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Choice of Schools--Charter Schools
Choice of Schools--Charter Schools--Charter Districts

Since the mid-1980s, states have been experimenting with reducing rules and regulations on school districts and schools in exchange for a higher level of student performance. These deregulation experiments have ranged from charter schools to waiver programs. For charter schools, states create policies that allow educators, parents, community groups or private organizations to operate a school under a written contract with a state, district or other entity. Many charter schools enjoy freedom from rules and regulations affecting other public schools, as long as they continue to meet the terms of their contracts.

For waiver programs, states create policies that allow districts or schools to request exemptions from certain rules and regulations. There are different types of waiver programs. In some, waivers are granted, on a rule-by-rule basis, to districts facing emergency circumstances, such as a shortage of properly certified teachers. In others, only certain districts or schools, such as high-performing ones, are eligible for waivers on either a rule-by-rule basis or through a blanket waiver, which is an automatic waiver from many rules and regulations.

In addition to state-level waiver programs, various federal initiatives, including several provisions within the No Child Left Behind Act, have allowed the U.S. Secretary of Education to grant waivers of certain federal education program requirements to states and school districts.

One of the more notable federal initiatives is the Education Flexibility (Ed-Flex) Program, which was first enacted as part of the Goals 2000: Educate America Act of 1994 and most recently amended in the Education Flexibility Partnership Act of 1999. In its 1994 incarnation as a demonstration program, Ed-Flex gave 12 states the authority to waive certain federal education program requirements for their school districts and schools in exchange for enhanced accountability for the performance of students. Three states Illinois, Iowa and Michigan still hold Ed-Flex authority under the demonstration program.

Under the Education Flexibility Partnership Act of 1999, all states are eligible to participate in the Ed-Flex program. Currently, 10 states have received Ed-Flex authority under the 1999 act. They are Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Vermont.

On this Issue Site, you will primarily find information about the waiver programs within the deregulation movement. In particular, you will find summaries of and links to selected research and readings about waivers. For more information about charter schools, please see our Charter Schools Issue Site.


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