Charter Champions: 2013

U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin (IL)

Senator and Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Springfield, is the 47th U.S. Senator from the State of Illinois, the state’s senior senator, and the convener of Illinois’ bipartisan congressional delegation. Senator Durbin is one of the strongest proponents of public charter schools in the United States Senate. In 2010, he introduced a bipartisan bill, the All STAR Act, to replicate and expand the most successful of charter schools across the country. In addition, he was instrumental in the establishment of the first charter school in North Chicago, the LEARN Public Charter School. Located on the edge of the Great Lakes Naval Station in Lake County, IL, the charter network partnered with the United States Navy to open this school.

U.S. Chairman John Kline (MN)

Congressman John Kline proudly represents the men and women of Minnesota’s 2nd District in the U.S. House of Representatives since first being elected to Congress in 2002. As Chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, Congressman Kline skillfully forged a bipartisan compromise on legislation to reauthorize the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP), which passed the House of Representatives in September 2011 with 365 votes – the strongest showing yet in the House for public charter schools. Chairman Kline was also a leader in increasing the funding for the CSP to expand the number of high-quality charter schools across the nation. This Congress, Chairman Kline will lead efforts to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, including the CSP.

Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves (MS)

Elected in 2011 as Mississippi’s Lieutenant Governor, Tate Reeves leads the 52-member state Senate. Lieutenant Governor Reeves made it a priority to enact legislation to improve the state’s public charter school law. Through numerous speeches, op-eds and interviews, he made the case to the state’s citizens about why Mississippi’s students needed to have the option of attending high-quality public charter schools. In the 2012 and 2013 legislative sessions, he fought hard for major changes to Mississippi’s charter school law, as evidenced by the fact that the Senate passed several charter school bills during this time period. Those efforts paid off when Mississippi enacted sweeping reforms to its charter school law in April 2013. These reforms would not have happened without the strong leadership of Lieutenant Governor Reeves.

State Senator Gray Tollison (MS)

State Senator Gray Tollison is a member of the Mississippi Senate, representing District 9 since 1996. In January 2012, Tollison was appointed Chairman of the Senate Education Committee. Senator Tollison has been a strong supporter of public charter schools throughout his time in the Mississippi Senate and has sponsored several charter school bills over the course of his tenure. In the 2012 and 2013 legislative sessions, he served as the primary sponsor of the major charter school bills passed by the Senate. He was a passionate and forceful advocate for charter schools during the floor debates on these bills and worked with his colleagues in the House and the Senate to pass a bill to make major improvements to Mississippi’s charter school law in April 2013.

Mayor Karl Dean (Nashville, TN)

Karl Dean is the sixth mayor of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County. He was first elected in September 2007 and re-elected in August 2011. As part of his agenda for strengthening public education in Nashville, Mayor Karl Dean has been an active supporter of creating more high-quality public charter schools for the city’s families. He has recruited successful charter school operators from across the country to come to Nashville and was instrumental in the creation of the Tennessee Charter School Incubator, the first state-wide charter school incubator in the country. He has also championed improvements to the state’s charter school law to make the environment in Nashville more supportive of high-quality charters.“We have several excellent public charter schools in Nashville where students are being given the tools to write their own destinies, irrespective of zip codes or family circumstances,” Mayor Dean said. “That is one of a city’s most important responsibilities to its young citizens, and I am proud to play a role in helping make that happen. Quality charter schools can – and should – play a big role in reforming our education system and in providing our students with the excellent education they deserve.”