Skip to main content

Charter schools: Let every child have access

By Mary L. Landrieu
May 16, 2014 -- Updated 1046 GMT (1846 HKT)
A new bill supports the growth in charter schools, like Harlem Success Academy, a free, public charter school in New York.
A new bill supports the growth in charter schools, like Harlem Success Academy, a free, public charter school in New York.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sen. Mary Landrieu believes that more kids should have access to charter schools
  • Enrollment in charter schools, she says, has grown by 100% from 2007 to 2013
  • But she says there are still nearly 1 million students on waitlists for charter schools
  • Landrieu supports a bill that will allow for more than 500 schools to open in the next five years

Editor's note: Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, has been in the Senate since 1997 and is seeking re-election for her fourth term. She is co-chair of the Senate Public Charter School Caucus and chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. You can follow her on Twitter @SenLandrieu. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- When my kids were young, I cherished watching their excitement when they shared what they learned at school, like the first time my daughter read "The Cat in the Hat" to me and my son correctly counted out his allowance. Every parent deserves to share such moments with their child.

Unfortunately, in some communities, there is little or no choice for parents to provide their children with a good education from a quality school. Our public education system is failing far too many children and their families, but there is a proven solution that we've in my home state and across the country.

Charter schools have successfully provided an education alternatives to children in our nation. In the 1990s, there were a mere 20 charter schools in Minnesota. Today, there are nearly 6,500 charter schools in the nation serving 2 million students.

Charter schools bring promise and opportunity to families and communities that might not otherwise have it.

Opinion: With charter schools, the education business is more separate and unequal

Sen. Mary Landrieu
Sen. Mary Landrieu

In many neighborhoods in each of our states, we've seen how high-performing charter schools can literally build or rebuild a community. For example, in a study released recently, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that students in charter schools in Louisiana were outperforming their peers at traditional public schools in reading and math.

Over the past 20 years, the growth of charter schools has shown not only the high demand for high-quality options, but also the importance for ensuring that students and families have the opportunity to seek an alternative rather than be trapped in a "one-size-fits-all," low performing school, as too many students across the country are.

Enrollment in charter schools has grown by 100% from 2007 to 2013. While that demand continues to grow, there are still nearly 1 million students on waitlists for charter schools -- a lost opportunity for families who seek quality options for their children.

Girl Rising founder on girls' education
Man pays off more than 60 lunch accounts
On GPS, a problem with U.S. education?

Earlier this year, we witnessed a huge success in the charter school movement as the newly elected and misguided Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City stood down from his fight against charter schools thanks to the leadership of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a leading, successful charter school champion, Success Academy.

This year, Congress was also able to convince the U.S. Department of Education to allow for the use of weighted lotteries to favor students with disabilities, educational challenges, and students from low-income families. In 2013, 12 states made improvements to their state laws, including laws around funding, facilities, and quality authorizing practices.

Perhaps what will be the most critical change in policy this year comes in the form of rare, but promising, bipartisan and bicameral support of an update to the Charter School Program.

This week, we introduced the Expanding Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act, which offers funding to new and promising charter schools as well high-performing charter schools with a track record of success. This bill makes a smart update to the Charter School Program by allowing for increased and flexible use of funding, and it prioritizes access to facilities as well as continually increased student achievement.

This legislation will allow for more than 500 schools to open annually in the next five years, allowing that waitlist of nearly 1 million students to happily be reduced. More importantly, this legislation emphasizes the need for high-quality public charter schools to be an ever-important solution to ensuring access to a quality education.

Perhaps one day soon, even more American families will get to experience that joy of their child reading to them and their kids thriving at a quality school.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Ronald Reagan went horseback riding and took a vacation after the Korean Air Crash of 1983. So why does the GOP keep airbrushing history to bash Obama?
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1338 GMT (2138 HKT)
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Errol Louis says the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD has its roots in the "broken windows" police strategy from the crime-ridden '80s.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is right to immediately send 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the border children crisis.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 2015 GMT (0415 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
July 19, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1755 GMT (0155 HKT)
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1953 GMT (0353 HKT)
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1933 GMT (0333 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1011 GMT (1811 HKT)
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 2016 GMT (0416 HKT)
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1729 GMT (0129 HKT)
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1804 GMT (0204 HKT)
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1518 GMT (2318 HKT)
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT