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S. 316 (114th): Expanding Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act

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The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Jan 29, 2015.

Expanding Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act

Revises subpart 1 (Charter School Programs) of part B (Public Charter Schools) of title V (Promoting Informed Parental Choice and Innovative Programs) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, including by subsuming subpart 2 (Credit Enhancement Initiatives to Assist Charter School Facility Acquisition, Construction, and Renovation) under subpart 1.

Replaces the current charter school grant program with a program awarding competitive grants to state entities (state educational agencies, state charter school boards, Governors, or charter school support organizations) and, through such grantees, competitive subgrants to charter school developers to open new charter schools and expand and replicate high-quality charter schools.

Requires grantees to use at least 7% of the grant funds to: (1) provide technical assistance to subgrantees and authorized public chartering agencies, and (2) work with those agencies to improve the charter school authorization process.

Permits the Secretary of Education to waive certain statutory or regulatory requirements if the waiver is requested by a grant applicant and promotes the purpose of the Charter School program without tampering with what is definitionally required of charter schools.

Requires the Secretary to award at least three credit enhancement grants to public entities, private nonprofit entities, or consortia of such entities that have the highest-quality applications. (Currently, the Secretary is required to award at least three grants, including at least one to a public entity, one to a private nonprofit entity, and one to a consortium of such entities, provided an application from each merits approval.)

Revises the per-pupil facilities aid program (under which the Secretary makes competitive matching grants to states to provide per-pupil financing to charter schools) to allow states to: (1) partner with organizations to provide up to 50% of the state share of funding for the program; and (2) receive more than one program grant, so long as the amount of the grant funds provided to charter schools increases with each successive grant.

Directs the Secretary to conduct national activities that include:

providing state entities with technical assistance in awarding subgrants to charter school developers; disseminating best practices regarding public charter schools; evaluating the charter school program's impact, including its impact on student achievement; awarding competitive grants directly to charter school developers in states that have not applied for or received a charter school grant to open, replicate, and expand charter schools; and awarding competitive grants to charter management organizations or nonprofit organizations that oversee and coordinate a group of such organizations to expand and replicate high-quality charter schools. Requires states and local educational agencies to ensure that a student's records are transferred as quickly as possible to a charter school or another public school when the student transfers from one such school to the other.

Allows charter schools to serve prekindergarten or postsecondary school students.

Reauthorizes appropriations through FY2021.