National Alliance November Newsletter

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The outcome of last week’s presidential election has now been analyzed by more people than any other election in recent history. In addition to political pundits puzzling over Donald Trump’s surprise victory, educators are also trying to make sense of an election that didn’t focus on education but certainly reaffirms the importance of teaching civics and character education. As Robert Pondiscio observed here, the elections also highlight the importance of paying more attention to the needs of rural America – something the charter public school movement strives to do.

The National Alliance congratulated President-elect Trump, and we look forward to working with his Administration to ensure that his plans to encourage school choice lead to greater quality, equity, and innovation in our schools. These are the three principles that fuel the charter school movement and have given us a rich bipartisan base of support, which we will need to build on to serve more students. I wrote about the elections and the enduring strength of the charter school movement in an article for The 74. I also participated in a post-election discussion panel hosted by the American Federation for Children. 

Elections are at the very heart of our public life because they reflect the choices we, the people, make about the future direction of our country. In this spirit, charter public schools reflect the choices parents make about the future they want for their own children. We’ll continue to work with every elected leader who hears the voices of these parents and is ready to fight on their behalf.


Nina Rees

Nina Rees
President and CEO

PS – “Giving Tuesday” is November 29th. It’s a national day dedicated to supporting the nonprofit organizations that are making a difference in the lives of others, and it’s the perfect time to help support our work! If you’re able to make a donation, please click here. We really appreciate your generosity.

Education Election Recap

In addition to the presidential election, several elections at the federal, state, and local level will have an impact on charter schools and school choice.

We’re excited that two Charter Champions – Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) – were re-elected to the U.S. Senate.

Three charter school supporters were newly elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Dwight Evans (D-PA), Al Lawson (D-FL), and Darren Soto (D-FL) all supported charter schools in their previous roles as state legislators. We look forward to working with them in the new Congress.

Kentucky elected a Republican majority in its state House for the first time since 1921. This is significant because the previous House majority opposed Gov. Matt Bevin’s push to bring charter schools to Kentucky. We’ll be working with allies to help make Kentucky the 44th state in the country to pass a charter school law.

In Massachusetts, voters rejected a ballot measure to expand access to some of the best charter schools in the country. It was a disappointment to everyone in the movement, but it certainly won’t be the last effort to give Massachusetts students greater access to excellent charter schools.

A measure in Georgia that would have created an Opportunity School District also failed. Gov. Nathan Deal is looking at alternative ways to bring intensive help to students in struggling schools.

In New Orleans, local school board elections resulted in a strong pro-charter majority. This was a key election, as oversight of the city’s schools, which are nearly all charter schools, will soon pass back to the local board from the state.

New National Alliance Reports

Charter School Enrollment Continues to Climb!
The charter school movement is growing stronger every year, with 17 districts across America now enrolling at least 30 percent of public school students in charter schools. That’s the centerpiece of the National Alliance’s latest report on charter school enrollment, A Growing Movement: America’s Largest Charter Public School Communities and Their Impact on Student Outcomes.

Nearly 3 million students are attending charter schools across the nation – triple the enrollment of the first report eleven years ago – and a record 190 districts enroll at least 10 percent of students in charter schools. This year’s report also, for the first time, looks at the performance of charter school students on state exams. Charter school students are outperforming district peers in 14 out of 16 districts with available data. Click here for our press release with report highlights. And download the full report here.


National Alliance 2016 Legislative Review
As the year heads to a close, it’s a good time to look back at the policy progress in statehouses across the country. The National Alliance’s 2016 State Legislative Session Highlights for Charter Public Schools summarizes this year’s state legislative activity. The report covers policy changes in the areas of funding and facilities, authorizing and accountability, and more. Check out the full report here.

Hispanic Charter School Students Notch Learning Gains
Last month, in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, the National Alliance released Charter Schools Serving Hispanic Communities, a report detailing how charter public schools are helping Hispanic students succeed. Susan Aud Pendergrass, our vice president for research and evaluation, explains in a blog post that new data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows Hispanic charter school students making significant gains in science.

Update on Charters Work!

Last month, the NAACP’s Board of Directors voted to support a nationwide moratorium on new charter public schools, ignoring the voices and choices of hundreds of thousands of black charter school parents and students. But the vote wasn’t a total loss. We saw the power of parents fighting for their children’s educational opportunities – 3,000 parents signed a letter urging the NAACP to take a different course. The National Alliance’s Ron Rice wrote about the reasons he’s optimistic in a commentary for The 74.

The Charters Work campaign has also been a big success – and it continues! The #ChartersWork hashtag received 95 million impressions on social media. And our NAACP-oriented campaign generated 160 media hits. Since the NAACP meeting ended, numerous people have spoken out against the board’s action and in favor of charter schools. Among the most notable, Grammy-winning singer John Legend penned a heartfelt personal essay in Essence magazine about the importance of giving black families access to better educational choices, and touched on his own work with charter schools. Roland Martin also spoke with The 74 about his plans to demonstrate how School Choice Is the Black Choice. We may not win every battle, but this movement will keep fighting for every student!


Federal Update

Last week, the National Alliance filed a comment letter with the U.S. Department of Education regarding proposed regulations around the “supplement not supplant” requirements of federal Title I funding. You can read the letter here.

Uncommon Schools was recognized as a top awardee in the Department of Education’s 2016 Investing in Innovation (i3) competition – a program that awards funds to launch and expand evidence-based practices that support educators and transform students’ academic experiences. As an awardee in the “Validation” category, Uncommon Schools demonstrated evidence of effectiveness in contributing to a strengthened public education system. Uncommon’s network of 49 charter schools across Boston, New York, and New Jersey serves 16,000 students. Congratulations to the leaders, teachers, and students of Uncommon Schools!

State Update

Illinois: Chicago Public Schools threw waitlisted charter school students under the bus in the district’s recent contract negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union. As the Chicago Tribune explains in an editorial condemning the decision, the district agreed to limit the growth of outstanding charter schools to placate anti-charter activists in the union. The district may still have some wiggle room to expand charter school access, however, and the state of Illinois allows charter schools that are denied a charter to appeal to a statewide board. But unions will try to extract similar concessions in future negotiations with school systems. The National Alliance will monitor the trend and raise the alarm when necessary.

Nevada: Nevada’s Department of Education approved Democracy Prep Public Schools, Futuro Academy, and Celerity Schools Nevada to operate schools in the state’s new Achievement School District. Existing underperforming schools that will work with the charter operators will be announced in February. For more, click here.

New York: Around 3,000 charter school teachers and administrators rallied in New York City recently to keep the pressure on Mayor Bill de Blasio and other leaders to expand access to charter schools from the current 100,000 students to 200,000. Teachers know the difference charter schools are making for their students and they want more students to have the same opportunities. See a story and photos here.

Research Roundup


New Book Offers Special Education Guidance
Charting the Course: Special Education in Charter Schools is a new book designed to help charter school leaders and schools meet the educational needs of all students. The book can help you create programming that serves all students, including those with disabilities. Christy Wolfe, Senior Policy Advisor with the National Alliance, contributed to the “Supporting All Students: Instructional Programming and Administration” chapter.

Special Education Lessons from California Charter Schools
A new report from the California Charter Schools Association offers insights to help schools better serve students with disabilities. Meeting the Needs of Every Student Through Inclusion looks at ten of the top charter schools in California and offers nine key elements that help explain the schools’ success in serving students with special needs. Read the report here.

#NCSC17 Registration is Now Open!

Registration is now open for the 2017 National Charter Schools Conference in Washington, DC! The event will be held June 11-14, and super early bird pricing is available through December 19th. Next year will be a big one, as we bring our message to the new leadership in Washington, DC. You won’t want to miss the opportunity to engage with colleagues from around the country and hear from experts on a wide range of hot topics. Register here, or visit the NCSC17 website for more details!


Support the National Alliance on Giving Tuesday!

On Tuesday, November 29th, the National Alliance will take part in “Giving Tuesday,” a national day dedicated to supporting the nonprofit organizations that are making a difference in the lives of others. Your donation will make a lasting difference in the lives of the 3 million students we serve by expanding hope, opportunity, and potential to the next generation of leaders. Please click here to support the National Alliance on #GivingTuesday – November 29th. Thank you!


Welcome to the National Alliance!

Kevin Head Shot 650.jpgJoin us in welcoming Kevin Hesla and Natalie Laukitis to the National Alliance. Kevin is our new director of research and evaluation. He joins us from the Colorado League of Charter Schools, where he was director of research and strategy. Kevin has a background in finance, economics, and data analysis, and previously worked at an economic consulting firm and completed the Education Pioneers Analyst Fellowship. He is a graduate of Claremont McKenna College and has an MBA from George Washington University.

NL 11152016 650.jpgNatalie Laukitis is our new senior director of communications. Natalie joins us from Teach For America, where she was vice president for communications. Prior to her stint at TFA, Natalie worked in communications roles at several organizations, including Cancer Support Community. She began her career as a first-grade teacher and TFA Corps member at Friendship Public Charter School in Washington, DC. Natalie received her undergraduate degree from Boston University, her master’s in teaching from American University, and her MBA from George Washington University. We’re thrilled to have Natalie and Kevin on the team!

The National Alliance is Hiring!

We’re looking for more great people to join us in advocating for charter public schools. Two positions are open currently: a coordinator of research and evaluation to help advance the National Alliance’s research and data work; and a programs coordinator to support the National Charter Schools Conference and other National Alliance events. Click here for more info on both positions. And please pass the info to great candidates you may know!

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