National Alliance February Newsletter

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Our country is experiencing increased uncertainty, even anxiety, about our commitment to embracing diversity, welcoming people from different backgrounds, and remaining open to viewpoints different from our own. It’s time to reaffirm what we value as a movement.

Last week, as the nation continued its celebration of Black History Month, the National Alliance brought the diversity of the charter school movement to Capitol Hill at a charter school fair and reception. The event featured 18 leaders of color from high-performing, high-quality charter schools across the country. They spoke about the teaching and learning methods at work in their schools, the challenges they face in their communities, and their students’ successes. Through their powerful example, they reinforced the fact that while policymakers debate issues of diversity and inclusion, charter school leaders are living these values, creating open, safe, and welcoming spaces where students get the support they need to pursue their dreams. Every child deserves the same.

Charter schools are, by their very nature, diverse. As the nation is roiled in sometimes ugly political debates, our movement demonstrates that diversity makes us stronger, and that even though we, individually, may approach education issues from different perspectives, we all share the goal of providing every student an education that gives them the best start in life.


Nina Rees
Nina Rees
President and CEO

Charter school leaders meet with Speaker Paul Ryan's Chief of Staff and education team.

Estimated Charter Public School Enrollment Tops 3 Million

For the first time, the number of students who attend charter public schools is estimated to have surpassed 3 million. This means that over 200,000 more children are attending charter schools this school year than attended last year and, given that the federal government estimates a total change in public school enrollment of just over 100,000 students, it also means that more families are choosing charter schools. In just the last decade, charter school enrollment has nearly tripled – from 1.2 million students in 2006-07 to 3.1 million this year. Click here to read the report. Susan Aud Pendergrass dove into the numbers on the National Alliance blog. And click here to read an op-ed on the report by the National Alliance’s Kevin Hesla. 


Federal Update

Betsy DeVos has been sworn in as the 11th U.S. secretary of education. In a statement following her Senate confirmation, the National Alliance congratulated Secretary DeVos and expressed our interest in working together to ensure access to high-quality, safe, and supportive schools.

Reminder: The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is accepting applications for the FY17 Charter Schools Program Grants for charter management organizations to help replicate and expand high-quality charter schools. This is the first CMO competition that includes selection criteria authorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), however some criteria from prior competitions are also included. The Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) website has details. Applications are due by 4:30 p.m. ET on Monday, February 27, 2017 and must be submitted through

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal the Title I accountability and state plan rules as well as the teacher preparation regulations recently finalized by the Obama Administration. The National Alliance expects the Senate to consider this issue in the coming weeks. We will provide updates on how this may impact state implementation of ESSA as the information becomes available.

Indianapolis charter school leader Kevin Kubacki recently testified before the House Education and Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education. He brought an important charter school perspective to the hearing on school choice. He also shared his experiences in an op-ed for The Hill.

State Update

What to Watch in the States in 2017
The National Alliance’s Todd Ziebarth wrote a column for the Education Commission of the States detailing what we can expect on the state legislative front in 2017, and where state legislators who want to improve their laws should turn for inspiration. Click here to read the piece.

Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal upheld the State Board of Education’s constitutional authority to review appeals when local school boards reject charter school applications. This was an important win for charter school growth and autonomy. The National Alliance and partners had filed an amicus brief in the case. For further background and the National Alliance’s statement on the decision, click here.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin addressed charter schools in his state of the commonwealth address, saying, “Charter schools are coming to Kentucky.” The Bluegrass State is one of seven states without a charter law, and the National Alliance is working closely with local partners to change that.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has introduced a bill to create a new statewide charter school authorizer and increase charter school autonomy. The National Alliance released a statement supporting the proposal.

Oklahoma’s first rural charter school received a greenlight from the state board of education. Leaders are optimistic the school will make the surrounding community more attractive to workers and families thinking of relocating to the area.

