Congresswoman Tlaib Introduces Bill Increasing Charter School Oversight and Accountability

Feb 27, 2020

WASHINGTON –  Today, in celebration of Public Schools Week, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI-13) introduced the landmark Charter Oversight, Accountability, and Transparency (COAT) Act, which will strengthen the country’s public education system by promoting the same type of accountability from charter schools nationwide that the law requires of traditional public schools. There is currently a lack of oversight mechanisms for failing charter schools.

Prior to being sworn in as Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos spent 20 years pushing for charter expansion in Tlaib’s home state of Michigan, which has become home to the nation’s highest number of schools operated for profit, as well as the most low-performance charter schools. The issue of charter school oversight and accountability hits the district Tlaib represents especially hard—59 percent of Michigan’s charter student body lives in Wayne County and is comprised of a majority of minority students.

“For too long for-profit charters have operated without accountability under a for-profit loving Secretary of Education that has been all too happy to turn a blind eye to their failures,” said Congresswoman Tlaib. “Without the necessary oversight for charter schools, our children will continue to suffer while taxpayers will be caught holding the bill for charter school waste and abuse. The COAT Act will provide that oversight and ensure our students have a fighting chance at educational success, a key component of economic success.”

The COAT Act (H.R. 5984) would require private charter management organizations (PCMOs) to disclose the following to the Department of Education in order to receive federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act funds:

• The dollar amount and percentage breakdown of money being used by the PCMO on the operations of the school and on the operations of the PCMO.

• The dollar amount every executive is earning in salary from the PCMO.

• The identity of any company or organization the PCMO has financial ties to.

• Whether the PCMO is for-profit or non-profit.

In addition, school districts contracting with PCMOs would have to require the PCMOs to:

• Hold board meetings that are publicly disclosed and accessible to the public.

• Annually disclose the members of the board of directors.

The COAT Act is originally co-sponsored by the following 34 members of Congress: Reps. Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), David Cicilline (RI-01), William Lacy Clay Jr. (MO-01), Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Chuy Garcia (IL-04), Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), Deb Haaland (NM-01), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Robin Kelly (IL-02), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Dan Kildee (MI-05), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Andy Levin (MI-09), Jerry McNerney (CA-09), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Katie Porter (CA-45), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Tim Ryan (OH-13), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Terri Sewell (AL-07), Donna Shalala (FL-27), Elissa Slotkin (MI-08), Haley Stevens (MI-11), Filemon Vela (TX-34), Nydia Velazquez (NY-12), Susan Wild (PA-07), and Frederica Wilson (FL-24). 

The landmark legislation has also received the endorsement of the following national and local advocacy groups: American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Education Association (NEA), Network for Public Education, The School Superintendents Association (AASA), National Disability Rights Network, Learning Disabilities Association of America, Council of Administrators of Special Education, Mothering Justice, Wayne Metro Community Action Agency, AFT – Michigan, and Detroit Federation of Teachers.

“Charter schools must be held to the same academic, financial and disclosure standards as public schools, particularly if they’re receiving taxpayer funding,” Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, said. “Although charters are not a monolith and some meet the potential they promised, the horror stories of charter school fraud, waste and abuse have cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. The lack of accountability hurts students and siphons money from public schools. The promise we make in this country is to educate every child equitably, regardless of geography or demography. To do that, we must ensure that every school has the tools and resources it needs to actually help students succeed. Rep. Tlaib’s COAT Act provides a strong path to do just that, by laying out a strong system for charter school accountability.”

“On behalf of the 3 million members of the National Education Association, I applaud the work of Rep. Tlaib to bring needed reform to the federal charter schools program,” Marc Egan, National Education Association Director of Government Relations, said. “Unfortunately, we have seen far too many instances where students and taxpayers bear the burden of fraud and waste in the federal charter schools program. Rep. Tlaib’s COAT Act is common-sense legislation that would require more accountability and transparency to ensure that there is thorough oversight of charter schools.”  

The full text of the bill can be viewed here.


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