Serial No. 106-91


Printed for the use of the Committee on Education

and the Workforce

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Table of Indexes *




Friday, March 3, 2000

House of Representatives

Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

Committee on Education and the Workforce

Washington, D.C.

The Subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 9:30 a.m., in Room 2175, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Pete Hoekstra, Chairman of the Subcommittee, presiding.

Present: Representatives Hoekstra, Schaffer, and Roemer.

Staff Present: Christy Wolfe, Professional Staff Member; Jonathan DeWitte, Staff Assistant; Cindy Herrle, Professional Staff Member; Dan Lara, Press Secretary; Patrick Lyden, Professional Staff Member; Michael Reynard, Media Assistant; Deborah Samantar, Office Manager; Cedric R. Hendricks, Minority Deputy Counsel; June Harris, Minority Education Coordinator; Cheryl Johnson, Minority Counsel/Education and Oversight; and Brian Compagnone, Minority Staff Assistant/Investigations.

Mr. Hoekstra. Good morning. A quorum being present, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will come to order.

We are holding this hearing today to hear testimony on charter schools. Under committee rule 12(b), opening statements are limited to the Chairman and the Ranking Minority Member of the Subcommittee. This will allow us to hear from our witnesses sooner and help Members keep to their schedules. Therefore, if other Members have statements, they will be included in the hearing record.

With that, I also ask unanimous consent for the hearing record to remain open for 14 days to allow for Member statements and other documents referenced during the hearing to be submitted in the official hearing record.

Without objection, so ordered.

Mr. Roemer. So ordered.

Mr. Hoekstra. Thank you.

Mr. Roemer. We are off to a good start.




Mr. Hoekstra. We are off to a good start. I think we have been anyway. I think this is the first in a series of hearings that the Ranking Member and I have agreed on, that we will engage in over the next couple of months. The Committee will explore a number of different issues in the field of educational innovation and really focus on the issue of how the Federal Government can be of the most assistance in ensuring that we help put in place the systems that enable our kids to learn. That is a bipartisan issue and we will structure a series and a number of hearings together in a cooperative fashion. thank Mr. Roemer for that kind of support.

Let me give you a little bit of background. We are here to talk about what many consider to be one of the most innovative areas of education today, which are charter schools. This Subcommittee over the last number of years has held hearings around the country in a number of different areas. Some of you have participated in some of our field hearings.

They are all part of what we call "education at a crossroads." Later on this year, we anticipate that the Subcommittee will issue a report which will update our earlier report, Education at the Crossroads, with Crossroads 2000, based on the testimony that we receive today, the testimony we have received in other field hearings over the last couple of months and what we will do over the coming months.

We have heard from parents. We have heard from teachers. We have heard from principals, and in many cases we have also given students with the opportunity to provide their perspective on education. So we are trying to get a broad cross-section of input into the process.

Charter schools, we have found, work best because their focus on decision-making is at the local level. They empower parents. They spend dollars efficiently and effectively. They emphasize local control and often they focus on basic academics. What they basically do is allow the school at the local level to be modified or adjusted to meet the needs of a local community or a local neighborhood.

At nearly every stop around the country, we have heard from people from charter schools like Sharon Ramano, a teacher at New York City's Wildcat Academy, and Bishop Nathaniel Wells, principal of Tri-Valley Charter School back in my district in Muskegon, Michigan. We have heard from Fenton Charter School near Los Angeles, which today is represented by Ms. Sumida. So again we have been familiar with some of you and we have been able to talk to you in your communities. We have heard that charter schools are doing a great job of educating our children.

Having charter status, what does that mean? It means that in most cases it frees a school to focus on putting children first, and not in compliance with bureaucratic rules and regulations. As principal, Yvonne Chan told us that the Vaughn Learning Center in central Los Angeles, "Don't swamp us with paperwork and we could have a lot more money going to the kids."

Do you know her, Ms. Sumida?

Ms. Sumida. Yes. I work with her.

Mr. Hoekstra. All right. Well, she was an inspiration to us. When we were there, her school was an inspiration. Her kids and her parents were an inspiration to us when we visited their school and they showed us the great hospitality and what they were doing and, in many cases, reclaiming a school and believing that as they reclaimed the school they were also reclaiming the neighborhood.

We are holding this hearing today to learn more about the successes and the innovations of charter schools and the challenges that remain. There are many obstacles that teachers and parents must hurdle in order for their school to be successful, such as raising funds to cover start-up costs, obtaining a building, dealing with opposition from school districts, sometimes with unions, and implementing an effective curriculum.

In many cases, you are starting from the ground level and just moving up. With all of these obstacles, we need to be sure that there aren't any Federal requirements placing additional unnecessary burdens on these schools.

Charter schools are public schools. Therefore, they are eligible to participate in Federal programs. They receive start-up monies through Title X of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. For better or worse, Congress has written laws that are intended to, "help charter schools, such that there is now a Federal role in this process."

We have made some important improvements to the Federal charter school statute back in 1998 but we need more time to see how those changes are working. We also need the feedback from you as to whether they are working or not.

I think it is important, though, to hear about what is working today and whether there are any Federal program requirements preventing charter schools from being as successful as they can be, or are there Federal rules which are impediments to creating the school that you want to meet the needs of your kids.

Charter schools also provide us with an important model for how we can transform Federal education programs so that they provide significant flexibility while holding States accountable for results. You know each of you is really at the forefront on the whole issue of flexibility. I think the States have entrusted to you a certain degree of flexibility in exchange for some performance or accountability expectations. That is the same issue that we are wrestling with here in Washington.

Is there a model, such as the Straight A’s model that has passed the House, which is being debated in the Senate? Is it the Ed-Flex model, which we have passed in the House and in the Senate, has been signed by the President, and which was passed in a bipartisan way? Is that the model? How do we form the appropriate kinds of relationships that balance the need for flexibility and accountability in such a way that we get the best results for our kids?

I think with that, I will just turn it over to Mr. Roemer for his opening statement.






Mr. Roemer. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I ask unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks.

Mr. Hoekstra. Without objection.

Mr. Roemer. Thank you.




I am not going to read my remarks. I am too excited to read my remarks. I am delighted to have this panel here. I am very happy that Chairman Hoekstra from Michigan, a neighboring State to my great State of Indiana, has agreed to hold this important hearing today on charter schools.

It is the first in a series of three hearings that the Chairman has graciously agreed to hold where we will look at new ideas, such as charter schools. I take particular pride in the charter schools around the country because I was a coauthor of the legislation in 1998 with Frank Riggs from California to strengthen the Federal role and encourage charter schools to grow and proliferate around the country. Also that legislation would provide more money for some of the burdens that we see in terms of start-up costs.

We also will have a hearing later on in the next few months on technology, and the innovation and the challenges of providing technology to more and more of our students in schools. That is going to be exciting.

Then we are also going to have a hearing on teacher quality and teacher professional development. How do we continue to meet the needs of recruiting more teachers in innovative ways, particularly in math and science and technology, into the schools and keep them? We hope to have the celebrated author, Frank McCort, who had been a teacher for many, many years, before our Committee on that day. I have heard him on a host of TV and radio programs and he is very, very entertaining and smart. So I think we have got a lot of interesting hearings coming up.

Back to charter schools, and the reason for much of my interest and excitement today. What are charter schools and why am I so supportive of them? One reason is because they are innovative. They are bold, new ideas to encourage public school choice. I think that is good in helping us reform public education today.

Secondly, they are accountable. They are accountable to our children, to better test scores, to our parents, to local communities. We want accountability in our public schools. I think most of America wants to spend more money helping children get a better education in America today. They want it to be an investment, but in order to do new things that money has to be tied to accountability and new ideas, and that is exactly what charter schools are.

Thirdly, charter schools are locally controlled. I firmly believe in local control of our schools, and these charter schools are oftentimes-local parents, teachers, administrators, and all kinds of people coming together to formulate and design a school. It could be designed for technology, math, sciences, foreign languages, and they supplement all of those particular skills with a broadly based education. If that does not work, then that school can be reconstituted or put on probation or eventually shut down, and, therefore, we come full circle on the accountability.

So I am very supportive of this concept of charter schools. I am delighted to see they are now in over 31 States. There are over 1,600 charter schools across the country, and the reason for the hearing today is to look at what is working in charter schools. Is something working in a particular State that can be shared with other States in terms of best practices? How do we share these things with states that don't have the enabling legislation passed through their State legislature to formulate the best kind of charter schools out there?

What are some problems, quite frankly, in charter schools? As the author of the legislation that helped expand the Federal role here in creating more charter schools, I am interested in problems, too. Let's have a frank hearing about any problems with start-up costs? We have heard from the business community and the technology community that sometimes in California and other States, they don't have enough money to create more and more charter schools and that the start-up costs with the new building are high hurdles to the creation of new charter schools.

Are there hurdles and barriers to charter schools? What are some of the accountability problems? Have some charter schools been shut down and for what reasons? Do they try to get some of the best students? Do they exclude anybody? I would be very concerned if there was any kind of creaming or exclusion on the part of our charter schools. They need to be inclusive. They need to represent the population of America and educate all of our students.

So I am very interested in all of these positive, proactive ideas, and of some helpful, constructive comments that might point toward more legislation that could help us. I am hopeful that the Chairman and I can come up with legislation in this year's appropriation bill to provide even more resources for charter schools and even expand upon the President's request for more money for public school choice in charter schools in this year's budget, which has been growing every single year.

Finally, and in conclusion, I would say I have legislation here, a resolution, that I intend to draw up that will ask the President of the United States to designate the first week in May as supporting a National Charter Schools Week. We can celebrate the creation of these charter schools and continue to learn about what they are doing right how we can improve them, and how we can improve public education in this country. We hope that we will get a lot of strong support throughout the country for this resolution.

So with that, thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for your bipartisan support for this hearing. We look forward to the most important part, and that is the witnesses’ testimony and exchange and dialogue with us, and hopefully your answers to our questions.

Thank you, again, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Hoekstra. Thank you.

Let me introduce the witnesses that are with us today. We have Mr. Jon Schroeder, who is the Director of the Charter Friends National Network, located in St. Paul, Minnesota. Mr. Schroeder worked on the original charter school law as the Policy Director and Senior Education Policy Advisor to former Senator Durenberger from Minnesota. He now directs the Charter Friends National Network, which was established in January of 1997.

The Network's mission is to promote quality charter schools by connecting and supporting resource centers and other State level charter support organizations and activities. Prior to co-founding the Charter Friends project, he served 2 years as the Vice President for Public Affairs and Communications for the Citizens Scholarship Foundation of America, the Nation's largest designer and administrator of private sector scholarships.

Welcome, Mr. Schroeder.

I would like to now yield to my colleague from Colorado, who will introduce our next panelist.

Mr. Schaffer. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate that opportunity. Dr. Kathryn Knox is the Headmaster of Liberty Common School at Ft. Collins, Colorado, my hometown. Liberty Common is in its third year of operation and was the first charter school in the nation to qualify for tax-exempt bond financing. Her school teaches kindergarten through ninth grades and uses the core knowledge curriculum model design.

Prior to coming to Liberty Common, Dr. Knox taught English at Colorado State University and in Kobe, Japan. Dr. Knox holds a Ph.D. in Education, Teacher Education and Staff Development from Colorado State University.

I would also like to say, Mr. Chairman, I have not done the formal survey among our colleagues but I think it is true that I am the only Member of Congress that sends his kids to a charter school, and it is the one that Dr. Knox runs in Ft. Collins, so I am especially excited and enthusiastic about today's hearing.

Glad you made the trip all the way from Colorado to be with us today.

Mr. Hoekstra. Thank you. Thank you for being here.

The next witness is Ms. Salcido, who is the Principal of the Cesar Chavez Charter School for Public Policy in Washington, D.C. Ms. Salcido worked in the D.C. public school system for 9 years before the Cesar Chavez Charter School opened in 1998. She has been an active leader in the D.C. charter school movement and has involved the community in her efforts to open this school.

The school has been featured in the media, including the Economist, the Washington Times, NPR, and BBC radio. Ms. Salcido was born in Mexico, grew up in California, and now lives in Rockville with her husband and five children. She studied business at the California State University, and received her Master's Degree in Education, Administration and Social Planning from Harvard University.

