View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 24, 1998
               Strengthening and Expanding Charter Schools
                             July 24, 1998

Today, President Clinton will announce that in September, the number of charter schools will exceed 1,000, serving more than 200,000 students. He will urge Congress to pass legislation strengthening federal support for the charter schools movement. When the President was elected in 1992, there was only one charter school. Charter schools are public schools that are granted "charters" providing flexibility in decision-making in exchange for accountability for results. The President also will announce a new report on the progress of charter schools and a guidebook for communities and states to ensure that these schools become models of accountability and high standards for public education.

More Than 1000 Charter Schools. The President will release new Education Department estimates that at least 1,130 schools have now received charters to provide public education to more than 200,000 students in communities across the nation, up from just one charter school when the President was elected in 1992. In the past two years alone, the number of charter schools has more than doubled from 428, and the number of students in charter schools has almost doubled, from 110,000 students. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws authorizing charter schools, up from just two states when the President took office.

New Charter School Report -- Small Schools With Personalized Learning Environments. The President will release a new Education Department study of 381 charter schools in 17 states conducted during the 1996-97 school year. The study found that most charter schools are significantly smaller than public schools, with a median of 149 students as compared with 505 students for all public schools. According to the study, charter school staff report that the most attractive features of charter schools to parents and students are a nurturing environment (cited by 93% of the schools), a safe environment (90%), the values reinforced by the school (88%), the quality of the academic program (84%), high academic standards (83%), and small class size (83%). According to the report, the top obstacle facing charter schools is lack of access to start-up funding, cited as a difficult barrier by 58% of charter schools. Sixty nine percent of charter school founders said the most important reason for starting their school was to realize a vision of schooling, and 23% said the most important reason was flexibility and autonomy in decision-making.

A New Guidebook to Help Make Charter Schools Models of Accountability. President Clinton will release a new Education Department guidebook to help public agencies make careful decisions about awarding charters to schools and holding those schools accountable for results. The guidebook draws on lessons learned from around the nation and recommends that before awarding a charter, public agencies evaluate a proposed charter school according to the rigor of its academic program, its ability to manage its operations and finances effectively, and a set of performance measures by which the school can be held accountable. The President will call on school districts and state boards of education to support high-quality charter schools that are truly accountable for the performance of their students.

Bipartisan Legislation to Enhance Support for Charter Schools. The President will challenge Congress to complete work on bipartisan legislation to strengthen federal support for the growing charter schools movement, to help meet his goal of establishing 3,000 high-quality charter schools by early in the next century. Last year, the House of Representatives passed a bill with bipartisan support to direct federal resources for charter schools to states that increase the number of charter schools, provide them with maximum flexibility, and periodically review their performance. The Administration has worked with Senators of both parties to strengthen the bill to increase accountability for academic performance in charter schools and ensure that charter schools receive their fair share of other federal education funds. The President will call on Congress to send him legislation that meets these goals before the end of the session.

Order of Speakers:
Secretary Riley
President Clinton
Kevin Sladek, President Boys Nation and Jeff Rogers, Vice President Boys Nation present gift to the President