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
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT