Congress and Charter Schools
DAVID L. LEAL
Although all eyes are on charter school legislation in state capitals, the federal government has recently taken significant steps in the area. In order to understand the Arizona experience and the charter school movement in context, it is useful to understand the politics of charters in the nation's capital during the 1991-1998 period. This chapter discusses the inaugural federal charter school law of 1994 and the political context of education reform that year. Subsequent charter efforts in the next two congresses also will be discussed. Much has changed since 1994: Not only has funding appropriation increased from $6 million to $100 million, but in a classic trade-off, the requirements imposed on states in exchange for federal dollars are growing more extensive. Federal education laws are also becoming more "charter-friendly" over time.
This chapter is based on both printed and electronic sources and interviews with House and Senate staff members who have worked with the charter school issue. 1 The interviews were conducted during October 1998.
Charter schools were first funded by Congress through a small provision in the $12.7 billion 1994 reauthorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). 2 The measure passed on October 5, in the final days of the 103rd Congress.
The charter school provision was included under Title X, Part C--"Programs of National Significance." It authorized $15 million (or.001 percent of the total reauthorization and 3.5 percent of Title X spending) for the