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House passes bipartisan bill that would encourage charter school growth

In this May 7, 2014, photo, Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., left, gestures towards Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., during a news conference in support of charter schools on Capitol Hill in Washington. The House on May 9 passed a bill in support of charter schools that is part of a GOP-led push to promote school choice. Cantor has made expanding school choice options a priority, and in the area of charter schools the two political sides have found some common ground. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

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In this May 7, 2014, photo, Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., left, gestures towards Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., during a news conference in support of charter schools on Capitol Hill in Washington. The House on May 9 passed a bill in support of charter schools that is part of a GOP-led push to promote school choice. Cantor has made expanding school choice options a priority, and in the area of charter schools the two political sides have found some common ground. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON - The House on Friday passed a bill boosting support for charter schools as part of a GOP-led push to promote school choice.

The bipartisan measure would provide $300 million annually to expand charter schools and consolidate two programs. It would provide state grants to expand and replicate high-quality charter schools and help fund the acquisition of buildings for the schools.

The measure passed 360 to 45.

"Clearly, these institutions are a valuable part of a successful education system," said Rep. John Kline, R-Minn, the chairman of the House Education Committee.

He said the federal charter school program is "in need of key reforms to enhance access and ensure continued educational quality."

There are more than 2.5 million students attending more than 6,400 public charter schools, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. The alliance says 1 in 20 students in America attends such a school, most frequently in New Orleans, Detroit and the District of Columbia.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has made expanding school choices a priority, and Democrats and Republicans have found common ground on charter schools.

The bill was opposed by the National School Boards Association. It says decisions about charter schools should be made at the local and state level, not by federal lawmakers.

This week a bipartisan group of senators filed a similar bill in the Senate where the chance of passage appears more uncertain.

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Follow Kimberly Hefling on Twitter at http://twitter.com/khefling

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