Welcome and good morning to you.

Ms. Salcido. Good morning.

Mr. Hoekstra. Then finally we have Ms. Sumida, who is the Director of Instruction at the Fenton Charter School in Lake View Terrace, California. The Fenton Charter School has been in operation since 1993, when it opened with a vision to implement a student driven technology plan. Joe Lucente, the Principal at Fenton Charter School, testified at our Crossroads hearing in San Fernando, California, in 1997.

Welcome to you and thank you for keeping the dialogue going.

Mr. Schroeder, we will begin with you. We will be probably a little bit more informal today. You will see the little lights go on. Typically, the green light means you have plenty of time. The yellow light means you are running out and the red light means stop. Traditionally, I have a weak gavel so feel free to just finish your testimony. If it goes on too long, Mr. Roemer will probably grab the gavel and ask you to stop but I probably won't.

When the four of you have completed your testimony, we will open it up for questioning from the Members and I think with the three of us here today and the four of you, we can probably be very informal and perhaps do that in much more of a dialogue format than the usual formal questioning and answering that we go through.

So the lights are a cue. They are not the recess bell. All right, Mr. Schroeder?






Mr. Schroeder. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and Members. I think I am going to focus this morning on the grant program legislation and other policy aspects here. We have three excellent school representatives who can speak much more directly than I can to the direct impact on individual charter schools of the grant program and other Federal legislation.

In my written statement, which you have, I have raised four important questions about our experience to date with the Federal charter school grant program, and more importantly how the Federal Government can best support charter schools overall. I have briefly summarized my responses to those questions one at a time, but my bottom line is that the charter grant program is working well and as originally intended. Thanks to strong bipartisan support from Congress and the Administration, appropriations for the program have kept up with and helped stimulate growth in the number of charter school States and charter schools. The changes that were made in 1998, I think, were very helpful; mid-course corrections, if you will. Those changes, I think, should be considered a de facto reauthorization of the program, as the Congress now formally reauthorizes other programs in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Part of my lack of enthusiasm for any further major changes in the grant program legislation is also based on the Department of Education's past flexibility in administering the program, addressing a number of concerns and new opportunities as they have come along. The Department has indicated its willingness to continue to listen to the charter school community and to the States, and to make further administrative adjustments, as they are needed.

Aside from the charter grant program, of course, there are a number of other opportunities for national leadership and for the Federal Government to support, and strengthen the entire movement across the country. We must remember, however, that charter schools are largely an instrument of State education policy reform, kind of R&D program for changes and improvements that can eventually be used to change and improve all public schools and benefit all students.

That means that in some cases the best things for the Federal Government to do is watch and learn, lend moral support, send money, and then get out of the way.

With that bottom line, I would like to take up the four questions that I have been asked to answer in more detail in my prepared statement.

Question number one, asks if the Federal charter school grant program is achieving its original goals? And as the Chairman mentioned, I was very involved in drafting the original legislation when I worked for Senator Durenberger. From the beginning, this legislation had two major goals: First, to help build awareness of the charter idea and encourage States to pass charter laws. When we first introduced this legislation back in 1992, there were only two charter school States. So a big motivation was to really educate people about this opportunity and to encourage more States to do what Minnesota and California and then Colorado and a few other States decided to do.


The second goal was to help address what quickly emerged as the single biggest obstacle facing the charter movement and the original charter schools, which was the lack of funding for planning and start-up of new schools.

In both cases, these goals are clearly being met. We have seen a substantial increase in the number of States with charter laws, the number of schools in operation, and the number of students attending schools. Charter legislation is also under consideration in a half dozen additional States. We would like to see Indiana added soon.

Mr. Roemer. I would, too.

Mr. Schroeder. And hundreds of additional schools are at various stages of development all across the country.

Further evidence of the success of the program is the fact that in the most recent Federal charter school study report that just came out, 39 percent of first year charters cited start-up funding as a major limitation, down from 59 percent for schools that had opened just a year earlier. So clearly the need for start-up funding is a critical issue. This program is having a significant impact in addressing that need.

Question number two is, what have we learned since 1994 that has required changes in the program along the way?

I identified six lessons here that I think we have learned, one of which is that stronger schools will result from earlier support. That is something that I am not sure we had a full understanding and appreciation of early on. A number of States have now benefited from Department of Education flexibility in making smaller planning grants available to charter planning groups even before charters are granted. That is something that we really didn't consider or think about back in the time when we were considering this legislation originally.

One concern that perhaps could benefit from some clarification is that receiving a small planning grant shouldn't disqualify schools from receiving their full share of larger grants from start-up implementation later on.

The second lesson is that schools need the flexibility to take a full planning year. Again, that is not a concept that we had in mind at the time, but we are finding that the more time you can spend after you get a charter approved before you actually open, the better. But that costs money to do, and there is a feasibility issue. So having the flexibility to have more time for planning, as well as implementation during the 3 years of eligibility, is critical.

Lesson number three is that larger grants should go to States with stronger laws. That was an issue that you dealt with in 1998 in your legislation, with the criteria that were put in. One of those had to do with encouraging States to have maximum fiscal autonomy for charter schools. That is an issue in California right now with the requirement that for these early stage planning grants there be approval by the school district. A number of planning groups have been having difficulty getting pre-chartering approval of their planning grant applications. So that is an issue that we are going to have to think about how we address. Also, some States are allowing districts to take a percentage of the money and that also should not be allowed.

The other issue that we can maybe pick up on further in our conversation here is that cash flow is an issue. You dealt with that in terms of the timeliness of grants. Facilities' financing needs are not met by these grants. That is an issue that we have to address somehow separately, and also the technical assistance from the grass roots is critical and the Department is now beginning to work with States to allow some flexibility in how they use these funds for technical assistance pooled by schools together.

The third question I asked is whether what we have learned requires any current, immediate, major changes in the legislation. As I said at the outset, I do not believe that there is a need for any major changes in the legislation at this time, because of how well it has worked in the past, because of the increased funding, and because of the flexibility that the Department has used in operating it. There are some technical issues that we might talk about but overall I would not recommend any major changes.

Finally, what are some things that the Federal Government should do affirmatively? I guess that just very quickly let me list the ones that I listed in my statement here. Certainly protect and continue to enhance this program, increasing the appropriations as the number of States and schools continues to grow.

Something that we shouldn't forget about is that Congress is the de facto State legislature for the District of Columbia and was the author of the authorizing legislation for charter schools here in the District. That is something also to protect and enhance over time.

Continue to document the growth and impact of the charter movement nationally through appropriate research; help document the problem and explore options on facilities financing, although again I think that is primarily a State issue, something that is being dealt with in States like Minnesota and Colorado.

Ensure that charters get their fair share and on a timely basis of Federal categorical funds, and certainly monitor that mandate that you made to the Secretary and to the States in 1998. Make sure that it is being enforced.

Monitor charters to learn how best to have all Federal funds follow students to individual schools; using charters as a model for that, make sure that all the funding gets to schools based on the characteristics of the students.

Exercise caution and deference. This is worth slowing down a bit and reading. Exercise caution and deference in fashioning a Federal role in realizing laudable goals like increasing teacher quality and increasing school and student accountability. In particular, don't impose uniform prescriptive national solutions on charters that would discourage or impede their efforts to address these goals through other means, including the performance-based contract that exists between each school and each sponsor. Perhaps that is something we will want to explore further in questions.

Finally, don't underestimate the value of using the bully pulpit in encouraging States to pass and strengthen their charter laws and helping to educate the public and the private sector funders and others about the value that charters can play. The Ranking Member mentioned the upcoming National Charter Schools Week. That is certainly an opportunity to use the bully pulpit and get Members of Congress involved in helping support that initiative.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.





Mr. Hoekstra. Thank you very much. Dr. Knox.





Dr. Knox. Thank you. I just want to also thank everyone here. I am glad to be part of this discussion and this illustrious panel and many of the things, as Mr. Schroeder said, I highly support.

As Congressman Schaffer mentioned, we are a charter school and that means accountability in return for some autonomy. We are a third year K through 9 school with over 500 students this year. We are quite a large charter school and we have over 900 students on our waiting list and in lottery pool.

The parents at our school are very committed, as is our board. In fact, the reason we have the school is due to parents. Parents believe, at this charter school, that they can make a difference; that their actions and their voice will be heard and I think that is why they are willing to give their time.

Our literacy focus is very strong and we have a very strong focus on accountability by our teachers in making sure that all children can read by the time they finish first grade and definitely by the second. We make sure that there are individual literacy plans for children coming into the school if they don't have the reading ability, and student achievement is primary. In fact, we talk about student achievement as our main goal.

This isn't just a slogan but it is really a daily driven goal. In addition, we have a clearly articulated mission and goals. We are committed to high standards, student achievement, citizenship and development of community. Our dominant metaphor is the journey, with the students and the parents and the faculty and the administration involved.

Ongoing training for faculty is an important part of our continuing professional discourse and practice. We have special onsite training that is regular, at least twice a month, as well as mentoring schools and networking groups, and that is very important to develop the teacher's capacity.

Let me just focus on a couple of areas that I think have been successful and that highlight a couple of areas I think still need support. As I said, I think the autonomy is very important in the charter school movement, to keep that entrepreneurial spirit. Charter schools are different. Each school has its own focus and they are accountable at the local level, and I think that is the strength of this movement. I know that we are very accountable. Grass roots response is immediate if we are not achieving our standards and goals.

We try to be models for other schools and to be quite a resource for other schools internal and external networking and mentoring, while sharing knowledge with other schools that are starting up or have a desire to continue. We try and use useful methods and excellent materials to support those teachers whose capacity we try to expand.

We demand consistency in the staff and we articulate a common thought world, and what I mean by that is that we have the philosophy of classical liberal education. We use different methodology to promote good learning and retention. We have commitment and collegial responsibilities to each other, not just congenial, which are nice, but real collegial responsibilities. We see ourselves as servants to this mission. I see myself as a servant leader, as Sergiovanni uses the term and articulates a metaphor, and our metaphor is the journey. I think it is especially important because it frames all of the decisions that you make, from assessment to choosing textbooks to hiring your teachers.

On a journey, you need expert guides. You cannot stand to the side and be a guide on the side. You really need to help the children so they don't fall off the cliff or get lost in the forest. So the metaphor, again, guides a lot of our decisions.

Some of the things that have been helpful are information and sharing opportunities, such as on the U.S. charter school website with Colorado Department of Education links to this website information to share knowledge, skills, processes, resources, information on new laws coming up, and grant information. That has been extremely important to us. Locally, we have also had some regional centers support, for instance, the Core Knowledge Regional Center, helping with content, networking, training, and just keeping the communication open about the goals that we share.

Now financing, of course, I saw all of us shaking our heads and nodding our heads. That has been something that has been a challenge that we have approached in a very creative way, as Congressman Schaffer noted, in becoming the first school in the Nation to obtain tax-exempt bond financing. That was extremely important. Our building was primarily, before we came in, a manufacturing facility and turning a manufacturing facility into a school takes a bit of work.

We have turned some of the limitations of financing into a challenge but, of course, the inadequate access to capital funds and operating funds continues to be a problem. The receipt of start-up grant monies from the Federal Government, Title X and Title III, were extremely important to the successful first 2 years of our school in that the monies allowed us to purchase start-up resources, books, science lab equipment and so forth.

As I said, our district did not provide a building for our school and initially our lease took over a third of our monies. Right now it is taking almost a quarter of our revenues. Though the new State law here in Colorado allots 95 percent of funds to charter schools, it does not take into account other sources of funding that other public schools receive that contribute substantially to a school's project; for instance, an inability to access mill levy funds, vehicle license fees, capital reserve funds, or facilities bond financing. When you add this lack of access to those funds and then we add the cost of providing the building, custodial services, maintenance, fixing the roof, the playground, repairing utilities, and grounds maintenance, we are operating at about 73 percent of each dollar that other district schools receive and yet our students are public school students just like they are in any district.

So this lack of fair funding has been a huge hurdle for us to overcome and I believe it is for most charter schools. We have a substantial burden other schools don't have and that does impact the full educational opportunities for our students. So I would support continuing grant and capital opportunities.

