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Short of a full education overhaul, Rep. John Kline introduces charter school reform bill

Posted by: Allison Sherry under Morning Hot Dish newsletter, Minnesota congressional Updated: April 2, 2014 - 1:34 PM

WASHINGTON -- GOP Rep. John Kline is more optimistic this time at his second attempt at overhauling the way the federal government treats charter schools.

The chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee has again introduced legislation that makes it easier for successful charter schools to replicate and allows states to use federal cash to start new charter schools.

Like the last time Kline pushed a charter school overhaul in the House, this measure has broad bipartisan support, including from his Democratic counterpart on the committee, Rep. George Miller, of California.

And like last time, the bill has decent odds of passing the whole U.S.. House of Representatives before they all adjourn to go home and run to get their jobs back this fall.

"We brought this bill out again and tweaked it again. It is a strong bipartisan bill that we can pass again with a strong bipartisan vote," Kline said, in an interview with the Star Tribune. "Then maybe we can get the Senate to move. I believe this is the best chance to push this through."

But the bill faces an uncertain future in the U.S.. Senate, where Democratic leaders there are holding out for an entire revamp of the largely unpopular No Child Left Behind law. In other words, Senate leaders don't want to take a piecemeal approach to education reform.

(The House has passed a comprehensive bill, but the Senate hasn't taken it up.)

"Sen. Harkin supports strengthening public charter schools," a spokesman for the Iowa Democrat said. Harkin chairs the Senate education committee. "He remains committed to moving a full Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization bill through the full Senate."

Kline's response to that?

"You can write that I want the same thing," he said.

But, he noted, he didn't want kids to suffer while Congress delays action on important work that affects tens of thousands of students across the country. (There are 6,000 public charter schools across the country.)

The overhaul of No Child Left Behind is among the many issues that have been lingering on the Congressional to-do list for several years. 

Kline visited a couple of Minnesota charter schools on Monday to promote his bill. He said wait lists top 1,000 kids at some of the most popular schools. He wants more kids to have the opportunity to go to a place they want. Across the country, charter advocates say 920,000 students are on wait lists.

"They just want another chance,"  he said.

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