Ariz. charter school advocates urge congressional delegation to oppose defunding of alternate education options

A coalition of organizations supporting Arizona public charter schools are urging Arizona’s congressional delegation to reject efforts to cut federal funding for these schools. Patricia Levesque, CEO for the Foundation for Excellence in Education, explained that the letter aims to urge the congressional delegation to “treat all public school students equally by restoring the education funding cut in the Charter School Program fund, and eliminate language that could especially harm public school students with special needs and low income students who attend their schools.”

The coalition’s letter says that the current House Appropriations budget for FY 2022 decreases education funding for more than 3.3 million students nationwide. Of these 3.3 million students, there are more than 213,000 children in Arizona who will experience education funding cuts because their families chose to educate them in public charter schools.

The letter also notes that the Federal Charter Schools program is an important source of support for the broader public school system. The coalition is concerned that the FY 22 budget removes $40 million from the Charter Schools Program while the American Rescue Plan had just allocated $125 billion in new funding for public schools.

Supporters of public charter schools believe funding cuts for only public charter schools is discriminatory towards charter schools and their students.

Arizona’s legacy of education freedom

In Arizona, more than 21% of Arizona’s public-school students choose public charters as their education provider. It is also the case that these charter schools serve some of the state’s poorest students. The letter explains that “59% percent of whom are students of color and an estimated 133,000 students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch,” subjecting some of the state’s most vulnerable students to deep funding. 

Charter schools are also often specialized to help students with different learning disabilities that other schools may not be equipped to treat with the same care.

Excluding charter schools from education funding

The coalition concludes its letter to the congressional delegation by asking the elected officials to “keep in mind that public demand for education options is at an all-time high. Learning models that embrace innovation, flexibility and a robust suite of options are key factors for achieving a student-centered education system.” 

Coalition members noted a study from the University of Arkansas finding that “higher levels of education freedom are significantly associated with higher NAEP achievement levels and higher NAEP achievement gains.” NAEP stands for the National Assessment of Educational Progress. 

The letter was signed by the Foundation for Excellence in Education, the national Alliance for Public Charter Schools, A for Arizona, the Arizona Charter Schools Association, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the Black Mother’s Forum, Empowered AZ Families, great Leaders Strong Schools, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, and Love Your School.

Stephen Matter

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