Posts by Lisa Grover

 

Lisa Grover

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Omaha community fights for public charter schools in Nebraska

Nebraska is one of only eight states that do not allow public charter schools, but that could soon change. Last week, the Nebraska Education Committee considered a bill, LB 972, to allow a pilot program of five public charter schools in Omaha. The public hearing on the bill attracted dozens of supporters, many of whom said that parents should have more public school options, especially parents of low-income children and those struggling in the current public school system.  The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools weighed in with a letter of support for the bill.

Senator Scott Lautenbaugh (R-Omaha) introduced this year’s charter school bill after a different charter school bill was killed last year in the Education Committee. Senator Lautenbaugh proposed the five start-up public charter schools open in Omaha as a way to present an effective and proven way to educate students from the metro’s high poverty areas.  Speaking in support of this approach, Willie Hamilton, a member of Omaha Black Men United, stated: “If you’re rich, your kids are doing well in school. If you’re middle class, it’s a toss-up, but mostly poor kids, they are at a big risk for failure.” Hamilton was among several Omaha  community leaders that helped organize a busload of local supporters to take their concerns to the State Capitol for Tuesday’s standing room only hearing. Many more supporters waited for hours in line for the chance to speak in favor of the bill.

Opponents of the bill stated that Omaha Public Schools needs more time to improve lagging test scores and graduation rates without the “distraction” of public charter schools. Teacher union representatives echoed this opposition, saying that Nebraska needs more time to hammer out charter school guidelines. “There’s always an excuse for not doing the next thing,” said Senator Lautenbaugh. “The opposition will never relent on this issue, but you have to give kids a chance.”

We are hopeful that the legislature will pass this bill soon. Nebraska parents should not have to wait yet another year for high-quality public charter school options.

Lisa Grover is senior director for state advocacy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Lisa Grover

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Reason # 2: Public charter schools are helping more students attend college

reason2Charter schools are great because they are helping a growing number of low-income students beat the odds. Nationally, only 12 % of low income high school graduates go on to earn a four-year college degree. Yet a small but emerging body of research proves that enrolling in a public charter schools can increase a student’s chance of graduating from both high school and college.

Public charter schools such as the SEED school in Washington, D.C., the Charles A. Tindley School in Indianapolis, Urban Prep Academies in Chicago, and ASPIRE Public Schools in California and Tennessee, all boast close to 100% college acceptance rates and a college graduation rate higher than 80%. It’s powerful stuff, especially when considering that the national high school drop-out rate for African-American males remains just above 50 percent.

In these high-performing charter schools, the road to college is more than just an expectation–it’s a large part of the schools’ culture and everyday practice:

  • Beginning in sixth grade, students in YES Prep Schools in Houston and Memphis go on annual college tours and all seniors are required to apply to at least eight four-year colleges by mid-November.
  • Dallas’ Uplift Education Charter School, uses a “Road to College Team” to take scholars on college field trips, help them with college applications, make sure parents understand all their financial options, and even provide graduates with support while they are in college.
  • Boston-based Match Education incorporates a tutoring program to help ensure that students do not have to take remedial math courses once in college, particularly because such courses cost money and carry no credits, which can be particularly burdensome for low-income families. Match’s 54% college completion rate of low-income and minority graduates has captured the attention of some traditional school districts, like Chicago Public School, which now partners with Match to borrow its tutoring program.

These high performing charter schools change lives, and are just few examples of why charter schools are great, for students, for families, and for the country.

This blog is post is the second in a five part series, “5 Reasons Public Charter Schools Are Great” to help celebrate School Choice Week. To see the first entry on how charter schools are helping to close the achievement gap, click here.

Lisa Grover is senior director of state advocacy for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Lisa Grover

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Will This Be the Year? Efforts to Strengthen New Jersey Charter School Law Underway

The time has come to update New Jersey’s charter school law. Currently ranked #29 out of 43 in our annual state charter laws rankings report, the law needs improvement in several areas, including expanding authorizer options, increasing operational autonomy, ensuring equitable funding, and strengthening charter contract requirements. Attempts to change the law over the years have been thwarted by the usual politics. However, strong momentum for a comprehensive overhaul appears to be building this legislative session.

Democratic Assemblyman Troy Singleton recently unveiled his much-anticipated bill to overhaul the Garden State’s charter school law. The bill contains provisions to establish an independent charter board, provide more flexibility to public charter schools, enhance the charter school application process, and grant first-refusal rights to charter schools for surplus public property. Already the bill is generating considerable discussion from both supporters and opponents of public charter schools. Some local district supporters believe the bill goes too far in expanding public policy support of charter schools and have said they will fight bill.

Senate Education Committee Chair Teresa Ruiz also sees the need to modernize the charter law and has pre-filed two charter school bills. The first bill proposes to align charter school enrollment and demographic patterns with those in the charter school’s district of residence. While Assemblyman Singleton’s bill encourages charter schools to follow the same demographic patterns of the districts they serve, it does not have explicit requirements for them to do so.  The second bill would establish university authorizers instead of an independent charter commission, as called for Assemblyman Singleton’s bill. Both the Senate and Assembly bills increase authorizer accountability and mandate that authorizer practices align with nationally-recognized best practices.

Considerable support for and opposition to all of these bills is expected. However, with the gubernatorial and legislative elections behind us, and the case for updating the charter law clearly stated, charter school supporters are hoping that this is the year to revamp New Jersey’s 19-year-old charter law.

Lisa Grover is senior director for state advocacy for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Lisa Grover

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Bringing Charter Schools to Kentucky: New Poll Shows Strong Voter Support

This month, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released results from a poll that surveyed 501 registered voters in the state of Kentucky. The results show that 71 percent of Kentucky voters—–nearly three-quarters—support creating public charter schools, with support crossing party lines and regions of the state. These findings are similar to the results of a June 2013 poll by the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), which found that 82% of African American families support public charter schools as reform vehicles.

The National Alliance poll also found that 82 percent of voters support providing Kentucky parents with more public school options when choosing a school for their child. In the Louisville area, support for more choices rises to 89 percent. And, a majority of voters believe that more options will improve the public school system.

Kentucky is one of only eight states in the country without a law allowing public charter schools. A bill to create public charter schools has been considered by the Kentucky Legislature the past four sessions. It passed the Senate last year, but stalled in the House.

The National Alliance is working with a growing coalition of local and national partners such as the Kentucky Charter Schools Association (KCSA), Kentucky Youth Advocates, Teach for America Kentucky, the Youth Justice Center, and legislators, parents, pastors, educators, and community activists to educate policymakers and the public about charter schools.  With our coalition partners, we will be bringing forth a charter school bill in the 2014 legislative session that reflects local community needs and best-in-class charter school policies from around the country.

2014 is the year to finally bring a law allowing public charter schools to Kentucky. As the new poll results make clear, that’s what voters in the state want.

Lisa Grover is senior director for state advocacy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. 

Lisa Grover

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Maine’s Expanding and Successful Public Charter School Movement

Since Maine passed its public charter school law in 2011, the Maine Association of Charter Schools has been working tirelessly to bring new opportunities for students in the Pine Tree State. In the past two years, five charter schools have opened and now serve approximately 400 students. This fall, the Maine Charter School Commission received seven new applications for its remaining five charter slots (it is allowed to authorize 10 schools), and for the first time ever, several local school districts are considering charter applications (there isn’t a cap on district-authorized charters).

Cornville Regional Charter School is the state’s first elementary charter school, where students benefit from proficiency-based learning and 90 minutes a week of agricultural education. Maine’s first charter high school, the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences (MeANS), serves students who have not done well at traditional schools and offers classes in organic agriculture, forestry, and environmental science.

According to the Maine Charter School Commission’s findings for the 2012-13 school year, both schools met all of the expectations of their contracts and are excelling at engaging students and families. Parents told commission members there “were no cracks for kids to fall in” at Cornville Regional and that students were “learning like never before” at MeANS. In September 2013, the Federal Charter School Grant Program awarded a total of $1.2 million over the next three years between the two schools. Maine received two of the 17 non-State Education Agency grants awarded nationally, with Cornville Regional Charter School landing the largest grant award.

Nevertheless, Maine’s expanding public charter movement has powerful detractors. In the 2013 legislative session, less than 48 hours after the state’s first Charter School Day, the Joint Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs voted to cut funding for Maine’s charter schools.  A total of five anti-charter bills passed the Democratic-controlled legislature in the 2013 session. Governor Paul LePage, one of the state’s charter champions, vetoed all of them, something he may be forced to do again in the 2014 legislative session.

Despite these detractors, it’s clear that momentum for the state’s young charter movement is building and we expect parents and communities across the state will turn to charter schools in ever greater numbers in the future.

Lisa Grover is senior director for state advocacy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Lisa Grover

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Strange Bedfellows Make for Good Politics

It’s not often that one thinks about William Shakespeare while advocating for public charter schools.  But I found myself doing just that a few days ago at the kick-off event for the new Kentucky Charter Schools Association at which there were two Republican U.S. Senators (Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul) and one Democratically affiliated education reform organization (Democrats for Education Reform).  NAPCS and the Black Alliance for Educational Options also participated in the event.

The phrase “politics makes strange bed fellows” is adapted from a line in Shakespeare’s Tempest, where a man who has been shipwrecked finds himself seeking shelter beside a sleeping monster. In the unpredictable world of public charter school advocacy, we also see unlikely allies coming together, as we did last week in Kentucky. In fact, one of the major strengths of the charter movement is the diverse range of support it receives – from the left to the right.

At the highest levels of the federal government, we’ve had support throughout the administrations of George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. In Congress, the only public education reform issue (and one of the only public policy matters) to garner bipartisan support recently has been public charter schools, as best exemplified by the House’s vote in support of a charter school bill in September 2011 by a vote of 365-54. From the Democratic Party, we’ve received strong support from the likes of Congressman George Miller (D-CA), Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO), Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and others. From the Republican Party, we’ve benefited from the backing of individuals like Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), Congressman John Kline (R-MN), Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and others.

In state capitols around the nation, charter schools can also bring together people who otherwise may have little in common. In Mississippi, Democrats like Senator Sampson Jackson, Senator Willie Simmons, Representative Chuck Espy, Representative Bennett Malone, and Representative Deborah Dixon joined Republicans Governor Phil Bryant, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves, Senator Gray Tollison, Representative John Moore, and Representative Charles Busby to enact legislation overhauling the state’s charter school law earlier this year. And last fall in Georgia, a bipartisan effort helped ensure the passage of a state constitutional amendment allowing the state to create an authorizing board for charter schools. We saw Republican Governor Nathan Deal and Republican House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones join Democratic Representatives Alicia Morgan and Margaret Kaiser, the first sponsors of the original constitutional amendment resolution, in this historic win for families and children.

As we continue to navigate the political challenges facing public charter schools, building and maintaining bipartisan coalitions will be essential to winning the day for the 2.3 million students enrolled in public charter schools, the more than one million names on charter school waiting lists, and the millions of children who don’t have a chance to attend a charter school because their state does not allow them.

Lisa Grover is the senior director of state advocacy for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Lisa Grover

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Better Late than Never: Will Kentucky Finally Pass a Charter School Law?

Kentucky, one of eight states without a charter law, may be a bit late to the party but that can be a good thing. With more policymakers than ever looking to support a bipartisan charter bill in 2014, Kentucky is now in the position to pick and choose from the best practices in policies and results from charter schooling over the last twenty years.

Kentucky will need to pass a charter school law that reflects the needs of the Commonwealth while at the same time incorporating the essential criteria that research shows leads to high-quality public charter schools. This will be a key discussion point during the first annual Kentucky Charter School Association Education Summit on August 22, in Louisville.  The idea grew out of conversations with several state legislators, local organizations and the offices of Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, who are both attending the Summit.

