A coalition of charter schools in Michigan and Ohio brought a lawsuit Monday challenging the Biden administration’s newly implemented hurdles on federal funding for the independently run public schools.
The complaint filed in federal court in Michigan accuses the Department of Education of violating the 2015 expansion of the federal Charter Schools Program with a final rule that increases requirements for schools seeking to qualify for congressionally approved grants.
“Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Education is channeling the Administration’s apparent hostility towards charter schools into unconstitutional rulemaking, which will rob the neediest students of educational opportunity,” reads the 31-page motion filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation.
The foundation, which represents the Michigan Association of Public School Academies and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute in Ohio, asked for an injunction to stop the “sneak attack on the charter school program.”
Under the new regulations, applicants for grants “must prove that traditional public schools are over-enrolled, not just failing to serve the needs of their students; must seek approval from existing public schools; and must show that they are not serving too many students who are racial minorities,” the foundation said.
The result is that the rule, which went into effect Friday, “essentially lets existing schools veto the existence of their competitors,” said the foundation.
“This new rule will profoundly harm children who need the educational opportunities that charter schools provide,” said Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan charter association. “Charter schools shouldn’t be punished just because traditional public schools — and the current administration — don’t like them.”
The department said its enhanced criteria would improve collaboration between charter and traditional schools; increase disclosure requirements to prevent private companies from accessing the federal funds, and help avoid scenarios in which charters and proposed charters take federal money but then close prematurely or never open.
“The Department’s current rulemaking is intended to promote careful, data-driven planning for newly created charter schools and initiatives to expand or replicate existing high-quality charter schools,” said the DOE fact sheet.
In the lawsuit, however, opponents argued that the administration lacks the authority to issue the tougher criteria.
“This attack on charter schools is not only deeply unfair to kids who would benefit from educational alternatives, it’s illegal. The Department of Education has no authority to issue these new rules,” said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Caleb Kruckenberg. “The agency cannot advance a policy agenda contrary to Congress’ clear instructions otherwise.”
Mr. Biden said during the 2020 presidential campaign that he was “not a charter school fan,” echoing the sentiments of teachers’ unions that have long fought the expansion of the fast-growing K-12 alternatives.
The National Center for Education Statistics said that between fall 2009-19, enrollment in public charter schools more than doubled from 1.6 million to 3.4 million, while the number of students in traditional public schools decreased during the same period by 500,000 students.
Reporting from The Washington Times.