Skip to main content

Charter schools: Let every child have access

By Mary L. Landrieu
updated 6:46 AM EDT, Fri May 16, 2014
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
updated 3:47 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Jimmy Carter's message about the need to restore trust in public officials is a vital one, decades after the now 90-year-old he first voiced it
updated 5:56 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Ford Vox says mistakes and missed opportunities along the line to a diagnosis of Ebola in a Liberian man have put Dallas residents at risk of fatal infection
updated 6:21 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Pepper Schwartz says California is trying, but its law requiring step-by-step consent is just not the way hot and heavy sex proceeds on college campuses
updated 10:17 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Mike Downey says long-suffering fans, waiting for good playoff news since 1985, finally get something to cheer about
updated 5:39 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Steve Israel saysJohn Boehner's Congress and the tea party will be remembered for shutting down government one year ago
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Yep. You read the headline right, says Peter Bergen, writing on the new government that stresses national unity
updated 7:12 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Hong Kong's pro-democracy demonstrators are but the latest freedom group to be abandoned by the Obama administration, says Mike Gonzalez
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
updated 10:23 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
updated 10:55 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT