GOP governors urge Biden to scrap proposed charter schools funding rule

Critics have argued charter schools take away much-needed federal funds from traditional public schools

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A group of 18 Republican governors urged the Biden administration on Monday to get rid of a proposed rule that they say would restrict federal funding for charter schools.

In a 2-page letter sent to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, the governors, led by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, asked the federal government to reconsider the rule and allow a longer period for public comment. The final day for public input was Monday, just over 30 days from when the mandate was posted March 14 to the Federal Register. 

"We oppose any attempts by the federal government to act as a national charter school board, impose a top-down and one-size-fits-all approach, and undermine the authority of parents to choose the educational option best for their child," the letter said. 

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The letter was also signed by the governors of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas. 

Charter schools are privately-run institutions that are given public funding. Critics have argued the schools take away much-needed federal funds from traditional public schools.

The new rule would require such schools to prove that local school districts are "over-enrolled" to qualify for the federal Charter Schools Programs. 

The proposed standard fails to consider "that a driving force in parents' decisions is the desire for their child to attend a school that meets their child's unique needs," the governors said. 

Students and other advocates of charter schools rally in Olympia, Wash., in November. A group of Republican governors is urging the Biden administration to scrap a proposed rule that would make it harder for charter schools to obtain federal funding. 

Students and other advocates of charter schools rally in Olympia, Wash., in November. A group of Republican governors is urging the Biden administration to scrap a proposed rule that would make it harder for charter schools to obtain federal funding.  (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)

"It cannot be ignored that enrollment is down in many big-city school districts due to parents choosing to leave closed or persistently failing schools," the letter reads. "The Administration’s proposed rule means that charters bringing high quality seats to areas in need would be routinely rejected for funds, despite offering parents a chance to stay in their community without sacrificing their child’s future."

 The governors said charters schools serve 7% of all public school s students but account for less than 1% of total federal spending on K-12 education. 

They said the rule would disproportionately impact minority students. 

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks after President-Elect Joe Biden announced his nomination for Education Secretary at the Queen theatre on December 23, 2020, in Wilmington, Delaware. 

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks after President-Elect Joe Biden announced his nomination for Education Secretary at the Queen theatre on December 23, 2020, in Wilmington, Delaware.  (Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)

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"Across the nation, charter schools enroll more students of color and more economically disadvantaged students than their traditional public school counterparts," they said. "The requirements imposed in the proposed rule will put the Department in a position to undermine the decision made by millions of families seeking a better opportunity for their child."