National Alliance Monthly News for June 2018

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Last week’s National Charter Schools Conference in Austin was the best one yet! Under the banner “Empowered to Dream Big,” we heard from students, teachers, innovators, policy experts, and other inspiring individuals who challenged us to keep striving to prepare every student for a future of opportunity and success. We also continued our partnership with the Broad Foundation, which announced this year’s Broad Prize winner (congrats, DSST!), inducted new members into the Charter School Hall of Fame, and welcomed a big announcement from the Walton Family Foundation. You can find more details below.

In my remarks (which I previewed in The 74), I pointed to our host state of Texas as an example of how charter school movements can raise their game by focusing on quality and improvement. I also talked about future trends for which we have to prepare our students. Meeting our obligation to lead public education to new heights will require us to use our freedoms to innovate for our students; focus on educating every student who comes to us; partner with others to help meet the diverse needs of our students; and continue to be loud and proud in defense of charter schools.

The National Alliance conference team never stops—big thanks to Angie, Patty, and Amelia! They’re already getting ready for the 2019 National Charter Schools Conference in Las Vegas. I’m excited to see what the next year holds for our students and our movement—which we’ll be sure to cover in future monthly installments of this newsletter. We’ll be back with a new edition in August. Until then, Happy 4th!

NCSC18 Highlights

The 2018 National Charter Schools Conference brought 4,700 charter school educators, school leaders, state-level leaders, charter support organizations, charter management organizations, and advocates to Austin, Texas, to celebrate the movement’s successes and inspire each other to dream big as we plan for the future!

The three-day conference featured more than 125 breakout sessions and more than 275 exhibitors, as well as a phenomenal slate of speakers. Keynote speakers included Dr. Bernard Harris, veteran astronaut and CEO of the National Math and Science Initiative; Mike Mariner, co-founder of Roadtrip Nation; and 2017 National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee, who urged educators to instill bravery in their students.

We also heard from outstanding student speakers, including Raven Osbourne, Zion Kelly, and DJ Hill. Raven, a graduate of the 21st Century Charter School in Gary, Ind., earned her bachelor’s degree from Purdue University while still in high school. Zion is a recent charter school graduate who made headlines in March when he engrossed hundreds of thousands at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C., after his twin brother, Zaire, was the victim of gun violence last September. DJ, a ninth grader at Austin Achieve, wowed the crowd with his confidence, explaining how at Austin Achieve he found acceptance and the security of a community that supports his journey. Maria Rocha, a fifth-year teacher in a third-grade classroom at KIPP Esperanza in San Antonio, also spoke about her experience as a DACA recipient and what it means today.

DSST Public Schools (DSST) was announced as the winner of the 2018 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. The award comes with $250,000 for DSST to spend on college-readiness efforts. The Broad Prize review board chose DSST based on the charter network’s strong academic outcomes. Starting with its inaugural class 10 years ago, 100 percent of graduates of the network’s 13 schools have been accepted to four-year colleges and universities. Watch this video to learn more about DDST and finalists Uncommon Schools and Achievement First.

DSC_1139DSST Public Schools CEO Bill Kurtz accepts the 2018 Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools

The National Charter Schools 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. We were proud to welcome the following distinguished inductees:

2018 Charter Hall of Famers with Bios 2-034788-editedAna Ponce, CEO of Camino Nuevo Charter Academy; JoAnn Gama, Co-Founder, President, and Superintendent of IDEA Public Schools; Tom Torkelson, Founder and CEO of IDEA Public Schools; Maquita Alexander, Head of School at Yu Ying Public Charter School

NCSC18 also made major news when the Walton Family Foundation’s K-12 Education Director, Marc Sternberg, announced grants totaling more than $100 million that will allow educators and leaders to launch hundreds of schools in the coming years. Marc shared the foundation’s strategy to expand on two decades of school startup grants to fuel the growth of high-quality schools across the country, with an emphasis on innovative school models to meet the learning needs of all children. More details were included in a white paper released to coincide with NCSC18.

To relive the conference through speeches and announcements at the general sessions, click here (Monday), here (Tuesday), and here (Wednesday).

Washington Update


This month, Nina Rees testified before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce at a hearing entitled, “The Power of Charter Schools: Promoting Opportunity for America’s Students.” Greg Richmond, President and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA); Jonathan Clarkparent and Community Advocate; and Dr. Martin West, Associate Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, also testified. The hearing was held to highlight the value of charter schools. You can access the archived recording of the hearing.

