Our 2018 Champions for Charters

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We are happy to share news of our 2018 Champions for Charters—an honor that dates back to 2006, when the National Alliance first began spotlighting local, state, and federal elected officials who are leading the charge to give parents and students better public school opportunities. If educational equity and opportunity have any meaning, public school options must include charter schools.

This year’s bipartisan cohort—comprised of 11 Democrats and 9 Republicans—joins a distinguished body of leaders who are standing up for charter school students, and we’re tremendously grateful. Thanks to their support, nearly 3.2 million children have access to better public schools. And their continued support will help extend that opportunity to even more students in the future.

Below is a little more about the Champions selected this year. 

Our Federal Champions

The federal government’s Charter Schools Program—or CSP—is vital to the success of charter schools across America. CSP allows new charter schools to open their doors and helps expand high-performing schools so that more students have access. Recently the CSP received $400 million in funding—a record amount—and we are very grateful for this show of support. 

We’re pleased to honor six members of Congress from both sides of the aisle who have consistently supported charter schools and our students.

Senators Chris Coons of Delaware and John Cornyn of Texas have been steadfast supporters of charter schools, particularly through the appropriations process. Both Delaware and Texas—though vastly different in size—have thriving charter school communities. That’s been made possible in large part through the work of Sens. Coons and Cornyn.

Representatives Luke Messer of Indiana and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have also been champions for charter school students throughout their careers. Indiana and Arizona both have outstanding charter school movements. Indiana’s charter school law has ranked first in the National Alliance’s annual rankings for the past three years. And Arizona charter schools recently posted some of the best scores in the nation on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. These successes couldn’t happen without strong support for charter school funding and autonomy from Reps. Messer and Sinema. On behalf of all charter school students, we thank them for their leadership.

Our Rising Charter Leader award goes to an emerging supporter in the charter school movement, and this year we are pleased to award it to Rep. Adriano Espaillat of New York. Mr. Espaillat serves on the House Education and Workforce Committee—and he has 41 charter schools in his district, which includes Harlem and the Bronx. Since entering Congress last year, Rep. Espaillat has been a constant champion of these charter school students and their families. Though new to Congress, he previously served in the New York state legislature.

Our Lifetime Achievement award will be presented to Sen. Orrin Hatch. Few members have had as distinguished a career as Sen. Hatch. He has made personal appeals on behalf of the Charter Schools Program for many years. And in recent years, he’s been most helpful in thinking through ways to overcome the barriers that face charter schools seeking facilities funding.

Our State and Local Champions

Our state and local Charter Champions are standing up on behalf of public school students attending charter schools—be it at local school board meetings, in statehouses or from gubernatorial offices across the country. They represent rural and urban communities and established and emerging charter communities. We will be celebrating many of these individuals throughout the year in local ceremonies.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy has stood strong in support of high-quality educational options, including charter schools, for the children of his state. Throughout his time in office, Gov. Malloy has supported public school choice. He’s listened to parents and fought to increase the funding available to charter schools, which has made more charter school seats available, particularly in areas of the state where educational improvement was most needed.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has been a champion for charter schools and educational excellence. Gov. Martinez modernized charter school authorizing, expanded charter school access to transportation funding, protected charter schools from harmful funding cuts with her veto pen, and has overseen an era of dramatic improvement in charter school quality and an increase in charter school enrollment.

California was the second state in the country to pass a charter school law in 1992. Today, California has more charter schools (1,275) and charter school students (630,00) than any other state. It also has some of the most successful charter school networks and independent schools—including Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, Rocketship Public Schools, and Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, which next month will be inducted into the National Charter Schools Hall of Fame. The support of state lawmakers has been essential to maintaining high standards of accountability and expanding charter schools to give more students access to high-quality public schools.

While many California officials have played a part in the success of Golden State charter schools, we are honoring the following California leaders this year:

• Governor Jerry Brown
• State Senator Steve Glazer
• Assemblymember Blanca Rubio
• Assemblymember Shirley Weber
• San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo

This year Idaho is celebrating the 20th anniversary of launching charter schools. Today, Idaho charter schools serve nearly 20,000 students in close to 50 schools across the state. While the success of charter schools in large cities has been well documented, Idaho is proving how charter school freedoms can improve access to quality schools in smaller cities, towns, and rural areas, too. Expanding access to high-quality public school options for students in Idaho has depended on the trailblazers we are honoring this year:

• State Senator Lori Den Hartog
• State Senator Bob Nonini
• State Representative Judy Boyle

We’re thrilled to honor leaders from Colorado, which has taken some of the biggest recent policy steps to ensure equitable treatment for charter school students—including historic legislation granting charter school students more equitable access to local tax dollars. Charter schools in Colorado have historically enjoyed broad bipartisan support in the legislature and are embraced by some school districts, most notably the state’s largest, Denver Public Schools. Charter enrollment in the state has grown 30 percent over the last five years, with the movement now serving approximately 115,000 students in 238 schools, representing almost 13 percent of total public school enrollment. This year’s Champions for Charters in Colorado are:

• State Senator Owen Hill
• State Senator Angela Williams
• State Representative Lang Sias
• State Representative Brittany Pettersen

Our 2018 cohort is an incredible group of Champions and advocates dedicated to students and families. We are pleased to celebrate them this National Charter Schools Week.

See the comprehensive list of our Champions for Charters. 

Nina Rees is the president and chief executive officer of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. 

Special Note for National Charter Schools Week (May 7-11): As part of our weeklong celebrations, the National Alliance will shine a spotlight on public charter school achievements by honoring the Change Makers of the public charter school movement. Today, our spotlight is Elected Leaders.