under a measure just introduced by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who oversees the House subcommittee dealing with K-12 policy.

The measure would provide incentives for states to help develop charter schools and make it easier for folks who operate charters with a track record of success to open more schools. Right now, charter operators can get grants from the feds to open new schools, but not to expand existing, successful models. The measure also calls for an evaluation to take a closer look at charter-school quality.

And, in keeping with the theme of less-bureacracy-is-better, the bill aims to cut down administrative burdens for charters. For more, check out this background.

The measure is co-sponsored by Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee.

"Every child deserves access to the kind of education high-performing charter schools provide," Kline said in a statement.

But even though charters have fans on both sides of the aisle, the bill doesn't have a bipartisan stamp of approval just yet. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the ranking member of the committee, is still talking the measure over with Kline and Hunter.

"It's not bipartisan today but the negotiations continue, and we're hopeful it will be soon," said Miller's spokeswoman, Melissa Salmanowitz.

The charter bill would be the second in a series of smaller, bite-size pieces of legislation aimed at reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, aka No Child Left Behind. The committee already approved a bill eliminating a number of education programs.

It's interesting that the committee is working on charters now. On the one hand, they are important, and Republicans and the administration seem to agree on the basic concept that having more good charters would be a good thing, which seems to be the crux of this bill.

But charters aren't at the heart of the NCLB law, which is really about the federal role in accountability. It looks like the panel wants to focus, for now, on the smaller issues where members have a good sense of the right role for the federal government before tackling the very tricky issues of teachers, testing, standards, and consequences for schools.

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