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National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Monthly Newsletter

It’s well documented that one of the most effective tools to raise one’s earnings potential is to graduate from college. Indeed, those with a college degree typically earn 80 percent more than those with only a high school diploma, according to College Summit, a non-profit group focused on helping prepare students for college. The value of a college degree was a key theme of a recent panel discussion hosted by National Journal, where I joined with Franklin & Marshall College President Dan Porterfield and other higher education leaders to draw attention to the so-called “college wage premium.” During the discussion, I highlighted how countless charter schools are preparing disadvantaged students to graduate from high school and go on to college. Building on that achievement, many charters are now focusing their attention on ensuring their students also graduate from college. They are doing this not just by partnering with universities to better prepare their students for college but also by ensuring that they have the support they need throughout college to continue down the path to graduation. IDEA public schools in Texas is one of these charter schools. Between 2007 and 2012, 100 percent of IDEA’s graduating seniors were accepted into a four-year college or university. The IDEA team tracks their graduates into and through college, offering the support and encouragement that can make the difference between earning a degree or dropping out. In June 2013, IDEA piloted its first Pre-College Institute where students learned the key skills necessary for success in college, including the importance of full-time enrollment. Congratulations to IDEA and all the excellent charter schools that are ensuring demographics aren’t destiny for children in need.   Best regards, Nina Nina Rees President & CEO      
Elections Have Consequences Last week’s elections will have significant consequences for charter schools in a number of states. In New York City, Bill de Blasio was elected mayor. After the results were announced, we issued a statement calling on him to partner with charter schools to share their successful practices with other NYC schools. On the opposite end of the spectrum, in Boston, the race for Mayor came down to two pro-charter school expansion candidates. The winner, Marty Walsh, supports lifting charter school caps in low-performing school districts. We can expect more good news to come from Boston charter schools as more high-quality charter schools are allowed to open their doors. New Jersey and Virginia will likely be a study in contrasts as well. With New Jersey Governor Chris Christie overwhelmingly re-elected, we are hopeful that he will be successful in reforming the state’s charter school laws. He said in his acceptance speech that education reform would be a top priority. In Virginia, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe was elected Governor. During the campaign, he didn’t indicate any support for charter schools or for improving Virginia’s weak charter law. You can read more about the elections and their impact on charter schools here. All Eyes on the Federal Budget With everyone back to work on Capitol Hill, the focus has now shifted to resolving the differences between the U.S. House and Senate budgets; the deadline to reach an agreement is December 13, 2013.  A conference committee, which is chaired by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), is considering broad tax and spending issues that could ultimately determine the level of funding for federal education programs. We are keeping our eye on the committee proceedings for any activity related to funding for the Charter Schools Program and other programs that impact charter schools. California’s Prop 39 before the State Supreme Court In 2000, California voters passed Proposition 39, a law that guarantees charter schools access to empty and under-utilized public school building space. Since then, several lawsuits have been filed to enforce Prop 39. A suit filed by the California Charter Schools Association against the Los Angeles Unified School District will be before the state supreme court soon. The National Alliance filed an amicus brief in the case to illustrate that L.A. Unified’s non-compliance with Prop 39 is needlessly keeping 15,000 children on charter school waiting lists. Better Serving Students with Special Needs A new National Alliance report, Improving Access and Creating Exceptional Opportunities for Students with Disabilities in Public Charter Schools, authored by Lauren Morando Rihm and Paul O’Neill of the newly-formed National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools, outlines the complex maze of laws governing special education. The report also recommends best practices charter schools can use to strengthen the recruitment of and services provided to students with disabilities. Charter schools have demonstrated they can take disadvantaged students with unique challenges and help them achieve at high levels. There is no reason charter schools can’t replicate these successes with students with special needs. In fact, we are already on our way. Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) recently found that students with disabilities enrolled in charter schools outperform their peers in math. Charter School Research Frontier Last month, we partnered with Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy & Governance to host a gathering of top education policy analysts, practitioners, researchers and funders to discuss how to speed the development and dissemination of research to support the creation of high-quality charter schools. While research on the academic performance of charter school students remains at the forefront of the agenda; little is known about instructional practices, governance structures of charter schools, and other innovations in the space. We hope that discussion will result in a new frontier of research into charter schools that can identify replicable best practices for increasing student achievement. We will release a report on our findings and share it with you in the near future. Register Now for the National Charter Schools Conference in Las Vegas Registration is now open for the 2014 National Charter Schools Conference. Next year’s conference will be held June 29-July 2, 2014 in Las Vegas. I hope you will join us for three days of networking, professional development, policy discussions, and inspiring talks from some of the country’s thought leaders on education policy. Discounted early-bird registration is open through December 20. Please visit our conference website and register today. If you have questions, please feel free to reach out to our conference director, Angela Christophe. Support Charter Schools The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the sole organization dedicated to advancing the charter school movement. By advocating on behalf of the sector at the federal level, serving as a clearinghouse of information, and working to pass charter school laws in states without them and strengthen laws in states with weak ones; we are helping to make more high-quality public schools available to all American children. But we can’t do it without you. Please join us by making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you!