Tlaib, Bowman, Wilson Introduce Bill Increasing Charter School Oversight and Accountability

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), Congressman Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (FL-24) reintroduced 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 public schools. There is currently a lack of oversight for failing charter schools.

Michigan’s experiment with charters has led to a system of poor schools run by for-profit companies failing thousands of students, and millions of dollars lost to fraud and waste. Without the necessary oversight for charter schools, our children will continue to suffer while taxpayers foot the bill for charter school failures and abuse. Since charter schools are privately-run but funded by our tax dollars, it is imperative that they are subject to basic transparency measures. The COAT Act is commonsense legislation that will increase transparency and accountability to ensure that charter schools provide necessary information to local, state, and federal agencies to detect and prevent fraud.

“For too long for-profit charters have operated without accountability,” said Congresswoman Tlaib. “Without the necessary oversight for charter schools, our children will continue to suffer while taxpayers bankroll charter school fraud, waste, and abuse. Our children deserve better. The COAT Act will provide that oversight and make sure every child has a fighting chance at educational success, a key component of economic justice.”

“Our kids are magic, and they deserve a high quality public education system that gives them the support and resources they need to grow and thrive in their schools, which is why I’m proud to co-lead the COAT Act with my colleague Rep. Rashida Tlaib,” said Congressman Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D. “Many in the charter school industry have proven time and again that their interests lie primarily in building their own wealth on the backs of our kids and taking money away from traditional public schools, which disproportionately harms Black and brown students in redlined communities. When we see many charter schools that get federal funds closing after just a few years, and some that never even open, it’s clear we need to make changes and have necessary oversight. It’s time we pass the COAT Act because charter schools must be held accountable for actions that harm our kids, families, and communities.”

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.

This legislation is endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, AFT-Michigan, Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, Network for Public Education, The Learning Disabilities Association of America, and the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN).

“Charter schools must be held to the same academic, financial and disclosure standards as public schools, particularly if they’re receiving taxpayer funding,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. “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.”

“The COAT Act will bring greater transparency and accountability to charter schools. The fraud, waste, and abuse that has plagued the charter sector will be far more difficult to hide. And that will be a win for both taxpayers and students,” said Carol Burris, Executive Director of the Network for Public Education.

“We are excited to re-endorse Rep. Tlaib’s federal charter schools program reform legislation,” said Marc Egan, National Education Association Director of Government Relations. “Greater accountability and transparency are necessary in the federal charter schools program system where fraud and waste are all too common. We must be vigilant about supporting and protecting our children’s futures. Rep. Tlaib’s COAT ACT would ensure that there is proper oversight of federal charter schools programs.”

The full text of the bill can be found here.

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