National Alliance Monthly News May 2018

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On Friday, May 18, tragedy struck Santa Fe High School near Houston, Texas. More than 40 people have been killed at schools in 2018. As Texas native Kelly Clarkson eloquently noted on the Billboard Music Awards Sunday night, moments of silence have run their course and it’s time for “a moment of action.”

What this action should look like, for now, will differ depending on the state and the community in which you live. Regardless of our views on gun control, we do know that these incidents are less likely to happen when we know the students in our community and when our schools work closely with law enforcement to handle issues as they arise. For every tragedy, there are likely dozens of incidents that are avoided thanks to this collaboration and we need to do a better job of identifying the tools we need to ensure that our students are safe in school. This piece by Mona Charen has resonated with me most.

The 2018 National Charter Schools Conference will be held in Texas next month and our theme is “Empowered to Dream Big.” It’s up to us to think boldly about school safety and every other issue that touches our students’ lives, so that they are empowered to dream big and to achieve those dreams. I hope you can join us in Austin, Texas, from June 17-20 to find solutions to the challenges our students face, and to celebrate all that the charter school movement has accomplished and the good things that make our work meaningful and our communities hopeful. Click here to register!


Nina Signature

Nina Rees
President and CEO
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

PS – We recently released the National Alliance’s annual report, which showcases the work we did to build and expand the movement in 2017. You can download the report here.

National Charter Schools Week Highlights

National Charter Schools Week (NCSW) was held this month and we were, once again, proud to take part in celebrating the great work of our charter school leaders. This year, we focused on the movement’s change-makers: the leaders, teachers, students, parents, and advocates who make it possible for charter schools to exist. Because the week coincided with National Teacher Appreciation Week, my op-ed in The 74 discussed how charter schools are giving amazing teachers the opportunity to start schools that are new and innovative. We also featured on The Charter Blog reflections from 2017 National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee, as well as perspectives from charter school leaders, advocates, and alumni. We announced new inductees into the Charter School Hall of Fame, and honored this year’s Champions for Charters at an event at the U.S. Capitol. All in all, we helped generate more than 110 million impressions on NCSW social media content—a big increase over last year. You’ll find more details below, and you can catch up on all the action on Twitter through #CharterSchoolsWeek and @CharterAlliance.

As part of the National Charter Schools Week festivities, the National Alliance was proud to welcome the following distinguished inductees into the National Charter Schools Hall of Fame

HOF Blog

The Hall of Fame recognizes individuals and organizations for pioneering the development and growth of charter schools, implementing innovative ideas, and inspiring others in the movement. Inductees will be honored during the National Charter Schools Conference in Austin, Texas next month.

National Charter Schools Week also gave us an opportunity to honor the 2018 Champions for Charters—elected leaders at the federal, state, and local level who are providing the policy support to help charter schools grow and broaden access to more students. This year’s bipartisan cohort represents some of the best and brightest minds in the charter school movement. They have earned our gratitude and support.

Jacqueline Thomas, legislative assistant to Senator Coons (D-DE), and Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, celebrate Champion for Charters Senator Coons

Jacqueline Thomas, legislative assistant to Senator Coons (D-DE), and Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, celebrate Champion for Charters Senator Coons

We’re also grateful to the schools and CSOs across America that made National Charter Schools Week a huge success, and to our friends throughout the education reform community who helped us celebrate our movement.


Charter Schools Top U.S. News Rankings

U.S. News & World Report recently released its 2018 ranking of the nation’s best high schools, and charter schools once again dominated the list, securing 35 of the top 100 spots, despite accounting for just 10 percent of high schools nationwide. The National Alliance issued a statement cheering the results.


NAEP Results Underwhelm, but Charter Schools Point the Way Forward

The latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed the nation’s public schools largely treading water, but charter schools tended to outperform, and states with high levels of school choice, such as Florida, showed gains. Nina wrote about the implications of the charter school results for all of education.

Untapped Potential for Charter School Growth

A new report from the Fordham Institute takes a look at areas of the country with high levels of educational need, but no charter schools. These “charter school deserts” exist both inside and outside urban areas. In a recent post on The Charter Blog, Kevin Hesla, the National Alliance’s director of research and evaluation, identifies key findings, implications, and limitations of the report. Having identified charter school deserts, the Fordham Institute also offered ideas for irrigating them.

Supporting Charter School Growth through Facilities Finance

The Walton Family Foundation announced the creation of two nonprofit funds to support charter schools: the Charter Impact Fund and Facilities Investment Fund. The two funds address problems facing public charter schools by making it more affordable to secure and renovate facilities and providing quicker access to long-term and short-term financing. Philanthropy Roundtable recently did a deep dive into efforts to solve “the charter-school building crunch.” The National Alliance offered policy solutions in our recent paper Strengthening Federal Investment in Charter School Facilities. And new federal Opportunity Zones may provide a way for investors to leverage federal policy to expand access to charter schools.

NCSRC Toolkit for Opening Charter Schools

The National Charter School Resource Center (NCSRC) recently released a New School Development Toolkit for Charter School Organizations (CSOs) and charter school founders to help them with opening a new charter school and navigating the first years of operation. These New School Design resources focus primarily on supporting founding groups during the planning and start-up phases of a charter school’s life cycle.

