How a soccer club won a $1.2 million grant from DeVos’s Education Department to open a charter school

By Valerie Strauss for The Washington Post

Here’s a new, rather remarkable story about charter school grants recently awarded by the Education Department — including one for more than $1 million that went to a soccer club in Pennsylvania that had no experience running a school.

This is one of a number of pieces I have run in recent years about the Federal Charter School Program, which has invested close to $4 billion in these schools since it began giving grants in 1995.

Charter schools, a key feature of the “school choice” movement, are financed by the public but privately operated. About 6 percent of U.S. schoolchildren attend charter schools, with California having the most charter schools and the most charter students.

Charters had bipartisan support for years, but a growing number of Democrats have pulled back from the movement, citing the fiscal impact on school districts and repeated scandals in the sector.

Charter supporters say the 30-year-old movement offers important alternatives to traditional public schools, which educate the vast majority of U.S. students, and that the movement is still learning. Opponents say there is little public accountability over many charters and that they drain resources from traditional districts.

Research shows student outcomes are, overall, largely the same in charter and traditional public schools, although there are failures and exemplars in both.

This piece, like a number of earlier ones on charters, was written by Carol Burris, a former New York high school principal who serves as executive director of the Network for Public Education, a nonprofit group that advocates for public education.

Burris, who opposes charter schools, was named the 2010 Educator of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State, and in 2013, the National Association of Secondary School Principals named her the New York State High School Principal of the Year.

Read more here.

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