In addition to capital funding limitations, we are finding that the lottery requirement potentially inhibits our ability to increase the socioeconomic diversity of our student population. I know that the reason for a lottery could be to increase the diversity of a school, but if a city is not extremely diverse that may inhibit it. In our charter, we actually have stated we have a set-aside and we want to hold slots for at-risk students, but that is now counter to the lottery requirement and so we can no longer do that. As Mr. Roemer noted, we must represent all areas of our population for equity and fairness.

One bill that is up in Colorado now is for the distance-learning component for charters. I think that could be an important component in the future as well.

You have read the summary of academic results, I am sure, and see that we are doing well, as many charter schools are. We continue to do this because we want to and because we know it is right and we know that we can do it because our mission is clear. We will do it because we are empowered with the capacity to do so. We have the freedom and the autonomy to do so as our basis for further movement. Our main thing, as I said, is student achievement and we keep that as our main thing in front of our eyes. Our goal is to develop a legacy.

I always look every day at the students coming into my school and I see the heart and soul of our school in those children's eyes, and their capacity to know that "they can, they can." So we are going to stay committed to excellence and fairness in education at Liberty Common School with the help of everyone involved in our community. I appreciate your support of school choice and charter schools in this venture.






Mr. Hoekstra. Thank you very much. Ms. Salcido.






Ms. Salcido. Good morning. It is an honor to be here.

I wanted to tell you a little bit about our school first. Right now we are serving 120 students, ninth and tenth graders. We will be adding 11th and 12th graders in the next 2 years and we will be at our full capacity of 240 in the year 2002. Our students come from all over the city, seventeen different middle schools. We are about 60 percent African American and 40 percent Hispanic. Eighty-six percent of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and nine of our students are already parents.

I will begin talking about the successes of charter schools. I have eight characteristics in mine that I believe make charter schools a success, which are the same that the panel representatives have mentioned. One is freedom of choice. Second is being accountable for producing results. Third, having high standards for your students and your staff. Fourth, doing away with bureaucracy. Fifth is offering additional programs. Sixth is being able to offer small learning environments. Seventh, having a team- building spirit and, eighth is allowing for innovation.

Obviously, not enough can be said about freedom of making your own decisions. When you allow the freedom for the founders to make those decisions obviously it is incredible; the responsibility of producing the results, once you know you have the freedom for the decisions.

In terms of being accountable to produce results, the pressure to show progress is important and it should be there and we should not exist if we cannot produce the results.

In terms of doing away with bureaucracy, obviously it should be the parents, the teachers, and the principals making the decisions about what happens in the schools and not some far away individuals that are away from our school building.

In terms of demanding high standards for teachers and your students, you cannot build an effective organization if you don't do that, and I think that is what a lot of the charter schools know right from the beginning.

In terms of offering small learning environments, most of the charter schools are small and that allows you to provide individual help that allows you to connect with the families and the students. And nowadays with violence being so much a part of our students' lives that is very important because you help them in their social and personal development when you offer a small learning environment.

There is no question most charter schools provide additional programs, Saturday school, summer school, and tutoring after school. We are not afraid of work. We know that we have to offer these additional programs if we want to produce results. So it is important that we offer those additional programs.

As you can imagine, opening a school is a tremendous, tremendous task. Our school was a school started from scratch. It was an idea that I had and we had to start right from the beginning. You need your support directors, you need your parents, and you need your teachers, because you want to do whatever is possible to make sure that each young person succeeds in spite of the personal circumstances that are challenges. You do want to have a team that respects each other, that is committed and that is going to be producing results.

Allowing for innovation as has been said over and over again, the sky is the limit. When you are allowed to be creative, it is incredible the things that you can accomplish. When you are able to do that, it is incredible, too, how students and parents also see the excitement and then buy into your vision. So that is definitely a plus and it does contribute to making schools a success.

I would like to switch now to what I think the challenges are for charter schools, and six come to mind. The first one is facilities, facilities, facilities, facilities. I think it is very unfair to expect that we founders should take total responsibility for finding our own facilities. I don't think it is any longer appropriate to hear stories of schools opening in abandoned buildings, or in basements. Our school was forced to start in a basement, and I think that is not acceptable. We are public schools and we should be able to have the ability to have a building for our schools. So that is one of the challenges.

The second challenge that comes to mind is conversions of traditional public schools into charter schools. I don't think it should be a debate what should happen to the building of the traditional school once they convert into a charter school. If the requirements are met, then that building should remain with the converted charter school because we are a public school. I think it is important that that should be settled, done with, so we don't have to have the problem of what do we do now that we are converted into a charter school?

The third is securing funding for charter schools. I think it has to be 100 percent equal distribution. For traditional schools and charter schools, the formula should be the same. We are a public school and the funding we receive should be as important as the traditional public school funding. Hopefully all the States have that 100 percent equity of funding formulas.

The fourth thing that comes to mind is being able to do away with bureaucracy. Again, my hope is that as we grow and become permanent parts of the educational system, we are not going to be adding agencies and places to report and write reports just for the sake of reporting. I think it is very important that we keep in mind that we don't want to build any more bureaucracy.

The other challenge that comes to mind is, as we learn more and more about charter schools and as we are able to show that we are producing results in terms of students achievement academically, the importance of rethinking the funding formula or the base funding formula. It is obvious that we charter schools do more in terms of programming, in terms of doing more for the students, and I think right now the formula is based on a traditional model: 8:15 to 3:30 Monday through Friday, you go home and maybe you have additional programs and maybe you don't. My hope is that with time we get a better sense that it is very costly for charter schools to do all this additional work, which we are very willing to do but something has to be done. My hope is that in the future that is a consideration.

In terms of creating an effective monitoring mechanism, it is going to be very critical. I think funding has to be allocated and the monitoring of charter schools has to be taken very seriously, because we cannot allow charter schools to fail because we didn't have a good monitoring system, experts or the programs or funding out there to make sure that we are monitoring charter schools in order for them to produce results. If one charter school fails then we are all failing, especially if it is because we are not monitoring them well. I think it is important that we make sure that we keep that in mind.

So I do hope that as you think about how we can make charter schools continue to succeed, that you keep in mind what we already know works, and that you keep in mind the challenges that we have ahead.

I hope that my testimony will help, and I also hope that we somehow expect the same of all public schools. I think the vision that we have we should be able to translate so it happens everywhere, and that charter schools can revolutionize public education, as we know it, because for the most part, if there is poor quality, then there are poor results. Somehow, some way, we will be able to adopt these strategies into the public schools because young people in this country deserve to have the same opportunities and to know that they are going to receive a quality public education.

I invite you to come to our school. We are nearby. I believe as you step into our school, you will see signs of all these characteristics that make a successful school. So I do thank you for allowing me to be here today and to share my own experiences.

Thank you.





Mr. Hoekstra. Thank you very much. I would guess that at least Mr. Roemer and myself and maybe Mr. Schaffer would probably take you up on that offer and pay a visit.

Mr. Roemer. I would love to. I have been to the Options Charter School in D.C. and was very impressed with that and would love to come by.

Ms. Salcido. Thank you.

Mr. Hoekstra. You are 9 years in the D.C. public school system. Is what you said here fairly controversial, that we just do reports for reports' sakes? You never saw that happen before, did you?

Ms. Salcido. I will reserve any comments.

Mr. Hoekstra. All right. Ms. Sumida.





Ms. Sumida. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to share the successes and challenges of charter schools.

For the successes, I would really like to focus on what we have enjoyed at Fenton and due to time limitations I am just going to share a little bit about our history and what we are doing now.

On January 3, 1994, Fenton Avenue Charter School officially opened as the second independent charter school of the City of the Los Angeles Unified School Office. Vaughn was the first, and we were the 30th charter school in the State of California.

From January 1994 to the present, Fenton Avenue Charter School has changed little demographically. The ethnic composition of the school has remained relatively constant: 81 percent Hispanic; 13.1 percent African American; 2.2 percent white; and 1.8 percent Filipino. Factors that are often used to identify at-risk populations continue to describe Fenton. Eighty-four percent of our 1,343 students are identified as Title I. Sixty-four percent are limited English proficient and 90 percent qualify for free or reduced meals.

In contrast to the consistency of our demographics, however, indicators of school success reflect a significant change from January 1994 to the present. The first year of charter status, standardized test scores increased by 16 percent on the California Test of Basic Skills, the CTBS, and Aprenda, the test administered to our students receiving Spanish language arts instruction, improved similarly.

Improvements continued into the 1995/1996 school year, with a 5.5 percent increase on the California Test of Basic Skills and a 28.7 percent increase on the Aprenda. The number of students going at or above the 50th percentile, and we began at a very low base, increased by 383 percent in reading; 253 percent in math; and 280 percent in language. First grade CTBS scores in 1993 for reading were at the 18th percentile. This is pre-charter. Last year's Stanford 9 test scores were at the 47th percentile in reading.

The first year of charter status, Fenton had the highest rate of student gain in attendance for all schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Actual attendance increased from 91.86 percent to 97.6, percent and we remain there today.

Our transient rate fell from 57 percent to 32 percent by 1996/1997. Prior to charter status, parent participation was about a handful of parents; a different handful of parents every month. Now we have approximately 400 parents who utilize our family center every week.

There is no aspect of Fenton's charter school history that better illustrates how our efforts have come together to improve the instructional program than our technology story. In 1996, we piloted a sixth grade self-contained classroom of the future calling it the Virtual Learning System, VLS. This classroom was equipped with one networked Power Macintosh computer for every student, 25 computers, two big screen electronic bulletin boards, which enabled the teacher to electronically guide students through lessons before they explored on their own, a color scanner, a fax, and two network computers, one in color.

In July 1997, our sixth graders moved on to middle school because we no longer had room for them, and the entire school district was moving sixth graders to the middle school.

We instituted the VLS, the Virtual Learning System, classroom in all of our fifth grade classes. Far exceeding our expectations, Stanford 9 test score results in 1997/1998 reflected an increase that we had never experienced before for our fifth grade students. Expanding upon this success, by the end of July 1999, all of our fourth and fifth grade classrooms and three of our third grade classrooms were equipped to be fully functional on the VLS programs. Now, this means that 500 students all have a computer on their desk. They are no longer Power Macs; they are I-Macs.

In addition to positively affecting achievement, this technology-enhanced-learning environment establishes a context for students that is most analogous to their future workforce environment, for computers and technology will be an integral part of their daily work life.

How are we able to do so this? We are able to do this with the independence and entrepreneurship provided by charter school status. Now our equipment has been upgraded and not only are our third, fourth, and fifth graders provided a technology rich environment but from pre-kindergarten, these are four-year-olds, through third grade, all of our students have a very rich technology background.

Our pre-kindergarten classes all have four Power Mac computers. Kindergarten classes have five. First grade classes have six. Second and third grade classes have between 7 and 10. This is in addition to all of the other classes having one Power Mac computer per child. All computers are networked and all have access to the Internet. We also have, with the capability of broadcasting, live videotape presentations to every classroom in the school, and so I do invite you to come and join us in May for Charter Schools Week. Every classroom has a television, VCR and compact disc interactive player, and this is our technology implementation to date.

In May 1997, Fenton Avenue Charter School was named a California Distinguished School, and on June 15th, 1998, the Los Angeles Unified School District unanimously approved Fenton's five-year renewal petition.

But there are challenges that do remain. Numerous challenges continue to face charter schools, and the most recurring problem is lack of funding. We are a conversion charter school, so we did not have similar problems. The problem of locating a site and trying to purchase or lease a site are overwhelming. Funding may come from private or personal sources or from operating funds. The Federal Government may be of assistance with this key problem by allowing flexibility to States in the use of Federal charter school grant funds. Some States already have provisions for facilities funding, but most do not.

Another problem facing many charter schools is the change in rules required to manage the operation of a fiscally independent school. Our school budget is over $8 million. The charter school operators are usually educators, not business people. But the operation of a charter school is a business. Federal funding has provided for the development of a nationwide charter school's leadership curriculum and my co-director, Joe Lucente, whom you met, has participated for two years in the development at the western regional level. The curriculum is now complete, and we will need funding to provide the training. Again, flexibility at the Federal level, which would allow the States to channel Federal funds to organizations with the expertise to organize and schedule the training, is needed. Examples of such organizations that can provide this training would be statewide charter school associations, charter school resource centers and charter school development centers.

