Charter Schools:

Recent Experiences in Accessing Federal Funds

T-HEHS-98-129: Published: Mar 31, 1998. Publicly Released: Mar 31, 1998.

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GAO discussed charter schools' experiences in accessing selected federal funds, focusing on: (1) start-up grants under title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); (2) factors that help and hinder charter schools in accessing title I and IDEA funds; (3) charter school operators' opinions about whether they are receiving a fair share of these funds; and (4) state and federal efforts intended to help charter schools gain access to title I and IDEA funds.

GAO noted that: (1) slightly more than half of the schools GAO surveyed received fiscal year 1996 start-up grants ranging from $7,000 to $84,000; the average grant amount was $36,000; (2) the schools used the start-up grant funds for a variety of purposes, including curriculum materials and equipment, other technology, and facilities renovation or leasing; (3) about two-fifths of the charter schools GAO surveyed received title I funds, and slightly more than half of the schools received IDEA funds or IDEA-funded special education services; (4) most charter school operators GAO surveyed who expressed an opinion told GAO they believe they received a fair share of federal title I and IDEA funds; (5) nonetheless, charter school operators also cited a variety of barriers to accessing title I and IDEA funds, including: (a) difficulties in establishing program eligibility; (b) workload demands; and (c) a lack of program and administrative experience; (6) they reported that outreach and technical assistance were critical to helping them access federal funds; (7) several states and the Department of Education have begun initiatives to help charter schools access federal funds; (8) some states, for example, are revising or developing alternative allocation policies and procedures to better accommodate charter schools' access to federal funds and providing training and technical assistance to charter school operators; and (9) the Department has recently issued guidance to states and school districts on allocating title I funds to charter schools, and, among other things, has sponsored national meetings for state officials and charter school operators.

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