The House on Friday easily approved a bill that would allow federal grant funding to be used to boost the performance of existing, high-quality charter schools.
Members passed the Success and Opportunity through Quality Schools Act in a 360-45 vote — it was opposed by just 34 Democrats, while 157 Democrats supported the measure.
The broad issue of charter schools has led to division between Republicans and Democrats, but members of both parties praised the bipartisan bill in Thursday debate.
“As we work to help more students access a quality education, we must support charter schools as a valuable alternative to failing public schools and work together to encourage their growth,” House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) said. “This act is a commonsense proposal that will improve educational opportunities for students across the board and provide families with additional school choice options.”
The top Democrat on Kline’s committee, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), agreed.
“Charter schools continue to prove that all children, from any background, can succeed,” he said, adding that the bill will “expand opportunities for all children to benefit from charter school innovations.”
The legislation reforms the federal charter school program and reauthorizes it through 2020. Under current law, federal grants can only be used to help the startup of new charter schools.
But under the bill passed Friday, those funds could also be used to boost funding in existing high-quality schools. That funding could be used to expand schools that are already working well, and also let states use the money to improve the process of authorizing these schools.
The bill authorizes $300 million in federal aid in the new charter school program from fiscal years 2015 though 2020.
The House vote followed an earlier vote in which 62 Democrats ignored an Obama administration veto threat and supported a bill to permanently extend the research and development tax credit.