The Federal Government also could be of assistance with a block grant Federal categorical funding model. This would be similar to what California has devised for State categories. Fenton is now participating in a private program and we are totally independent now from our school district. Funding could still be distributed based on need, but this mechanism would relieve charter schools of the cumbersome and time-consuming documentation that is currently required of many of these programs. A block grant would free up more time to work on our primary objective, which is also the primary objective of all Federal programs, to improve student achievement. We are still highly accountable, because most importantly, if our students and our parents are not pleased with our product, they will leave the school. This is one reason that our transient rate has fallen to 32 percent. Our parents may drive their children to school as long as an hour.

We are located in the northeast San Fernando Valley and we have some students whose parents drive them from Palmdale, which is over an hour's drive one way. They have chosen to remain because they have seen the difference.

Ultimately, if we do not meet student achievement goals outlined in our charters, we will no longer exist, and this is, of course, the ultimate accountability.

Finally, a challenge that many charter school developers must overcome is the sometimes hostile or uncooperative reaction of school districts, school boards and labor organizations, and institutions of the status quo, regarding the development of charters within their sphere of influence. Although there is little that can be done on the Federal level, it should be noted that strong Federal support of charter schools and the continued bipartisan support from the President on down, will continue to gradually change the attitude of those who may currently impede the development of charter schools.

I would like to close with a quote from Gilbert Hentschke, who is the Dean of the Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California. These were remarks taken from the preface of a soon to be published document called Innovation for Excellence in Education: The California Charter School Story. He has written:


"Charter schools are a testimony to the resilience and responsiveness of the American system of government as well as a tangible indicator of our growing recognition on the use of market forces and incentives in providing public services such as schooling. Charter schools are radically dissimilar in mission, type of students served and instructional practices. At the same time, all embody common elements, such as a close connection between mission and everyday work, high expectations of students, parents and teachers, clear curriculum standards and individualized student assessment and attention, elements which we have long been seeking for all public schools."






Chairman Hoekstra. Thank you very much.

I think Mr. Schaffer and Mr. Roemer would agree how impressive this hearing is compared to the hearing we had on Wednesday. While we may have different perspectives on the hearing that we had on Wednesday, we all basically agree that it is no fun to have a hearing where our Department of Education has to report to us that for a second year in a row, they can't get a clean audit on their books. And then to actually hear your stories about what you are doing with kids in your communities, I think we are glad we stayed and that we had this hearing this morning. We would much rather have hearings talking about these kinds of issues and the progress that we are making in education with many of our kids than to deal with the kind of issue that we had to deal with on Wednesday. So thank you.

It is absolutely fantastic to hear what you are doing and the ground that you are breaking and the impact that you are having. Like I said earlier, I have some questions, but if Mr. Roemer, and Mr. Schaffer, want to just build off of those questions, feel free. We will run the clock, but we will be very liberal in going back and forth, so feel free to interrupt if you want.

Mr. Roemer. This is a bipartisan meeting. You be a liberal Republican and I will be conservative with my time as a Democrat.

Chairman Hoekstra. That's right. All right.

Mr. Schroeder, one of the things that you talked about which kind of mirrors the larger role for the Department of Education that I can see is the area of research and being a clearinghouse or a resource to charter schools around the country, so that Dr. Knox can learn from Ms. Sumida or Ms. Salcido as to what they are doing.

Have you thought about that? What direction might we take or how could that work or what could we think about in terms of evolving an alternative role for the Department of Education in this area?

Mr. Schroeder. As you know, Mr. Chairman, 5 percent of the funds in the Federal charter school program can be held by the Department for its role in administering the program and for national activities, so that is really the money that is up for grabs here. As the total appropriation continues to grow, for example this year that could be about

$7 million, that is a significant potential resource here that we need to think carefully about how to best use.

I mentioned in my testimony, I do think there is a role for the Department in basic research, keeping track of the growth of the charter movement and its impact over time, both on students and its secondary impacts on districts and district schools. I don't know that I would go much beyond that in terms of research, though, and I think I would then put them in the technical assistance, but I would not depend on the Department of Education or Federal agencies to do that. I would want to get that money into the hands of people who are closer to the schools.

I think our witness from California mentioned several kinds of organizations. Those are the organizations that we work with through the Charter Friends National Network, and they are in all three of these jurisdictions. There are now 40 or so of these organizations around the country; resource centers and associations of charter schools that exist. There is a very strong Colorado league of charter schools, and California charter schools have organized several organizations. There is a resource center here in the District of Columbia and similar organizations in my own State of Minnesota. If we can figure out a way to get resources into the hands of those kinds of organizations, which are much closer and more responsive to the schools, without it becoming inordinately bureaucratic, I think that would be the objective.

Actually, the Department, through the grant program, is starting to move in that direction. I have been very impressed with the flexibility that they have offered some States to begin to get some of the grant program funds through schools and into these grass-roots technical assistance organizations. Half a dozen or so States now have done that, including Colorado, the District of Columbia and Minnesota.


Chairman Hoekstra. There was a report that just crossed my desk yesterday from the State of Michigan that according to this report, I don't know how complete or how thorough it was, we are going to go back and take a look at it, we haven't seen the type of innovation in the charter schools in the State of Michigan as much as we perhaps would have expected.

Then I listened to Ms. Sumida, when you talked about that, and that is innovation to me, Ms. Salcido and Dr. Knox. I mean, is that part of the timing? Is that the first thing that you are addressing? You have the start-up issues, you have to do the basics, and once you get the basics and the start-up issues confronted, that then allows you, because you don't have bureaucracy, to start opening up new horizons to start innovating?

I know it is tough to do it right up front.

Ms. Sumida. We did not have the same start-up issues because we are a conversion charter school. Our main initiatives the first five years were some union issues. We have all resigned from our school district now. We are independent. Everyone resigned from the teachers union and from the administrators associations. Classified staff has resigned, and we have all resigned from the school district. It was either that or go back to the school district. That was our choice.


Chairman Hoekstra. All right.

Ms. Salcido. I think one of the things we need to keep in mind, and I don't want to say would work against charter schools, but we should be innovative, and that should happen right from the beginning. Obviously, there are going to be schools out there that are going to be, I don't know if you want to call it, traditional. I think you are going to find some schools that are not going to make it because it is a very difficult task. Also, I hope that we don't have a system in which 5 or 10 years from now, charter schools become like traditional schools. We should not allow that to happen.

In my opinion, in spite of all of the challenges we confront right from the beginning, you have to show that you are doing something different. If you are not then, a year or 2 or 3 years into it, people have to question what are you doing differently than the traditional schools are doing. But I think there are two or three things that come to mind that will allow that to happen, and I am hoping that part of the grants that are made available take into consideration several things.

Regarding the Title X grant for planning and implementation, I think we need to add the idea that we have to have monies way before, for small planning grant. I hope that no one, or not many people should go through what I and other people went through, when I was trying to think of how to start opening the school. I was very lucky. Here in the District there is a great number of committed people, very talented, that offered their skills for free, and thank God Kinko’s stays open 24 hours a day. But there was zero money available for us, and I assume for a lot of people that might want to open schools, they need money they can count on just to copy a hundred copies of your application.

I think we need to make sure that we put in place for those schools that want to open, a small amount of money. The idea of having a 1-year planning time, my God, that could make the difference at least for a lot of the schools, because you are opening, you are figuring out what are you doing and what are your needs, and at the same time you are running a school. Ideally, that is not the kind of way you want to function.

I think it would have been great if we had a year of time to really figure out what we wanted to do with the school. I mean, the fact that you submit an application and are approved, and now you have to open, you then have to think about buying the paper clips and renting the copier. I mean, you are doing so much other stuff that I think if right from the beginning, you have some money so you can plan well, and not have to worry about the operating part yet, it would be extremely, extremely helpful.

I believe we need to take into consideration, right from the beginning, that we are unique and we have our unique focuses. The fact that we add technology or a technology focus, or in our case a public policy focus because we felt why not allow kids that live in the District of Columbia the opportunity to dream of one day being in public service at its highest, because this is the opportunity here. Well, that requires staffing and additional things for the school, whatever your focus might be, but there is no money for that. You have to use the same money to run your program, to rent your facility, and if you want to do something else, good luck. If you find money for it, great, and if you don't, then my staff and I will have to do that additional job. Therefore, it is important right from the beginning that there is money for the uniqueness or innovation of the focus of the school, because that additional money is needed to make it happen.

The fourth thing that comes to mind, and I think it might apply just for high schools, maybe not. But as you can imagine, we get young people in the 9th grade and we have to make up for stuff they didn't get for 8 years before they come to us. Suddenly I have a college prep program and I am hoping that the kids can take AP courses when they are seniors, and I hope I can send them to Cornell, Harvard or Stanford because they deserve it. Suddenly, I have to spend time on remedial stuff that I don't anticipate having to do. I get kids that don't know how to do long division, and they are 9th graders, but I don't have the extra money to do that because it is not part of the conditions of the money that I have.

So there has to be a way that once you get your student population and discover what you have to do in addition to just Math and English, Biology and the traditional stuff, it just makes it extremely, extremely difficult for me and my teachers.

There is no stopping us now. When you put so much sweat and blood into what you are doing and you believe so strongly, it should not be that way. It should not be hoping that, with help and support, we will make it. I think we need to build a road for the future public schools coming behind us so they will have it much easier right from the beginning.

Also, we should not have to compete. I don't know if the word is "compete," but it would be great if charter schools were able to apply for grants for additional services such as for example, the 21st Century Learning Centers. I am open until 7 o'clock every day. I have Saturday school. I have additional programs that would make an ideal learning center, but I have to compete for a grant that I have to write that anyone can write, any community center, and maybe I get it and maybe I don't. But I think it would be great if, through the Department of Education, we got all the grants that can possibly come to charter schools, and then let the charter schools know that the pot of money is for charter schools to compete for. I don't know if I am making myself clear, but it just makes it very difficult to have to apply for all of this stuff. You just hope and pray you go to people and they will help, help, help.

Right now it is a shame that I don't have the technology that I should have in my school because I don't have time. There are monies out there but it should be automatic. I shouldn't say automatic, but I need results. I mean, I want my kids to have access to the technology they should. They know how to use it, and we are teaching them, but you have to take a long time and maybe you get the money, and maybe not.

So it just makes it very difficult for charter schools in the start-up period, to not have enough monies, and with not enough structures in place to make it possible right from the beginning. We have the school that we should have and but we should not be limited with technology, and with facilities. I am paying $20,000 a month in rent. That is money I cannot use for my teachers or remedial programs.

I am sorry. I am hoping that those things I mentioned will help other charter schools as well as ours.

Chairman Hoekstra. You have nothing to be sorry for. Dr. Knox.

Dr. Knox. This is so exciting, to be part of a panel like this, because we all share so much. We have never met each other, but I feel very connected with all of these people and the passion starts to come out. Whenever you get charter people together, there is this passion, and it is right there in our hearts.

To get to your question about accountability, I agree with Ms. Salcido that you need to be accountable from day one. You can't spend a couple of years trying to figure out who you are and how you are going to be different, because then your children don't learn anything, and that is not right. So you need to start out knowing where you need to go to get the training, just from the moment you open.

I know in our situation we didn't even have a school to go into when we started. Our teachers were meeting in the basement of a Urology Center that was space donated to us. We had no books, and we didn't have the chairs. Teachers couldn't even see their rooms, there weren't any blackboards, and it was hard to envision where we were going. We spent four weeks, five days a week, maybe more than that, and that was not for extra pay. We were learning to take care of starting from nothing to become something and how to use our maps and how to develop the curriculum that we were committed to and how to develop a learning community and our professional responsibilities. We all just did that with a lot of humor and joy, because we were changing all the time. But that is not something everyone could do so easily.

We also had the support of parents who went before us, with financing, with finding the building, with helping with resources, and with helping with the opportunities for us. So I feel very excited to be a part of that. But I think the preparation and the teacher training and the coherence, has to be there. That is fair, because we are similar in that there is some resilience and responsiveness. This is a great example and we can't take off and just say well, some day we will get there, but just give us money. I will do my part and we are committed to that. I think we need to blend research and practice with a moral commitment.

The piece that I want to take off on, regards start-up monies, but you know, growth needs to continue. So for instance, our school is a third-year school and we need to have access to other support, other monies, and financing through grants and so forth, for continuing. We don't want to just reach the status quo and say well, this is it. We want to grow. I know there are many other things that we would like to do and we just need to be financially stable in order to ensure that we can continue to do that without endangering where we are now.

I love what Ms Salcido said. She said we are building a road for public schools coming behind us. That is really our legacy.


Chairman Hoekstra. Thank you. Mr. Roemer.

Mr. Roemer. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Again, I am very appreciative of your time and your excellent testimony provided here this morning on a subject that I am not only deeply supportive of, but very excited about as well.

At a time in America when education is probably the most important topic to most of our parents and citizens and voters, most of the people in America support the concept of charter schools, but they are not really sure what they are. So I am delighted that an organization like C-SPAN is here this morning to cover this. It is an educational benefit to the viewers trying to learn more about what we are doing in public education reform, and what we are doing to improve accountability and to create new ideas and to help educate all of our children, not just the fortunate ones in America.

Let me come right down to some basics. For my first questions, if you could be brief in your response, I will go back through them here. This year's funding level for charter schools in our appropriations budget is about $145 million. The President has requested a $30 million increase for next year's fiscal year 2001 budget level.

Mr. Schroeder, if you could start off and we will go right down the line. Is that enough of an increase, given your testimony about investment and accountability and some of the problems and challenges that we have in conversion and start-up costs of charter schools?

Mr. Schroeder. Well, I am presuming that the Administration made some calculation of growth of schools in States in coming up with that number. As we have an increased number of States strengthening laws that tend to produce more schools, and a stronger infrastructure through the technical assistance organizations, with more interest and more awareness, there is going to be this continued increase. So at a minimum if we continue that rate of growth, we anticipate at least the same level of growth next year as we had this year, which was 500 to 600 additional schools, you can do the math and the percentages.

Also, we are working very hard to get larger grants and to have the average size of grants increased. I think that the Department is really telling us now that $100,000 per school per year for two to three years ought to be our objective. As I have said, and as I think we have reinforced here, there is a need for planning earlier, and even smaller planning grants would then make a feasible planning year concept.

So those would be rationales and ways of calculating precisely what it would be, and this gets to be a political decision, and a fiscal decision for the Federal Government. But I would say $30 million is a starting point for the discussion and that we need to work closely with the Appropriation Subcommittees to try to come up with some real, rational basis for a more substantial increase. I think we can do that.

Mr. Roemer. I look forward to working with you on that. Thank you for your help on the resolution. Dr. Knox.

Dr. Knox. Well, again, I follow Mr. Schroeder's comments in the sense it is hard to tell. We have over 1,600 charter schools in the Nation, and we expect that there will be more. One of the advantages of charter schools is their uniqueness. I would not like to see these monies tied to anything that would limit our autonomy or uniqueness. The monies should not be so inflexible, for instance, or be so specifically tied to a specific program, specific drug education program, or a specific approach to literacy that has to be connected with that grant or something like that.

Mr. Roemer. But you are fine with it tied to monitoring and accountability. If the students don't produce and improve scores, then we don't continue to fund you.

Dr. Knox. I think that is absolutely fair, because that is what we are here for. Education is a very sacred duty. We are here to prepare students to become citizens and well-functioning people.

In fact, I am a strong supporter of the accountability process. I have been a team leader with the charter schools as well as a member of that process, and our school is part of that process as well. That is another outside agency looking at the accountability of our school, in addition to our district and anyone else who is also part of our accountability process. Absolutely, I don't think that we should go away from accountability. We are responsible not only to students, but to taxpayers. So that is fine.

But what I am saying is the tie to a specific method or to a specific program, because that again would inhibit, in many cases, what we are trying to do.

Mr. Roemer. Ms. Salcido?

Ms. Salcido. I would probably say that if we don't want to do one another's job, I don't believe that is going to be enough money. If we are expecting schools to revamp or to make up for what students have not done, if I am expected to make sure my 19 parents make it for four years and stay there, and not only that, but if we expect that schools are going to have buildings and we expect that there is a good accountability program, then my hope is that we are not just saying, here is more money. My hope is that people are going to take the time to make sure that money is allocated where it has to be, and we have people that can do the job.

So obviously, I honestly don't believe that would be enough if we want every single charter school to be able to do the things that they need to do, at least at the beginning. Again, my hope is that charter schools grow, and my hope is that traditional public schools will learn from us, and that somehow we all impact what public education is in this country. Maybe then we will not have to be as concerned with the student population that we serve. But if we are honest with ourselves and we understand the student population that we are working with, and we want to do a good job, it is not enough. We call them "at-risk" and unfortunately they are at risk because we adults didn't do a good job.

Chairman Hoekstra. Ms. Sumida.

Ms. Sumida. It is difficult to say that would be enough funding, because more is needed. But I would hope that the funding would be very flexible and it would not be tied to specific ways that it must be used. Planning grants, yes, but at a school like Fenton, which has a long history now compared to other charter schools, I would hope that we would have the opportunity as well to participate.

We did receive a grant even after becoming a charter school. It was for $48,000. We used it entirely for professional development. With 66 teachers, it is very important that we are all on the same page. Having applied for a grant as a school that has been in existence, we would hope we could share our success, particularly in technology, with other charter schools and other public schools.

Mr. Roemer. You bring up a very good point, a very important point that I want to get to also.

One of the criticisms as we went through the development of legislation on charter schools was that it was too elite-oriented, and that it was not delivering enough opportunities based on the diversity of our population in this country. You said that within your school, Fenton, 94 percent of your student body was eligible for the free and reduced meals programs. Is that correct?

Ms. Sumida. It was about 95 to 96 percent. It has gone down to 90 percent now.

Mr. Roemer. And is it 84 percent of your student body that is eligible for receiving

Title I monies?

Ms. Sumida. Yes.

Mr. Roemer. What is your ethnic makeup?

Ms. Sumida. Almost 82 percent Hispanic, a little over 13 percent African American.

Mr. Roemer. And all of your scores are going up on the California basic skills testing?

Ms. Sumida. Yes the basic skills, and the Stanford 9.

Mr. Roemer. And your attendance rate has gone up 5 or 6 percent?

Ms. Sumida. Yes, close to 98 percent.

Mr. Roemer. So you have to have good teachers. You have turnover for your teachers? You must not have much of an attrition rate at all.

Ms. Sumida. We do in that they are very young and they keep having babies, so that is our turnover rate.

Mr. Roemer. What is your turnover rate?

Ms. Sumida. We have 66 teachers, and I think about 6 move on.

Mr. Roemer. Every year?

Ms. Sumida. Yes, because they are going on maternity leave. Some of our teachers travel a great distance to come to Fenton, and it is difficult when you have young children.

Mr. Roemer. With the $48,000 grant that you received, what did you do? What kinds of activities did you do internally for professional development for your teachers so that you are all on the accountability and the monitoring page and doing things to increase the student standards and scores? And what kinds of things, if any, are you doing outside the school to share these best practices with other charter schools, maybe in California?

Ms. Sumida. The first grant that we received we focused on brain research and multiple intelligences. Our population is a difficult population to work with. When I came to Fenton in 1991, our test scores were single digit numbers. I was offered a job at Fenton when I was a classroom teacher, back in the 1970s, and I would never have gone there. It was unsafe. I didn't think my car would be there at the end of the day, and I really didn't want to go there, but I was assigned there in 1991 as the Assistant Principal. I went there thinking well, I will be there for just 3 years and I think I can survive 3 years. I was pleased to find that it was a very dedicated staff, but a very demoralized staff. We had to take a 10 percent pay cut in the school district. It was just a very difficult time. That is why we became a charter school.

Mr. Roemer. And we have seen the stunning successes with your student body and your scores and your truancy rates and your attendance rates. Do you think that you could have done those things without becoming a charter school?

Ms. Sumida. No, absolutely not. There is a school nearby that has exactly the same demographics, and they are one of the lowest performing schools in the school district.

Mr. Roemer. So it is down the street.

Ms. Sumida. It has exactly the same demographics as Fenton.

Mr. Roemer. I want to come back, Mr. Schroeder, and then I want to go to Mr. Schaffer as well and come back for a second or a third or fourth round if we can. I find this fascinating.

Mr. Schroeder, you talked about the Federal support, the original goals and so forth, and some of the smaller planning grants and the cash flow and the technical assistance. Do you see anything else in terms of having all 50 States being a part of these charter schools? I think we now have 36, and we hope to hit 3,000 charter schools soon. Off the top of your head, being innovative, what other kinds of things can we do with these charter schools in the future?

Mr. Schroeder. Well, I gave you a list, but I think one idea I would like to reinforce, that I think is an excellent idea and follows on my thoughts about trying to use this as an R&D program for public education in general, is one of the goals of education innovators. That is to get to smaller, independent, less regulated, more accountable school sites in the district realm as well as more charter-like district schools. We have some major national voices. Both the Education Commission for the States, and the President of the National Urban League recently came out with that kind of a recommendation.

There are, however, practical issues here involving getting a fair share of money on a per-pupil basis to individual school sites, especially from the Federal level. It is a struggle at the State level as well. Perhaps some piloting there of the concept of a block grant that would cut through all of that red tape, take away the time that is needed for all of the preparation of grant proposals, and the administration of these individual categorical programs is something that could be tested in the charter environment with the extra accountability that exists there. Then, challenge States to do the same thing.

Because of the realities that individual charter schools face, especially new ones and rapidly growing ones, the mandate that you laid out in 1998 to get money on a current-year basis to schools based on this year's enrollment rather than last year's, is an important concept that States ought to be picking up as well.

So really the goal is parity. You know, leveling the playing field fiscally so that charter schools have the same resources that their students would bring to a district school or to a school district. Also perhaps try some new and innovative ways to try to make that happen. We are not asking for more, really, we are just asking to be treated equally.

Mr. Roemer. Your fair share.

Mr. Schroeder. Yes.

Chairman Hoekstra. Mr. Schaffer.

Mr. Schaffer. Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman.

You know, I have been involved in charter schools right since the start in Colorado, and was in the State legislature when we drafted our Charter School Act and it passed by one vote at the time. There was all of this concern that this was going to be the end of public education as we know it if it passed, and so on. Well, it ended up passing and it has been a wonderful thing. I think it has not only improved the condition of students who have an opportunity to attend charter schools, but in the districts where those schools appear, I think it has had a very positive effect on the rest of the district.

Now that the parents can make choices, I have seen firsthand how parents come back from a charter school and go to the neighborhood school and say, well, gee, Mr. and Mrs. Principal, here is what they are teaching over there, what is my second grader going to learn in math? Well now, that principal has to come up with an answer. The great thing is that they have to answer. This is the first time that all schools now have to think of themselves in a market-driven environment, and all schools I think have responded very favorably, just because of the presence of one charter school in our district and I think that is true throughout the rest of the State and the country.

I also want to point out that charter schools succeed and thrive today because of the leaders in those schools and because of the wisdom that has been built in the various State charter laws. But the Federal Government has nothing to do with that; maybe a little bit. I think the grant money helps and supports, but the momentum was already created locally, and if there are two things this City loves, it is disaster and great success. Disaster tells politicians what they need to care about, if they haven't figured it out on their own, and they love success, because it gives the chance to pile on and say we thought of that too and we are for it also. The way we demonstrate our support for things that are successful is by dishing out lots of cash to show our commitment in Washington. It is sickening, but that is the way it works here, and that is a generality.

Now, my concern, I have to tell you, is that we are going to love charter schools to death here in Washington, and I say that because there is an historic trend that we see in every other successful thing that this country has started that then becomes a thing that the Federal Government just can't get enough of. It starts with the cash and we get you addicted to it, you see. This is how it is going to happen. I am warning you right now. Remember this 10 years from now or even immediately, but we get you addicted to the cash first and we are going to give it to you and if you ask for more, we will give you more. We say charter schools are thriving and succeeding, we are going to pay for more and get more, and then 10 years from now when I am gone, maybe Pete will still be here, but 10 years from now somebody is going to come along and say well, you know, in exchange for that cash, we would like you to behave this way and this way, and the flexibility that you have all spoken about is something that will erode. I hope that we can prevent that. I think if we were going to be spending $120 billion within the Department of Education, K through 12, I would love to see charter schools be at the table. But my fear is that there will soon be very little that is different about you.

The accountability question that was asked is a good example. The reason being, the premise was well, if you don't produce, if you are not teaching the kids and providing something different, the Federal Government should take your money away, right? Well, why don't we do that with every school? But we don't. In fact, schools that fail in America usually get more money, because that is the disaster that helps us figure out what we ought to care about.

So I am not one who is of the belief that we in Congress should set up a system where the government decides who is succeeding and who is failing. I think the best method where we can carry that out is by putting the real customers in charge of the accountability. In other words, the 4 percent of charter schools that closed down last year I view as a good thing, because that means they didn't get the cash flow, they didn't get the customers, and they didn't earn the public confidence to keep people coming in the front door to keep them open. Those were schools that were probably bad schools and needed to shut down. But there are probably a higher percentage of traditional government schools that will go on indefinitely because people can't leave. They are stuck there. So I think accountability ought to be distributed evenly, and that is one thing to be aware of.

But I want to go to a specific example that I have seen in our school. I don't remember which grant it was at Liberty, some Federal grant, and the Federal Government said, we are glad you appreciate the money, now we want you to change the way you enroll your students. There is a rule now. We didn't pass it in Congress. The Department of Education said here is the cash, go ahead and spend it. Once we spent it now we need it, we are relying on it. If you want to keep getting cash, you need to get rid of your waiting list and now take the kids on a lottery, which I would point out puts our school, Liberty Common School in Colorado, at odds with the State charter, which says we have to promote diversity. It was the waiting list that was the way we did that. Now we are no longer able to achieve our State contractual obligation because the Federal Government, in giving us the cash, said we want you to do it Washington's way.

So Dr. Knox, I would like you to talk about that one example. We are going to see more and more of this. The more you hear us talking about how much we love charter schools in Washington, you are going to get more of these kinds of attempts to help you run your school.

Dr. Knox. Thank you very much, Congressman Schaffer. In fact, that is something I mentioned before, but I would like to follow up on. Yes, we did receive the monies that were very important to us to get started and to buy all of the things that we needed to make our classrooms happen. But we didn't know at the time that there would be a string, and this string was that you must eliminate your waiting list and then have a lottery system. That is not helping us reach our at-risk and diversity goals.

But we are between a rock and a hard place. We have already spent the money. We can't give it back. If we had known that that "string" was there, we might have looked at it a little more carefully. That is always my concern that suddenly there are surprises coming from behind. It can be, this whole language program, this drug education program, or you will do this to your school, and you will do that to your school.

We might say wait a minute, if we had known that these strings were there, we would have said thank you, we will do it ourselves, because we already did it. We did it ourselves in the beginning. And the enthusiasm at work, we can do it, we are not afraid of doing that amount of work. We have done it. Our hands are dirty. But we don't want to keep struggling and struggling.

On the other hand, there may be times when we would say we don't want it. I think, Congressman Schaffer, what you are saying is absolutely right. We have to fight dependence. We need to use the money to help us grow but not so much that without it, we cannot succeed. We need to make sure there is enough commitment at the local level. Our customers are our parents and our students, and they know. I want my child to read, I want them to write, I want them to reason, I want them to be good citizens. Those are just so basic, and they know if it is happening or not. If you have it at the school, it will be successful. We are a public school I think, as it should be.

There are so many things that we can do to continue, but I absolutely agree with you, that we don't want to tie strings, especially after the fact. Everything should be on the table. This money is more capital funding or whatever, period. Later on, if there is something else, let us know that ahead of time.

I also want to just add a little piece about the teachers and I think how important that is. One of our goals is " pay for performance" and "merit pay", which is very unusual in education. But you know if you want the best and brightest teachers, you don't want to promote them out of teaching into administration. You want to keep them in the classroom where they can make the most difference with the students. One way to do that is to pay them a wage that says we value you. We have teachers that are so committed, they have been giving extra time, doing extra tutoring, creating parent communication programs, coming up with ideas and then implementing those ideas without any help from the outside. We want to encourage that because what makes the school is that the teachers and the parents are really doing it together. So any kind of support needs to continue, that entrepreneurial spirit is what I should say. That can't be repressed, because when it is repressed, then you are the same as everyone else, and I agree with that.

Mr. Schaffer. Well, I appreciate that and I wanted to zero in on that example because it is an immediate one of what happens in every other agency of the government. Every other worthwhile enterprising activity in America gets co-opted by Washington, D.C., and just the way I am predicting, it will go the way of charter schools some day. I am hoping we can delay that.

Dr. Knox. Even in Colorado, "at-risk" is basically a socioeconomic category, and I challenge that. That is not the only category for being at risk and so forth. I am the first one in my whole family to ever go to college. And just to say well, I was at risk, is that really a fair category? But we have to be accountable for, how much socioeconomic diversity we have.

Mr. Schaffer. We have an opportunity to fix this enrollment question fairly immediately in this Congress, and I am going to do everything I can to accomplish that. But I think the bigger concern is that we need to be vigilant, not only as school leaders, but I think as Members of Congress as well. We need to realize that it is not the money that makes charter schools successful it is the flexibility. Money can be supportive, but the flexibility is the essential item here, not just the cash.

What you say about the flexibility that allows you to treat your teachers like real professionals is something that is sort of lacking in the rest of the government-owned schools as well. There is just an attitude and a culture that I presume all of the charter schools that are represented here know. It is very different than the system that exists in the rest of government monopoly schooling where the best teacher is paid the exact same as the worst teacher, because the union contract says so. We don't do that at our school, and I presume you all don't either. And that has made the biggest professional difference that I have witnessed in several charter schools around Colorado. I assure you that is going to be where the greatest pressure from Washington will come from; to treat all teachers the same, and use the cash that you are going to take as the leverage to accomplish that. We just need to be vigilant and fight that to make sure that we do continue to treat teachers like professionals in charter schools.

Dr. Knox. I just wanted to mention something on that too. We talked about the "strings" and that was one thing I talked about before that was definitely there. My concern is that there will suddenly be certain restrictions or rules on the way to pay teachers in the hopes that any unfairness perceived will be addressed. Whereas those things can happen and they can be taken care of at the local level. We build that capacity from within.


Chairman Hoekstra. As we did the Education at a Crossroads hearings a while back, one of the things that we talked to a number of the charter schools was the Federal dollars that were targeted to public schools and that were going through the State agencies then distributed at the local level, to the local school boards or districts that were distributing money. Sometimes the fear was, or the feeling was that some of those Federal dollars weren't making it into the charter schools. Are you experiencing some of those problems, or do you believe that that is an issue?

Ms. Salcido. What is going on here in the District, and I am not really sure why, but I think it would be good to make a phone call. The first two years we received the first $110,000, and the second $95,000, and I would expect to receive the $95,000 for the third year. However, we got a letter saying that they are only going to give us $46,000. I don't understand why, and I don't know that that figure should be changed.

So that is an example of the problems in the District because we don't have a State agency yet, which is critical. We need to find a way, too. So I am sure that the example I am giving is probably because that kind of thing is going on.

My hope is that it doesn't get in the way, and that it has already been decided that the State agencies make no changes regarding the Federal money that is allocated to charter schools because then it is difficult.

I provide each of my teachers with a laptop. We adopted the modern schoolhouse curriculum model, and there is a lot of training that takes place and the teachers are the ones creating the curriculum for the school. A lot of that money was used for the teachers to develop the curriculum, and now they are telling me I cannot receive $50,000 of that money that I had.


Chairman Hoekstra. You are not sure why?

Ms. Salcido. The answer I sort of heard was that it is because there are more charter schools being approved in the District, but I am not sure that that should have an affect.

Chairman Hoekstra. A lot of this is not charter school money directly. It is public school money that, for some reason, doesn't find its way to the charter schools and stays in the traditional public school system.

Ms. Sumida. One of the items I mentioned is that charter school leaders tend to be educators and not business people. They really need to be vigilant. There has to be someone there that knows what money comes to the school and what funds are being generated. You don't always know. I talked about this curriculum that was developed, and I think it is also very important that people are well trained to know what is available.

Chairman Hoekstra. So what you are telling me is you don't have the people in your bureaucracy who have been trained to be the money hounds who know where the money comes from?

Ms. Sumida. Well, luckily, Joe Lucente does. Joe is very effective in determining exactly what Fenton is entitled to, and that is why I think Fenton has done quite well.

Chairman Hoekstra. Mr. Schroeder.

Mr. Schroeder. I think that there are two issues here. I think it would be good to put on record your intent that States or particularly school districts, as they are apparently doing in Colorado, not be allowed to take a percentage of the Federal grant that they might pass through to charter schools. So that would be one very specific thing that would get some additional money the districts in Colorado and other States.

I think you have laid out pretty well the intent in the 1998 amendments that all money that is generated by students in charter schools, Federal funds, should get to those schools. And also you have priority now given to States that have laws that want maximum fiscal autonomy for schools, and that is something that I think you ought to be enforcing in the administration of grants programs and the prioritization of grant requests that are coming from States.

I was just in Georgia last weekend and they have a situation there. It is bad enough that Colorado schools only get 95 percent, and are losing 5 percent of State operating money that comes through the district to them. But in Georgia, every nickel that those charter schools get has to be negotiated with the district. They worked out much of this program funding at the time that the charter was granted. It is a terrible system where they get much less than they are fully intended to get.

So enforcing that part of that mandate where you have the 1998 amendments would be good, I think, in the prioritization that you give to the grant requests that come in. And then also, as I said earlier, using the bully pulpit to really help to find strong charter laws and encourage States to strengthen laws. The goal is a very simple one. Money follows kids. Get every dollar that is generated by a child through all the funding streams that are out there, to the school that the child attends.

Chairman Hoekstra. I have just one last question. Why did your teachers and the administrators have to leave the union in the L.A. school district?

Ms. Sumida. It was by school district, and the teachers union had negotiated within the union contract that we in the charter school would take a leave of absence for 5 years. When the charter was up for renewal at the end of 5 years, we had to make a choice whether to resign from the school district or leave the charter school. The charter school leave could not be extended. It was something that the union and the school district had negotiated without charter schools.

Our teachers were very involved in this process when they heard they actually had to resign. When they read it in the union contract, I don't think that they believed that it would really happen. When the 5 years came up, they attended union meetings, because we had been paying dues and everyone was paying dues. Even those teachers who were hired as just Fenton employees were not employees of Los Angeles unified school district, and who were not members of the teachers union per se, had to pay agency fees.

As soon as we hired them, money was taken and it had to be sent to the teachers union. So there was a group that was not a member of the teachers union paying dues and not represented at all, and then another group that were members of the union and on leave from the school district. When our 5 years was up, they negotiated and the union told us that we could get a one-year extension and leave our charter as is, but there were things that we wanted to clean up.

After 5 years we had learned a great deal and we felt that was unacceptable. It was a good time for us as well, because every teacher and staff member, and there were 170, had to decide if they were going to take that chance. I had over 25 years of seniority with the school district. Should I take that chance and leave and bet on Fenton or go back to the school district? All but a handful resigned.

Chairman Hoekstra. That is quite a deal, paid dues for 5 years and not even part of the union. That is an interesting way of doing it.

Mr. Schaffer. It is remarkable. It is heroic. Congratulations.

Ms. Sumida. Thank you.

Chairman Hoekstra. Mr. Roemer.

Mr. Roemer. Thank you.

