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110th Congress                                            Rept. 110-782
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 2d Session                                                      Part 2

======================================================================



 
              PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS HOME RULE ACT OF 2008

                                _______
                                

               September 9, 2008.--Ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

  Mr. Waxman, from the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, 
                        submitted the following

                          SUPPLEMENTAL REPORT

                        [To accompany H.R. 6322]

    This supplemental report shows the minority views with 
respect to the bill (H.R. 6322), as reported, which was not 
included in part 1 of the report submitted by the Committee on 
Oversight and Government Reform on July 28, 2008 (H. Rept. 110-
782, pt. 1).

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

    District of Columbia charter schools are governed by the DC 
School Reform Act of 1995 (SRA). The SRA, considered the 
strongest charter school law in the nation, guarantees charter 
school autonomy from District of Columbia Public Schools and 
from the DC government.
    H.R. 6322 amends the SRA by modifying the appointment 
process for the District of Columbia Public Charter School 
Board (DC PCSB) members to an unknown system to be determined 
by the DC City Council.
    In existence for 13 years, the DC PCSB is nationally 
recognized as an exemplary authorizer of high quality public 
charter schools, working efficiently to authorize first-rate 
public charter schools at the same time that DC public schools 
have been beset by leadership turnover and poor student 
performance.
    Currently, when there is a vacancy on the DC PCSB, the U.S. 
Secretary of Education compiles a list of potential 
replacements. In order for the Secretary to place candidates on 
the list, staffs from the U.S. Department of Education confer 
with colleagues to identify individuals who are knowledgeable 
about public education and charter schools. Candidates are also 
suggested to them from various national and local DC 
organizations. A vetting process is undertaken to screen 
candidates and narrow down the list. The list is then presented 
to the Mayor from which to choose board members.
    When this bill was introduced, the sponsor explained that 
she was motivated purely by ``home rule'' considerations and 
not by any concerns about the DC PCSB or the charter schools. 
In fact, she heaped praise on both, stating that: ``My bill is 
not intended as a criticism of the [PCSB] or its work. D.C. 
residents have created huge demand. The exponential growth of 
charter schools and their long waiting lists are a solid 
indication of [their] success in meeting the needs of thousands 
of students.''
    Given the widespread support for public charter schools in 
the District of Columbia, many advocates are concerned about 
H.R. 6322. These concerns stem from the fact that the 
implementation of an unknown appointment system may endanger 
objectivity in the chartering process. It's perfectly 
conceivable that the Mayor, in his mission to reform DCPS, 
would like to see chartering curtailed. To that end, if he had 
sole discretion in appointing board members, he could appoint 
individuals who are philosophically opposed to charter schools 
and who would use their position to limit the number of new and 
expansion charter schools.
    In other jurisdictions, if a city or local school district 
is opposed to chartering, charter school founders may appeal to 
or apply directly to the state. Because of the District of 
Columbia's unique status, power is concentrated in the Mayor 
who plays the role of Governor and controls the State Education 
Agency. By providing candidates for the PCSB, the U.S. 
Secretary of Education is like a proxy for the state. The 
Secretary serves a ``checks and balance'' function and helps to 
ensure that the appointed members are not opposed to 
chartering.
    The DC PCSB is a highly-regarded, highly-effective charter 
school authorizer that serves as a model for other states. 
There have been no accusations or findings of fraud, 
misappropriation of funds, or any type of malfeasance by staff 
or board members. To tamper with the series of checks and 
balance which have proven successful for the past 13 years 
could potentially impede the future success and independence of 
the DC PCSB.
    During the full committee markup of H.R. 6322, I offered a 
nonpartisan, compromise amendment to sunset the provisions of 
the bill after five years. Since the bill does not indicate 
what the new appointment process will be, this balanced 
amendment would have allowed Congress to evaluate the newly 
established process and would have done much to alleviate the 
concerns of those who worry that this bill would compromise the 
success of the DC PCSB and allow for the appointment of members 
hostile to charter schools. If concerns about the changes 
proved unfounded, than a permanent extension of the 
modifications would have been noncontroversial and allowed for 
certain unanimous passage through Congress. Given the partisan 
refusal to consider such a subtle amendment, I voiced my 
opposition to the bill's passage and urge the majority to 
reconsider its rigid, uncompromising stance on this offer.
                                                     Virginia Foxx.