A recent analysis from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that over a 12-year span, charter schools that received special grants (charter school program awards) from the Department of Education were more likely to succeed compared to similar schools that did not receive the grant.
Charter schools with these federal grants were 1.6 times more likely to remain running five years after opening — no matter the school’s race and ethnicity make-up, grade level, locale, or poverty break-down.
What are charter schools and charter school program grants?
Charter schools are independently run public schools that operate under different regulations than traditional public schools. Charter schools cannot charge tuition or be affiliated with a religious institution, but, depending on the state, have flexibility to hire teachers with non-traditional backgrounds or have different licensing requirements.
The Department of Education awards some charter schools with charter school program (CSP) grants. The money is used to help establish new charter schools, replicate or expand high-quality charter schools, share best practices, and increase opportunities for historically marginalized students to attend, according to the GAO report.
In fiscal year 2020, the Education Department funded about $440 million to charter schools through CSP awards.
The GAO analysis — which looked at charter school growth between 2006 and 2020 — found that enrollment numbers in CSP-grant-recipient schools grew more than sixfold from 213,576 to 1.38 million students .
Charter schools enroll fewer students with disabilities
The report found that charter schools enroll fewer students with disabilities, along with fewer white, Asian, and multiracial students compared to traditional public schools. This applies to charter schools regardless of whether they received CSP funding or not.
While researchers aren’t exactly sure why this is the case, they have identified some potential factors. For instance, students with disabilities and their parents might already have connections with programs at traditional public schools. Additionally, some researchers believe that certain practices used by charter schools may discourage students with disabilities from applying.
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