“Students, parents and communities in Kentucky and across America must demand schools put students first, produce results, and reward outstanding teachers,” says Senator Mitch McConnell . “One successful approach that has been implemented in 42 states, but not in Kentucky, is the establishment of public charter schools.” Additionally, Senator Rand Paul says,  “All children, no matter who they are or where they live, deserve an equal chance to develop their skills and intellect…by nurturing the ideals of choice and individual freedom, we can find education solutions that direct all of our children toward success.”

Kentuckians also realize the benefits public charter schools can bring, and they want them. A February Courier Journal poll found 65 percent of respondents supported public charter schools while an April survey found 72 percent of Kentuckians favor legislation that would allow persistently low-performing schools to become public charter schools. Furthermore, two weeks ago, a survey of 2,000 black families conducted by the Black Alliance for Education Options  showed 56 percent of those surveyed would not send their children to the public school they are currently assigned if given a choice.

Kentucky families couldn’t be clearer: they want more choices and are demanding public charter schools. Now it’s time for policymakers to deliver.

Lisa Grover is the senior director of state advocacy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Lisa Grover

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

What do voters know that politicians don’t?

It is sometimes said that voters are ahead of politicians on cutting-edge issues. Last fall’s vote on a state constitutional amendment involving charter schools in Georgia is a prime example. While the African-American political leadership in Georgia was almost uniformly opposed to the amendment, a majority of African-American voters supported it. According to a recent multi-state survey released by the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), the same dynamic exists in two of the remaining eight states without a charter school law: Alabama and Kentucky.

We’ve seen resistance from African-American politicians (and other politicians as well) first-hand in our work with BAEO and others to get strong charter school laws on the books in these states. These recent survey results are a powerful contrast to this resistance. In Alabama, 50 percent of African-Americans surveyed initially support charters. That number grows to 68 percent as those surveyed learn more about charters. In Kentucky, the numbers are 64 percent and 82 percent, respectively.

These results confirm what we hear from people on the ground—especially parents. Once again, voters are ahead of politicians.

They also solidify our commitment to continuing to work with BAEO and others to get solid charter laws enacted in these states. Without these laws, the public school choices available to families are quite limited. It is time to fulfill the will of the voters and bring high-quality public charter schools to Alabama and Kentucky.

Lisa Grover is the senior director of state advocacy and Todd Ziebarth is the senior vice president of state advocacy and support at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Learn more:

Black Alliance for Educational Options: A Survey Report on Education Reform, Charter Schools, and the Desire for Parental Choice in the Black Community

Lisa Grover

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Public Charter Schools for Montana

Montana is one of the eight states that still does not allow public charter schools, but we’ve been working to change that. On January 30th, legislation to establish public charter schools had a fair and tough hearing in House Education Committee. Thanks to one of the bill’s sponsors, Senator John Windy Boy, from the Chippewa Nation, for testifying on how charter schools could help children from the tribe learn their native language.

Lisa MT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictured: Lisa Grover, NAPCS Sr. Director of State Advocacy, and Montana Senator John Windy Boy

Lisa Grover

Share 

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Googleplus Email

Kentucky Introduces Legislation to Establish Public Charter Schools

Yesterday, Kentucky House Representative Brad Montell introduced legislation to establish charter schools. The 2013 legislative session marks the third year in a row that supporters have pursued a law to allow public charter schools in the Bluegrass State.

Kentucky is one of only eight states without a law authorizing public charter schools. In 1992, public charter schools started as a small movement and have grown into a proven and effective model for education that respond to parents’ demands and addresses the unique learning needs of students. Today, more than two million students attend these innovative public schools. But Kentucky’s parents and students don’t have the option of attending a public charter school.

In a state with as much diversity as Kentucky, public charter schools can meet the needs of racial, ethnic, and economic groups demanding different curricular approaches. For example, charter schools specialize in several education models, such as bilingual education, arts, vocational instruction, or programs for gifted or at-risk students. Over the past 20 years, charter schools have demonstrated that they can succeed serving children often overlooked by traditional school systems. Indeed, many charter school leaders explicitly state that satisfying the educational needs of a target student group is central to their mission.

Rep. Montell’s legislation is based on examples of laws in states where public charter schools are making the biggest impact on student achievement. With it, Kentucky will have the chance to open new high-quality schools in the public education sector.