Mr. Schaffer and I have a slightly different opinion, I think, when it comes to the funding question and the philosophy there. I believe that back in 1992, when we first started looking at the whole concept of charter schools, we had two States that passed enabling legislation for charter schools in the country. Today we have 36 States that have passed enabling legislation for charter schools. We have 1,600 charter schools. We hope to have 3,000 charter schools within the next year or two, and certainly funding is going to be a question when you have that kind of growth and that kind of proliferation of many of the successes in the charter school movement.

I think I heard categorically from all of the witnesses here today that funding continues to be a high priority for each and every one of you. If you are doing a good job in terms of accountability and student scores and student achievement, we should not be tying all kinds of other Federal mandates to you. We should have accountability for Federal dollars for student achievement, so that we can get you some more money, not to addict you for any particular reason, but because you are doing a good job with the most important thing that we can be doing in this country, and that is educating our young people in more innovative and creative and successful ways.

I would just say in terms of accountability and flexibility, as the author with Mike Castle of the Ed Flex bill, we do need that balance between educational opportunity and bringing people from bureaucracy with success. As you do a better job, more of the State and Federal regulations are taken away.

Mr. Schroeder, let me come back to some of the differences, because this goes back to local and State decisions. Is it correct that we could have 50 different models because we do say this is a local matter of 50 different enabling legislative charters at the State level?

Mr. Schroeder. That is right, within the general parameters laid out in the law. Of course, you are not dictating whether the States can pass charter laws, you are dictating the eligibility for this particular grant program and how you define charter schools in the law and what requirements you place on them.

Mr. Roemer. So, and correct me if I'm wrong, then States make the decisions with regard to local schools eligibility and with respect to lotteries and how they are set up. Then the local school, dependent upon how that enabling legislation is set up in the State legislature, can then say "I don't want to apply for grants or start-up costs if there is some problem with the lottery." Is that correct?

Mr. Schroeder. My understanding is that this is an issue primarily in Colorado. I am not aware of it in any other State.

Mr. Roemer. I am not either.

Mr. Schroeder. That has raised the issue and even there the Department has taken the position that the State of Colorado can apply for Federal grant funding, even though it doesn't have a lottery requirement in its law. The issue is whether individual schools within Colorado can then apply for sub grants, based on whether or not they are willing to have a lottery. I think most of the schools in Colorado now have accepted that condition and have a lottery.

Let me just give a little bit of background on the lottery provision although I am not the best person in the room to defend the Department of Education. It is not quite true to say that this is something that was imposed by them. The origins of that provision were in State charter laws, such as the original charter laws in Minnesota and California that had lottery provisions. And when we were drafting this legislation and defining charter schools and the basic parameters of the charter idea in Federal law in this case, we looked at those State laws. We also looked at the theory of charter schools and some of the original writing and development that had been given to this option. There got to be a practical question of how you determine who gets in if the school is full.

In order to protect against the charge that was out there and still is out there that these were going to be schools set up by parents to get out of less diverse public school environments, the lottery provision was put in these early laws and then carried forward later. So it was with the best of motives that we did that. I think that over time it has become something that most charter schools are willing to accept. I don't know that it is that big of an issue around the country.

I certainly don't disagree, though, that we have to be very vigilant in avoiding what Congressman Schaffer is concerned about, because we don't want to become just another public school that has to succumb to all of these rules and regulations. In fact, we would like to see it go the other way, that district schools would become more flexible and more autonomous and more accountable.

Mr. Roemer. Let's talk about that. I have read some studies about how the ripple effect of charter schools has positively influenced other schools within a neighboring region. There have been two or three specific studies on that. Can you talk a little bit about the positive ripple effect on other schools that charter schools have?

Mr. Schroeder. Sure. It is largely anecdotal at this point, but actually I understand the Department of Education has a study.

Mr. Roemer. They do.

Mr. Schroeder. It will be becoming out shortly. I am anxiously awaiting it because I want to see what a broader representation of what is going on will show.

In Michigan, for example, in Lansing, where there are a concentration of charter schools, for years parents in that school district have been agitating for full-day kindergarten as an option in the district schools. It was always something that the district schools couldn't do; too expensive, couldn't work out the transportation, whatever the reasons were. It didn't happen.

Charter schools came along, were offering full-day kindergarten and drawing a lot of students out of the district schools in that area and voila. All of a sudden, it became possible for the district in Lansing to offer full-day kindergarten in all of the district elementary schools and somehow make it work.

Now, that is a win/win situation because not only were parents given the option, and I think a number of them chose that option, but now all parents and all students in the Lansing area have that same option.

Mr. Roemer. With respect to the enabling legislation that is passed in the State legislature to help create the charter school within the State, have you seen any trends as to how California, or Minnesota or Arizona, for instance, have set up that enabling legislation and then how the resulting success of the charter school movement has proceeded in that State? Is it too early to draw anything and can we draw some things from California yet with 6-year-old, 7-year-old schools like Fenton about what we need to share with other States as the next 14 or 15 States move into creating their enabling legislation at the State level?

What are two or three generalizations that we can state at this point, if any?

Mr. Schroeder. Primarily with the volume of cases of chartering, and the number of schools that emerge, there are some key variables that have been identified that seem to have a significant impact and some of those were things that you tried to reinforce in the 1998 amendments. One of the significant ones was having an alternative chartering authority so it is not just something that districts have a lock on and you have to negotiate with the district in order to get the permission to start a charter school. If you can go somewhere else, directly to the State or to a higher education institution or some other public agency within that State, or if you can have an appeal that really works and appeal to the States if your district turns you down, that has a significant impact.

Certainly having a cap on the number of schools that can emerge is an obvious one, and not having a cap is a good and positive contribution to growth in the charter movement.

The degree of parity in funding, availability of start-up funding and now we are learning more and more, the availability of facilities funding are three critical issues so that charters get the same amount of money that students would bring into district schools. There would be recognition of the extra costs of planning and start-up and there would be explicit additional funding on top of the operating funding for facilities.

Those are a few examples of factors that would contribute to the growth of the charter movement and ought to be in a strong charter law.

Mr. Roemer. What about in terms of failures? We have seen some of the charter schools voluntarily close down or be forced to close down. I see that a strength of the charter school movement is that they are accountable, so there might be a probationary period, a period for reconstitution and then closure if they are not doing their job, and if students aren't getting a better education. Whether it is Arizona or California or some of the other larger States that have a large number of schools, what are some trends there? What are the reasons for the failures?

Mr. Schroeder. Most of the schools that have been closed have had administrative problems, governance problems or financial problems. It hasn't been a matter of closing them down because they were not meeting their academic achievement goals, and I think that will be something to watch over time.

On the one hand, I would hope we would have fewer schools failing over time because of financial governance, organizational, or administrative kinds of problems. We can strengthen the planning process, if we can get more resources for technical assistance to help people, and if we can improve the screening process at the beginning so we have stronger proposals being approved up front. I would think we were going to start to see more focus on the academic side now, as particularly chartering agencies in the school districts and other sponsors of charter schools get up and running and learn how to do their job in holding schools accountable for performance.

Some of the things that Colorado is starting to put in place to monitor performance of charter schools over time were mentioned. The District of Columbia has an excellent accountability program that it is beginning to implement now for its schools.

As we see those processes and procedures for accountability being strengthened by districts and other sponsors, I hope we are going to see more scrutiny given to how well schools are doing in achieving their academic improvement goals and hopefully we will see schools that aren't meeting that test close.

Mr. Roemer. Ms. Sumida, you have had academic success and California basic test scores going up in a school that delivers education to a highly at-risk population. What opportunities do you have at a national convention of charter schools or within the State of California to share your best practices now after 5 or 6 years of running a charter school? How do we get these best practices out there to other charter schools?

Ms. Sumida. Well, I think we are very fortunate in California. We have a very strong organization, a California network of educational charters, and Joe Lucente, the Co-Director, just happens to be the President Elect. He is visiting all the charter schools in the State of California. It is a very, very strong network. Now they have committed to assisting new charter schools and getting everyone's story out there to see the success stories.

Also at the national level, we invest a great deal of effort and money into sending our teachers to as much professional development as possible. So our teachers also go to the California conferences for charter schools. We sent a team of about 11, I think, to the National Charter Schools Conference last year in Denver. I know the upcoming conference is in Washington, D.C. I am sure we will send at least 8, maybe 10, of our teachers to participate. We encourage every one of them to participate by presenting a workshop about what are we doing at Fenton, whether it is how we teach reading to our pre-K and kindergarten students or whether it is our technology program. But we feel it is a vital part of their professional growth as well.

Mr. Roemer. Have you had business involvement in your technology program?

Ms. Sumida. We have to an extent. When we started, General Telephone Electronics was quite generous in allowing us to go into a long-term contract with them. We would not have been able to if we were not a charter school. So our infrastructure was built several years ago and that is why all of our computers are networked and all have access to the Internet.

Mr. Roemer. The governor of Maine is making national headlines today in the New York Times and USA Today and the Washington Times for trying to provide laptop computers to every one of the seventh graders in the State. But this is something you are already doing at your school?

Ms. Sumida. Well, we don't have laptops. They are all I-Mac computers. They don't go home with them.

Now, our teachers do have a Power Mac. They all have a Power Mac at home, and now what we are trying to do is connect our teachers to the school so they can use our server and the programs that are at school and actually get on to that student's computer so they can correct and edit work from home, because our teachers spend many, many hours at school. If you come to visit Fenton, you will see us there at 6:00 in the morning and at 7:00 at night we are still there.

Mr. Roemer. Talking about long hours, if I could skip over to Mrs. Salcido. You said you have after-school programs until 7:00 every night?

Ms. Salcido. That is right.

Mr. Roemer. And Saturday programs?

Ms. Salcido. That is correct.

Mr. Roemer. Could you tell me a little bit more about what those programs hope to achieve within your school and then in your neighborhood?

Ms. Salcido. Sure. Right from the beginning, understanding the student population here in the District, I know that in order for me to accomplish the goals I wanted to accomplish, I needed to offer a program that would be summer and that would be Saturday school and that I would have to find a tutor for each of the students. So each student is required to stay once a week for one-on-one tutoring.

The reason for that is because we adopted a very rigorous curriculum, the Modern Day Schoolhouse Model.

Mr. Roemer. Can you briefly tell me what that curriculum is?

Ms. Salcido. Sure. I guess when the New American Schools was passed, when Bush was in office, it provided money for different curriculum models throughout the country to be created and the Modern Day Schoolhouse was one of them. They have national, high academic standards, in eight academic subjects. There are end-of-the-course exams for five of the core subjects, and they have what they call capsule units, which are units that are interdisciplinary that students have to complete in order to show that they have the academic skills in more than one discipline.

So right from the beginning, I knew that our students were going to come with some deficiencies. Obviously, I never imagined that they were going to have such deficiencies.

Perhaps with the other two schools that are here, I am the voice of many schools. I mean, this is barely our second year with the difficult struggle, especially when you deal with high school students because, you know I don't want to give up our goal. As I mentioned to you, being college prep, being able to offer AP courses because of our public policy focus, we require that they do an internship in the 11th grade. We require them to do community service projects. We require them to do a public policy research project before they graduate and we want them to take a college course before they graduate. So right from the beginning that was the kind of program we wanted to have.

As I mentioned again, and I am sorry that I keep bringing it up, it is just extremely difficult because it does require additional money. It does require more than I ever expected.

Obviously, I have great respect for my teachers. They are individuals that committed themselves right from the beginning to make this work. I have the flexibility to decide the pay and to decide whether they should receive bonuses. Obviously last year was no question, there were three teachers and myself and, you know, we were a little naive again thinking that the students were going to come with the skills. I felt if I created the best program possible, if I have the best teachers, kids are going to come, sit down and be ready to learn. Just obviously, when kids have not been receiving quality education and have not had high expectations, then that is something you have to start from scratch and teach them.

I was able to offer them bonuses last year and I hope to do the same thing year, in order to retain them, because of all the work they have to do. They are writing their own curriculum, they are trying really hard to use the latest in education, performance based approaches where students have to demonstrate what they are learning, not just the testing but demonstrate through a product or through an exhibition that they are learning. We want the young people to use authentic assessment, for solving problems in their own community, making the communities better.

I want to make sure that I am able to pay my teachers more but it makes it difficult spending $20,000 a year on rent, and it leaves me very little money to offer them more pay. I am just concerned that for a lot of us, in the third, fourth years, you have to be worrying about working conditions, and operational stuff.