Washington Update

Washington Update

Following our big win on appropriations for the Charter Schools Program (CSP) for fiscal year 2018—$400 million—the National Alliance worked with Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) to circulate “dear colleague” letters supporting a FY 2019 funding increase for the CSP. The letters secured more signatures from members of the House of Representatives than ever before. This was thanks in part to a National Alliance advocacy campaign that generated more emails to Congress than ever before. Though the fight for FY 2019 funding is far from over, this victory is huge for the charter school movement and for all the families who would send their children to a charter school if space were available.

The National Alliance continues to work with allies in the movement and on the Hill to find a permanent solution to the DACA uncertainty facing many charter school students, teachers, and families. While action winds through the courts, Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Jeff Denham (R-CA), and Will Hurd (R-TX) have introduced what is known as a “discharge petition” to force a vote on immigration bills that would protect Dreamers. The petition needs 218 votes, which would require 25 Republican signatures. The fate of the petition is uncertain, but the National Alliance has asked our supporters to contact their representatives.

News from the States

Connecticut lawmakers approved a 2019 budget that includes a $250 increase in state funding for each student in a charter public school—the first movement on charter school funding in four years, and a $2.5 million increase overall.

Kentucky has had a topsy-turvy spring. After enacting a charter school law in 2017, the state legislature failed to pass a permanent charter school funding mechanism in 2018. (The National Alliance issued a statement.) However, the National Alliance remains engaged with local allies and partners to ensure the state enacts a permanent charter school funding mechanism in time for the first charter schools to open there in the fall of 2019.

New York state lawmakers passed a spending plan that boosts education aid by nearly $1 billion, including $81 million for charter schools. Charter schools will see an estimated six percent increase in per-pupil funding, though the amount will vary from district to district.

Legal Update

On May 17, the Washington state Supreme Court heard another challenge to the state’s charter school law. After the court’s 2015 ruling that deemed the previous funding mechanism for charter schools unconstitutional, the state legislature approved a new funding mechanism and charter schools have been operating in the state. The latest challenge, led by the teachers’ union and allies, calls into question whether any school outside the traditional district structure could be supported with state funding. The National Alliance issued a statement praising the state’s strong law. The Seattle Times said the aggressive maneuvers to stop Washington’s charter schools “squander public resources, flout the will of the voters … and get in the way of the system’s development.”

The top court in Massachusetts rejected a lawsuit claiming the state’s charter school caps are unconstitutional. 

On April 18-20, we hosted our Spring APCSA Legal Seminar in Atlanta, Georgia. With 85 attendees, we offered sessions on a variety of legal issues impacting the charter school community, including intellectual property, sexual harassment, and school safety. Our keynote speaker, Daniel Shoy, Jr., President and CEO of the East Lake Foundation, provided a comprehensive overview of the great work the Foundation is doing in the East Lake community of Atlanta, including the Foundation’s partnership with the Charles Drew Charter School, in which 100 percent of the inaugural senior class graduated and was accepted to college.

Research Roundup

A new study by The Century Foundation explores the growing number of charter schools that are diverse by design, as well as broader trends around diversity in the charter school movement and throughout public education.

KIPP’s 2017 Alumni Survey finds that KIPP grads feel a sense of belonging on their college campuses, although they still worry about being judged based on their race or socioeconomic background. 

A new report from the Manhattan Institute finds that while enrollment in New York City charter schools continues to increase, the colocation of new or expanded charter schools in public facilities has slowed dramatically in the de Blasio administration.

From The Charter Blog

Teaching for the Stars: Philadelphia’s Math Science and Technology Community Charter School (MaST) leverages STEM and STREAM to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.

My Green Charter School: A student at Environmental Charter High School (ECHS) describes how learning about environmental challenges and solutions is incorporated throughout the curriculum.

Join Us at the 2018 National Charter Schools Conference

Bernard Harris

#NCSC18 is right around the corner—June 17-20 in Austin, Texas! The most recent addition to the speaker lineup is out of this world—literally. Dr. Bernard Harris was the first African American to walk in space, part of a career in which he logged more than 438 hours and traveled over 7.2 million miles in space. Today he is a founding board member and CEO of the National Math & Science Initiative (NMSI).

Dr. Harris joins a fantastic lineup of keynote speakers, including Sydney Chaffee, Nancy Lublin, and Mike Marriner. The conference will also feature a wide range of sessions designed for teachers, school leaders, advocates, funders, board members, and more. The session scheduler tool allows attendees to search for specific topics, browse our session lineup by strand, and create a customized conference schedule. We’d love to see you in Austin, so register now if you haven't already!

Innovation Station

When the school day ends, many schools stay open, offering after-school activities to engage students until their parents get out of work. 6crickets offers a turn-key solution to help manage after-school enrichment programs. The tool allows schools to organize third-party vendors or volunteer teachers to teach after-school classes, provides parents a one-stop online registration portal to browse and register for all after-school classes, helps school offices keep track of students with real-time rosters, and can be used to raise funds to support scholarships for underprivileged students to attend enrichment classes. See how it works in this quick YouTube explainer video

Also be sure to check out this recent article by Nina Rees and co-authors offering steps that charter school boards and leaders can take to inject innovation into their schools.

Looking for Great Talent?

Great Talent

We want to connect great talent with great opportunities. Our Charter School Job Board includes job openings for a variety of positions across the country. It’s a great resource for organizations looking to hire and for individuals looking to make a difference in the lives of students.

Support the National Alliance

The National Alliance is a non-profit organization that relies on generous partners like you. Please consider supporting the growth and sustainability of charter schools by making a tax-deductible gift or adding your name to our advocacy list. Thank you! 

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