In Virginia, legislation to improve the state’s charter school law is moving through the legislature. The bill will create a framework in which the state board of education may establish regional charter school authorizers for districts with chronically low-performing schools. The Washington Post published a strong editorial in favor of the bill.

Washington state charter school students saw a big win last week, as a court ruled that the state’s charter school law is constitutional, rejecting the latest attempt by charter opponents to overturn the will of the state’s voters and legislators. The National Alliance’s Charter School Legal Action Fund had filed an amicus brief in the case. You can read the National Alliance’s statement on the ruling here.

Research Roundup


Ohio Charter School Students Shortchanged on Facilities
A new survey of Ohio brick-and-mortar charter schools finds that charter schools face challenges in securing adequate facilities and that a lack of dedicated resources sufficient for this purpose often results in spaces that are smaller than recommended guidelines. Ohio charter schools are forced to spend operating dollars to purchase, renovate, and maintain facilities, unlike Ohio’s district public schools. In fact, Ohio’s charter schools spend an average of $785 per full-time equivalent pupil (or 13.5 percent of their state foundation funding) from designated per pupil operating revenue on facilities costs. Read more on the Ohio report here. More info is also available at


Charter Schools Are, In Fact, Different
American Enterprise Institute scholar Nat Malkus released a paper – Differences by Design? – that looks at differences in demographic profiles of charter schools using various academic models, as well as differences between charter schools and nearby district public schools. It’s the third in a series of papers exploring demographics and diversity in charter schools. Kevin Hesla analyzed the findings on the National Alliance’s blog. Nina Rees participated in a panel discussion about the papers, which you can watch here.

Los Angeles Parents Are Embracing Choice, and Need Guidance
A new report from the Los Angeles parent advocacy group Parent Revolution analyzes the experiences of low-income families participating in the Choice4LA program, which helps parents navigate public school options and enroll their children in high-quality schools. The report sheds light on how families that are exercising school choice make their decisions, and suggests ways for school district and charter school leaders to ensure that more students have access to high-quality schools. LA School Report looked at the report’s findings.

Discipline Rates Declining in D.C.
A Government Accountability Office report finds that charter schools in Washington, D.C., suspended and expelled students at a faster rate than the city's district public schools from the 2011-12 through 2013-14 school years. However, during that period suspension rates in D.C. charter schools dropped from about 16 percent of all students to about 13 percent, while expulsions dropped from 0.7 to 0.4 percent. The D.C. Public Charter School Board says that more recent data shows that the discipline rates have continued to decline. Click here to read the National Alliance's statement.

#NCSC17 Early Registration Ends This Month!

The 2017 National Charter Schools Conference is being held June 11-14 in Washington, DC, and early registration pricing is available through February 27. Register here, or visit the NCSC17 website for more details. We’ll also be inducting new members into the National Charter Schools Hall of Fame. Do you know someone who qualifies as a pioneer and innovator in the movement? Someone who has made a lasting contribution to charter schooling and inspired others to follow their lead? Then please use this form to submit your nomination by March 31.


Welcome to the National Alliance!

Elise250.jpgWe’re thrilled to welcome Elise Cranston as our new coordinator of federal policy and government relations. Elise is a former 7th grade English teacher at LEAD Academy Middle School in Nashville. As a Teach for America corps member there, she helped create systems and learning experiences for incoming corps members that would deepen their understanding and connection to the Nashville community. Elise then integrated her educational background with her interest in public health when she moved to Liberia to work on post-Ebola rural health education. She contributed to the National Community Health Worker Policy and Training Program that will train 4,000 community health workers and deliver healthcare for 30 percent of the Liberian population. Elise earned a BA in History and Political Science from the University of Alabama and a Master of Education from Lipscomb University.

The National Alliance is Hiring!

We’re looking for new team members to join us in advocating for charter public schools. Open positions include: senior vice president of advocacy; programs coordinator; and marketing and communications assistant. Click here for more info, and please spread the word to great candidates you may know!

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