Charter coalition sues Biden administration over rule changes

A coalition of Michigan and Ohio charter schools is suing the Biden administration over new rules overseeing charter startup grants for schools across the country.

“This attack on charter schools is not only deeply unfair to kids who would benefit from educational alternatives, it’s illegal,” said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Caleb Kruckenberg, whose organization announced Monday that it is representing the coalition “free of charge.”

The Michigan Association of Public School Academies and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an Ohio-based charter school authorizer and conservative think tank, are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which takes aim at the U.S. Department of Education’s changes to how charter startups apply for federal Charter School Program grants aimed at helping schools launch and boost their enrollments.

Charters’ impacts on school districts have been a long-running concern in Idaho. State K-12 funding has for years been tied to the average daily attendance of students, but the state has shifted to enrollment-based funding since the pandemic. As charter enrollment grows in the Gem State, so does their share of state funding.

Earlier this year, charter advocates across the state joined a national call to scrap initially proposed changes to the grant process, which ranged from creating a federal definition of “community impact” aimed at protecting financial interest of school districts to requiring states to prioritize grants for applicants who partner with districts.

Charter advocates in Idaho last month offered mixed reviews over several revisions to the proposal in the wake of blowback.

The new set of changes are “manageable, but still frustratingly bureaucratic,” said Terry Ryan, CEO of Idaho charter support group Bluum.

The lawsuit announced Monday takes aim at changes that stuck, including one that shortens the window for submitting grant applications this year to 30 days. Go here to view other changes.

“Congress gave clear instructions and criteria for distributing these funds; however, the DOE has issued a new rule that makes attaining these grants much more difficult,” Pacific Legal Foundation said Monday.

CSP grants have made a big impact on Idaho’s K-12 landscape over the years. The money — just over $17.5 million dispersed statewide since Bluum started administering the grants in 2019 — has helped launch or expand 22 Idaho charters, by Bluum’s tally. The program has shelled out billions nationally since its inception nearly 30 years ago.

Disclosure: Bluum and Idaho Education News are both funded through grants from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation. 

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

Devin was formerly a senior reporter and editor for Idaho Education News and now works for INL in communications.

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