“Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of the amendment and in strong support of the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charters Act.
“A great education is the foundation that Americans need to climb the economic ladder of success and build a bright future. But America doesn’t work when our students are trapped in failing schools or are denied the opportunity to attend a school that meets their learning needs.
“For far too many children in our country, a quality education remains out of reach. Kids without access to a quality education struggle to even see any opportunity to get ahead, they struggle to lift themselves out of a life of poverty. Expanding education opportunity for all students everywhere is the civil rights issue of our time.
“Fortunately, we have a chance today to bring more opportunities to students all over America who are looking for that chance to learn, to grow, and to succeed.
“The legislation before us today will reform existing programs and will authorize grants so that high performing charter schools can expand and be replicated throughout the country. It will also give families and students more freedom, flexibility, and choice when it comes to deciding where they can go to school.
“Currently, there are almost 1 million students stuck on waiting lists for charter schools simply because there aren’t enough slots. I say we help those students by expanding those slots so they can get off the waiting lists and into the classrooms.
“Taking such action would seem like the obvious and smart thing to do. However, there are some who are more beholden to special interests than to the children’s needs. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio recently attempted to deliver on his threat to kick public charter schools out of the space they share, or were planning to share with other traditional public schools.
“This kind of activity completely undermines the essence of education reform.
“Fortunately for New York City students, Governor Cuomo didn’t allow this to become a reality. Those kids, who would otherwise have ended up without a school in the fall, now have one. And this bill provides even more opportunities for states like New York state to help high quality charters expand and replicate.
“Those who choose to wage a war on kids stand on the wrong side of this debate, and risk allowing themselves to become enemies of opportunity and roadblocks to success. Bottom line the expansion of charter schools will work.
“In my hometown of Richmond, I’ve toured the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts, one of only a few charter schools in all of Virginia. There, I met a retired public school teacher named Gwen. Gwen’s grandson had a particular interest in science but Gwen felt the school he attended wasn’t offering a strong enough science curriculum to match her grandson’s needs and desires. Fortunately, Gwen had a choice and now sends her grandson to Patrick Henry. More families deserve that kind of choice.
“In visits to other charter schools throughout the country, I have met dozens of children who were once trapped in failing schools and schools that couldn’t meet their individual learning needs. These kids are now attending charter schools and they’re thriving.
“These are not isolated cases. Nationally, charter school students do better than non-charter students in reading, math, and science. While the growth of charters is relatively new, they currently make up more than a quarter of the Newsweek/US News best high schools in America. The question is: shouldn’t more of our children have the chance to attend a quality school that happens to be a charter school?
“Mr. Chairman, this legislation is about upward mobility. It is about giving families and students more hope for their future. This legislation is about expanding education opportunity for more kids so that we can begin to create and America that works again, and works again for everybody.
“This should not be a partisan issue. This is a bill we can all proudly get behind. Today, let’s stand united and show our constituents that we understand that a strong education is the first rung in climbing that economic ladder of success.
“I want to thank Chairman Kline for his tireless work in the area of education and on this bill in the area of charter schools. I also want to thank Ranking Member George Miller for his work on this legislation, and I urge my colleagues in the House, in a bipartisan fashion, to support this legislation.”