The first year or two, you are kind of driven by the vision, but I think for a lot of the charter schools let's get down to the nitty-gritty. I mean, how are you going to operate your school and how are you going to be able to have the money to keep your teachers so that they don't leave? Anyway, our program is very comprehensive and I am very hopeful.

I mean, like I mentioned to you, the sky is the limit. I was very fortunate that we just formed a partnership with Cornell University. They believe in what we are doing and last summer I was able to take 13 students to the campus for a week in the summer. We are going to be able to take 20 this summer and they are very interested to see where some of our young people go after they graduate because they have an undergrad program for urban planning and architecture. I am preparing young people to make contributions to the community.

So it has been a very difficult 2 years and I do not anticipate it getting easier in the next 2 years, at least for me because we still have to create the 11th and 12th grade. I am hoping that this discussion will allow you to understand better what schools like ours need.

Mr. Roemer. It has been very helpful and I appreciate it once again.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Hoekstra. Thank you. Mr. Schaffer.

Mr. Schaffer. I just totally agree with the content of the meeting today. It has been a great Committee hearing and I appreciate the fact that it occurred and that you all came here.

Mr. Schroeder, your comment about the dollars following the students, as being an essential element in the strength of our schools is a message that I don't think this Congress can hear often enough. Unfortunately, it is a message that this Congress doesn't agree with too often. I do and I think many people do, but whenever those kinds of debates emerge here we are usually on the losing end, unfortunately, of attaching dollars to kids.

I think it is important, because we should be measuring fairness in education in America, not by the relationship between school buildings or school districts or other government entities. The measure of fairness is the relationship between individuals and the students themselves.

Every child in America ought to be able to not only have an opportunity to learn but to have the opportunity for the best place to learn, and to make those choices on a free market oriented type of basis. I think most Americans would widely agree with that statement, but that is a very small minority opinion in this Congress when it actually comes to distributing dollars based on school choice, free market approaches to education.

Government in Washington, it is sad to say, prefers the "from the top down" driven monopoly model where we make the decisions in Washington and tell everybody how they can spend their dollars back home.

Hopefully we will get around to changing that, and I really appreciate all of you for really being at the vanguard of school reform and letting everyone know that school choice works. The free market approaches to schooling works and that when you really begin to treat parents like customers and teachers like real professionals, that is the best way to enhance real liberty for our country and make for a brighter future for our children and for the Nation as well.

I want to point out, given the frequency with which the frustration has been voiced about capital costs for charter schools and what a challenge it is, that our colleague, Heather Wilson from New Mexico, is planning to introduce legislation that would create a loan guarantee fund for charter schools. So I think that is an exciting, worthwhile initiative that will soon be proposed here and one that I and perhaps others here will be enthusiastically behind as well. Of course, Heather Wilson is one of the most forceful advocates for charter schools in our Congress and I appreciate her efforts. So keep an eye on that.

When we started moving the charter school bill in Colorado, there was a lot of resistance and the resistance was based on a number of things, but, one was that charter schools are just going to take dollars away from the rest of government schools. Two, that poor people are unable to make wise choices about their kids and, therefore, they will somehow, in an arena of choice and free market, be the losers because it is the poor who lack a sophistication to care about their kids and to make sure they get to the right places. The third criticism we heard was that if you start creating schools that are exempt from the union rules of employment, teachers will somehow be harassed and this will be a terrible environment for educators. Teachers are going to flee these places and you are going to get the worst teachers who can't get jobs somewhere else.

I would like to hear especially from the four leaders of the charter school regarding those three criticisms. Now that we are several years into an experience in charter schools, how wise were those opponents who raised those objections to charter schools and how accurate were they?

Dr. Knox. May I begin?

Mr. Schaffer. Yes.

Dr. Knox. First of all, I think the statement that poor families are unable or ignorant or uncaring, is very offensive to me because I believe that just because you may not have the same amount of money coming in you can be just as smart and just as caring and you can make those decisions. If you are working two jobs or something it may be hard for you to get to the school. So let's look at that issue instead of saying well, because you are poor, you are uncaring about it or you are not going to take that advantage.

Is there a bus that goes to the school? Our city bus stops right in front of the school and we talked to them about the scheduling, and it was just a five-minute thing that made all the difference in being able to get there on time. We are still trying to work out a better bus schedule but are the buses available?

Can you create a car pool system? We have a car pool system that we maintain so if anyone comes, we ask who lives in my neighborhood, and how can I get there? We give out lists of people who live in certain areas. So those are structures that we can do at our site to make it easier for people.

The question you had about teachers and will it be an awful place to be, well, again I think it is very customer driven and it depends a lot upon your leadership and upon your board and that the goals that are clearly stated. I think in many cases, the teachers feel much more valued because they know very clearly what the expectations are and that we want to pay for performance.

We are talking about funding in schools. Merit pay for schools is a good thing, as long as there are not a lot of other things attached to it. But the same thing, with teachers, things should be pretty clearly stated. There are a lot of things that make a school a good school. Student achievement is number one. You also have to have the teamwork. You have to have the professional responsibility.

There are so many things that would go into that merit decision. Having, and I have to call it, the freedom to say to a teacher, you know, this is not working out; we have had these discussions before, the negative impacts are such that this is not benefiting anyone and we need to move on, just like in any business. It needs to be a fair process of course, and there needs to be evaluations and things in place so that everyone feels comfortable.

I know that I have worked very hard to make sure that people understand what the expectations are, but I will not compromise on those expectations when they affect children. And to have that ability to say, you know, I want to keep this teacher forever, and most of my teachers. I am just humbled when I look at these teachers, at the work that they put in, at the commitment that they have, at the skills that they have, that I won't have.

You know, there is an organization called the National Council of Teachers for America's Future, I believe, and they have a lot of interesting statistics. One is that if a student has a poor teacher for one year, it takes 3 years to make up for that one poor year.

So I think we have a huge responsibility and that is a benefit to having some of that freedom.

I will let someone else answer.

Ms. Salcido. In a way, I perhaps understand a bit why people were skeptical. I think we live in a country where we should debate ideas. Two or 3 years ago, the idea of charter schools for many people was difficult to accept.

I was on a radio show last night, and I was pleasantly surprised because there were people calling in. I remember here in the District about a year ago most of the calls were very negative, in that charter schools were taking money from the school system; very, very negative. Actually, the people who called were very supportive of charter schools and they had extremely good questions. One of them was "Why is it that the traditional public schools cannot do the same thing as charter schools?" "Obviously, there are the learning environments, and one-on-one, teachers being involved." I said, "You are right; there should not be a reason why this cannot be done." And also they asked, you know, "Isn't it true that only parents that know better will take their kids to the charter schools and isn’t that a problem with charter schools?"

My response to the parent calling was "of course." If you hear a school telling you they are going to have something better for your kids, and your kids will be prepared to go to college, any parent would want that for their kids and of course they will run to that school. So what does that tell you? Traditional public schools need to do the same, and need to improve what they have in their schools. They need to be telling parents the same thing.

That is why a lot of parents see this as a choice and a lot of parents want something better for their kids. I think that is probably the one thing a lot of people were wrong about, and I think it made a lot of us upset to see people make those comments a year ago and still make them. Well, you are going to cream the best.

Mr. Schaeffer. Let me just tell you, these are the same arguments that are preventing charter schools laws from passing in a handful of States throughout the country today. So your testimony today is very, very important in that respect.

Ms. Salcido. And the third, I believe you mentioned the money following the students. I think people are beginning to understand that charter schools are public schools. So what is the problem? You know, I think people now know that it should not be an issue; that, yes, we are educating young people and we are a public school and we should get the money to pay for their education. So my hope is people are still not debating that issue.

In terms of teachers, we offer a professional working environment and that is not what traditional schools many times offer. I was in the school system for 9 years and it used to kill me to have to go and observe teachers and use some forms that just didn't make any sense. Then whenever a teacher received a 3 or a 4, which means conditional, there was nothing I could have done. If I would say, look, you didn't do this, you didn't do that, right away I would get threats from the union, da, da, da, da. Well, a lot of those teachers are still at the school where I used to teach, and that is unfortunate.

Charter schools do allow a marketplace for teachers that want to be treated like professionals and if they like it, great, if they don't, hey. At the same time, I know I have my teachers on a yearly contract. I am meeting with them now and I have told some of them I am not sure if I am going to offer you a contract next year. I mean, that is the kind of thing you have to do if you want to make sure you produce the results that you want. It is a good thing for that reason.

Mr. Schaffer. Ms. Sumida.

Ms. Sumida. In terms of the funding, first of all, as Ms. Salcido said, we are public schools and so the funding does follow the children. I know within our school district there are some schools, and probably some teachers, that feel that Fenton gets more than its fair share.

My sister is a schoolteacher in Los Angeles Unified and she said, you know, at my sister's school they get more money because they are a charter school. They see it that way because we do our own insurance, we do our own hiring, and our own processing, and we run our own cafeteria. We do everything at our own school site whereas district schools have a very large administration that runs the school district. That is why it may seem as if we are getting more funding but we are doing everything. We are the administration; we are everything at our school.

In terms of the parents we are convergent charter schools, so many of our parents live within our area. Within our charter we have written that preference will go to those families that live within our former attendance area, and many of them are very poor.

What I think that has happened at Fenton, though, is that they have learned that there is a difference. We have some parents who have left and they have been gone maybe even just an hour, and they will come right back because they are going to drive their children to Fenton because the minute they walk into the door of another school they see that there is a difference. The way they are treated, the way their children are treated, and the environment that we have created is very, very different and they do appreciate that. So I think in some ways we have provided some parent education as well.

Finally, in terms of the teachers, and talking about the possibility of harassment of teachers, our charter is very strong. It is about a 175-page document and it outlines how everyone will work cooperatively. We have an all-inclusive governance system. Everyone participates, every full-time employee. So the rights of all employees are there in the charter, and there is no way that I could say that someone is going to be treated differently. There is no way that anyone could do that because it is all stated there.

It is very, very clear. I think the teachers do appreciate the fact that they do participate in how the school is managed as well. They know exactly how much money comes to the school. They know exactly how much goes into instruction materials, what is available for staff development, what is available for a pay raise, if anything. They see it. They know it and I think in turn, too, they take responsibility. They know how much money we are spending on textbooks. They know how much money we spend on field trips. It has made a tremendous difference, and we do treat them very, very professionally.

Mr. Roemer. Will the gentleman yield for one second?

Mr. Schaffer. I will yield all the time I have left, yes.

Mr. Roemer. I think you and I would probably agree on what we see as one of the many strengths of charter schools, and that may be that charter schools are accountable and that you can close down a charter school.

One of the things that the Chicago public school system has done in terms of their reform efforts, after the State legislature passed on the responsibility for the schools to the City of Chicago, and the City of Chicago then negotiated the contracts, was that now the City of Chicago is seeing increases in scores in the public school system, decreases in the absenteeism rate, and increases in a host of positive indicators on student accountability. They are starting to go forward, doing some of the same things the charter schools are doing, and saying that teachers need to be accountable and that principals need to be accountable and failing schools in America are not going to be tolerated.

They have come up with a system of reconstituting schools, putting schools on probation, and bringing new teachers and principals into those public schools, and not just having the threat but also being able to bring new people in because the higher education system in Chicago is working directly with the schools.

Again, it comes back to my Opening Statement, where America wants to help public education. They want to be more innovative. They want to support public school choice and charter schools, but they also want accountability and they want new ideas. We have to be able to make sure that quality teaching in America is the highest priority and that we will reward our great teachers. We have so many of them out there with good salaries and good teaching potential and professional development, but we also demand a lot from them, and reward them sufficiently.

So that takes us right into our next hearing, I hope, on teacher quality. Again, I want to thank the panel for your great, great help and assistance, and more importantly, for what you do every day in our charter schools in America.

Mr. Hoekstra. This is an awesome panel that has performed awesome work because of what you do back at the local level; helping kids in communities. We very much appreciate you being here today.

With that, the Subcommittee will be adjourned. Thank you.

Whereupon, at 12:00 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.