The U.S. Department of Education (ED) establishes, administers, and coordinates federal assistance in education. The mission of ED ensures that all students have equal access to education and promotes excellence in the nationís schools. That said, it is important to remember that education in the United States remains the primary responsibility of state and local governments. For its part, the federal government fills gaps in State and local support for education when critical needs arise.
Charter schools are a prime example of the type of coordinated effort that is possible between the federal government and the States. Illustrative of this point, Minnesota passed the first charter school law in 1991 that allowed for the development and operation of publicly funded charter schools. Three years later, the ED, through the Charter Schools Program (CSP), began a competitive grant program for alleviating the financial constraints in planning and starting a charter school.
The purpose of the Charter Schools Program (CSP) is to expand the number of high-quality charter schools available to students across the nation by providing financial assistance for planning, program design, and initial implementation of public charter schools; evaluation of the effects of charter schools; and the dissemination of information about charter schools and successful practices in charter schools. CSP was authorized through a statute and amended in the Charter School Expansion Act of 1998
Since 1995, when CSP started administering start-up grants, the number of states that have passed charter laws has risen to 40, not including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Accordingly, federal policy makers have allocated more funds to the grant program. In fiscal year (FY) 1995, the CSP administered $6 million in grants; in fiscal year (FY) 2005, the CSP administered almost $217 million in grants.
To learn more about how the CSP fulfills EDís commitment to support the charter school movement, visit the Charter Schools Program area on Ed.gov.
To learn more about how accountability provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) affect charter schools, read our NCLB Guide for Operators and Developers. ED has also produced non-regulatory guidance, available as a PDF file:
To assist charters to meet the growing educational needs of families affected by Katrina, states may submit requests for statutory and regulatory waivers of various requirements under the CSP and other federal statutes and regulations over which the Secretary of Education exercises administrative authority.