National Alliance March Newsletter

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Last week, President Trump released his first budget blueprint. We were pleased that it calls for an increase of $168 million in charter school funding for fiscal year 2018. This would give a major boost to efforts to open more charter schools, and we will be working closely with the administration and Congress to make this part of the president’s funding plan a reality.

However, the president’s blueprint calls for an overall decrease in funding for education programs of 14 percent. Other agencies that touch the lives of students, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, would also see double-digit cuts. 

Spending on education, and on children more broadly, is one of the most important investments we can make as a society. Helping children grow into healthy, well-educated citizens who can compete in and contribute to the global economy is a responsibility all policymakers should take seriously, especially given the impact that technology has had (and will continue to have) on our economy.

While we appreciate and welcome President Trump’s commitment to charter schools and school choice, we also urge the administration and members of Congress to think about all the ways the federal budget helps students. The president’s blueprint is just a starting point in a long conversation about how the federal government will fund its priorities, and we hope spending on domestic programs that work will be given much greater consideration as that process unfolds.

If you are interested in helping us advocate at the federal level, click here to join our advocacy list, check here for National Charter Schools Week activities (May 1-5), or come to the National Charter Schools Conference in Washington, D.C., this June!


Nina Rees
Nina Rees
President and CEO

PS: I recently had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussing the future of education reform in the Trump era with National Alliance board member John Katzman, Success Academy leader Eva Moskowitz, and author Richard Whitmire. You can click here to see the panel.


Federal Updates

President Trump unveiled his first budget blueprint, which calls for an additional $168 million for charter school funding in fiscal year 2018, as well as substantial cuts in other education programs. (See our statement.) While the president’s budget outline establishes his administration’s goals and priorities, actual funding will be determined by Congress. The National Alliance federal team will be working to convince relevant committees and members to increase charter school funding without undermining other funding critical to students’ success.

The National Alliance joined a broad coalition of education organizations and non-profits in supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and its proposed successor, the Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy (BRIDGE) Act. The coalition includes nearly 100 charter schools, advocacy organizations, institutions of higher learning, and others. In a letter to the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, coalition members urged policymakers to support legislation that would extend the protections of DACA, which provides temporary deportation relief and employment authorization for people brought to the U.S. without documentation as children. The letter focused on the bipartisan BRIDGE Act, which would maintain the protections of DACA for a limited period. For more background, click here to read the National Alliance’s press release.

The U.S. House and Senate have voted to repeal the Title I Accountability and State Plan rules as well as the Teacher Preparation regulations finalized by the Obama Administration. The National Alliance anticipates President Trump will sign the bill soon. This does not prevent states from moving forward with ESSA implementation. The best resource and direction was provided by Secretary DeVos in a Dear Colleague letter, outlining that consolidated state plan submissions will be accepted on April 3 or September 18, 2017. The Department also issued a revised template for state plans.

The National Alliance’s Christy Wolfe wrote for the Fordham Institute’s Flypaper blog on how Secretary DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education can use guidance to promote school choice in the states.

The National Alliance and the National Council of La Raza have produced a new brief, English Learners and ESSA: Implications for States and Charter Schools, to ensure that charter school leaders and operators have key facts about ESSA’s requirements that specifically apply to English learners. Click here to download the brief.

The Equity Coalition of the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools, of which the National Alliance is a member, released a statement calling on Congress and the Trump administration to uphold several principles in support of students with disabilities. You can read the statement here.

The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education rescinded the Obama administration’s guidance on transgender students. The National Alliance issued a response.

State Updates

Break out the Bluegrass Band
Kentucky is about to become the 44th state with a charter school law! Governor Matt Bevin is expected to sign into law HB 520, which will allow charter schools to begin operating as soon as the 2018-19 school year. Kentucky legislators had many good examples to look to in crafting their legislation, and the new law incorporates many of the best chartering practices learned over the past 25 years. Kentucky charter schools will have flexibility to innovate, while being held to a high standard of accountability for results. Read the National Alliance’s statement here.

Virginia’s legislature approved a plan last month which, if signed by Governor Terry McAuliffe, would create a new pathway for the approval of charter schools in areas with persistently struggling schools. The plan would establish regional school divisions, each with its own governing board, with the authority to approve new charter schools. Regional boards include representatives from each local school division in its jurisdiction to ensure that its needs are addressed and a local voice be an empowered part of proceedings. Governor McAuliffe has until March 27 to decide whether to offer amendments, veto it, sign it or let it become law without his signature.

Research Roundup

Perspectives on Charter School Growth

The release of the National Alliance’s annual enrollment report – which showed charter school enrollment surpassing 3 million for the first time – touched off a debate about the rate at which new charter schools are opening. Robin Lake, of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, is concerned that hostile policy environments are restraining growth. The National Alliance’s Susan Aud Pendergrass acknowledges the need for better policy and more start-up funding, but also suggests slower growth rates are natural for a mature movement (we are 25 now, after all) and points out that parental demand remains very high. Our friends at NACSA have also weighed in with a new report examining the role authorizers play in charter school growth and enrollment. One point on which all agree: More research is needed to help understand the root causes of charter school growth trends and drive policies that help us meet the demand for high-quality schools.

Chicago Charter Schools Are Bridging the City’s College Divide
A new report by the Illinois Network of Charter Schools finds that Chicago charter schools serve more disadvantaged students than district-run schools, yet charter school graduates are 20 percent more likely to enroll in college. And it’s not the only study to reveal such promising results. The National Alliance’s Kevin Hesla reviewed the research for our blog.

Have You Registered for #NCSC17?

Now that spring is here (sort of), the 2017 National Charter Schools Conference is right around the corner. NCSC17 will be held June 11-14 in Washington, D.C., and we want to see you there! Register here, or visit the NCSC website for more details. We’ll also be inducting new members into the National Charter Schools Hall of Fame – and nominations are due next week! 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. You can find a list of past inductees here.


Get Ready for National Charter Schools Week 

National Charter Schools Week is coming soon. The annual celebration of charter schools and students will take place from May 1-5 this year. Mark your calendars and stay tuned to our website, Twitter, and Facebook for more details. 


Welcome to the National Alliance!

jamisonwhite1.jpgWe are thrilled to welcome Jamison White as our new Dashboard Coordinator. Before joining the National Alliance, Jamison worked as a data analyst and freelance consultant in Boston and the greater New York area. Prior to this, Jamison completed his degree in Policy Management and International Relations at Carnegie Mellon University. In his free time, Jamison enjoys playing tennis, exploring Washington, D.C., and staying up to date with the latest political news.  



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!