House Republicans Slam Biden Administration's 'Disturbing Attack' on Charter Schools

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Julia Letlow. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
May 9, 2022

A group of House Republicans is pushing the Biden administration to abandon a rule they say would kneecap charter schools by cutting them off from federal funds.

Rep. Chris Jacobs (R., N.Y.) and 21 other members of Congress last week in a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to protest the administration’s "burdensome" proposed rules. The proposed rules would cut federal funding to for-profit charter schools across the board and require new charter schools to prove their necessity by demonstrating "over-enrollment" in nearby public schools.

The representatives released the letter Monday to mark the beginning of National Charter Schools Week. The signatories say these rules would "harm students seeking learning options beyond the traditional public school system, which is beholden to teachers’ unions."

"Charter schools provide a free, public education to families who choose to enroll in these schools," the representatives said in their letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. "Limiting the growth of these institutions will harm students seeking learning options beyond the traditional public school system, which is beholden to teachers’ unions rather than to parents and students."

Democrats have long opposed charter schools, which they claim siphon resources from public schools. President Joe Biden promised to ban federal funding for for-profit charter schools while campaigning for office.

For-profit charter schools typically receive state and local funding and are eligible to apply for federal grants. The Department of Education’s proposed rules would attach a number of strings to federal grants. Charters would have to partner with public schools in order to obtain federal funds. The rules would also force grant applicants to define the "targeted" racial and socioeconomic demographics of their students and staff.

The Biden administration claims these changes will improve charter schools and hold them accountable for academic performance. But some education experts say the proposed rules would cripple charter schools by drying up one of their major funding sources. The Republican representatives’ note joins similar letters to Cardona from a bipartisan group of senators and a coalition of Republican governors.

The Republican letter’s signatories claim that the Biden administration’s "preoccupation" with diversity would hurt the poor and minority communities many charter schools aim to serve.

"This tunnel vision will limit the growth of charter schools in racially isolated areas and thereby harm traditionally underserved students who will be deprived of the option to attend a high-quality charter school in their neighborhood," the representatives said.

Jacobs, the letter’s lead signatory, told the Free Beacon that the Biden administration’s proposed rules constitute a "disturbing attack" on school choice.

"The Biden administration has caused too many crises with their reckless policy-making," Jacobs said. "They cannot make educational opportunities for students another one."

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R., N.C.) told the Free Beacon the Biden administration’s proposal shows "it is beholden to satisfying the demands of its union allies over those of parents and families."

"Shackling charter schools through heavy-handed government intervention only breeds more bureaucratic bloat that impedes upon the educational pursuits of students," Foxx said.

Charter schools saw an enrollment bump as teachers’ unions kept public schools closed during the coronavirus pandemic. Charter school enrollment rose 7 percent during the 2020-2021 school year while public schools lost more than one million students.