The House Appropriations Committee released its draft fiscal year 2019 Labor-HHS funding bill, which includes a $50 million increase for the Charter Schools Program (CSP). This would bring total CSP funding to a record-high $450 million in FY 2019. The National Alliance released a press statement applauding this proposed funding increase. The Senate subsequently released its own proposed FY 2019 education spending bill that would raise CSP funding to $445 million. We will continue to closely track CSP throughout the appropriations process.

The National Alliance’s Christy Wolfe contributed to A Handbook for Local Leaders on School Improvement

The U.S. Department of Education issued a notice inviting applications for Charter Schools Program (CSP) National Dissemination Grants for FY2018. These competitive funds support efforts by eligible entities to support the charter school sector and increase the number of high-quality charter schools by disseminating charter school best practices. There will be an estimated $4,500,000 in available funding and an estimated average award size of $650,000 per year for five to nine awards. The deadline to apply is July 9, 2018. For additional information regarding this grant notice, please contact Hans Neseth, U.S. Department of Education. You can also contact the National Alliance’s Director of Policy and Government Relations, Jessica Morffi, at

Safal Partners NCSRCThis toolkit from the National Charter School Resource Center addresses issues that State Entities and State Education Agencies face after receiving CSP grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

And this toolkit from the National Charter School Resource Center contains a large set of materials that state-based CSOs can use to help new schools launch successfully. It also provides tools for charter founding groups.


News from the States

News from the States2Legislative sessions in most states have wrapped up for 2018. This year saw a number of states make significant improvements to their charter schools laws.

Colorado increased the Charter Capital Construction Fund by more than $29 million. It also provided $5.5 million in equalization funding for students attending Charter School Institute schools.

Florida provided $145.2 million to its charter school capital outlay program.

Georgia took some important steps toward funding equity for all charter schools. It provided additional resources to support students that attend state-authorized charter schools. It also provides state-authorized charter schools with the opportunity to join and receive services through the state’s Regional Education Service Agencies. Furthermore, state-authorized charter schools located in urban areas such as metro Atlanta are now eligible to receive from $2,000 to $4,000 in additional funding per student.

Michigan enacted a law that will improve funding equity for charter school students. For the first time, the state will require that regional mill levies must be shared with charter schools on an equitable basis.

Tennessee enacted legislation that will ensure charter school access to annual reimbursement funds for high-cost special education students.

We’ll continue to keep you posted about any further developments in 2018, as well as the potential charter school implications of elections held around the nation in November.

Legal Update


The Alliance of Public Charter School Attorneys (APCSA) is celebrating its 10th anniversary. In the group’s ten years, the community has grown to over 400 attorneys nationally. The National Alliance’s Renita Thukral and Robert Reed write about the history, mission, and work of the APCSA.

On June 27th, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that the state’s extraction of agency fees from nonconsenting public-sector employees violates the First Amendment. The National Alliance has been monitoring the case and the ways in which it stands to impact the education community.

Research Roundup

Charter School Research Roundup

A new study from Georgia State University finds that Georgia charter school graduates are more likely than district school peers to graduate from high school, enroll in college, and persist in college.

At The Charter Blog, National Alliance Director of Research and Evaluation Kevin Hesla writes that data quality matters and data reporting errors have real consequences.

Michigan’s charter school movement has been under the microscope for the past year and a half. The Michigan Association of Public School Academies is helping people learn the real story of Michigan’s charter schools through the creative feature Charters in the Mitten.

The Hechinger Report looks at how personalized learning is working in New Orleans.

NACSA has new resources for states with multiple authorizers.

ExcelinEd is out with a new playbook for how schools and the business community can build career and technical education partnerships. ExcelinEd also teamed up with the Texas Public Policy Foundation on new recommendations to jumpstart charter school growth in Texas while maintaining high standards.

From The Charter Blog

Charter Grad June

This month we’ve been featuring inspiring stories from charter school graduates across America whose lives have been shaped by their charter school experiences. Read their stories here.

Building a Solid Marketing Strategy Starts with Four Simple Questions: Janet Johnson, Chief Marketing Officer for Charter School Capital, offers charter school leaders a roadmap for developing a compelling and effective marketing plan.

Former Minnesota Charter School Teacher on Need for Facilities Funding: The National Alliance’s Fiona Sheridan-McIver sees facilities funding needs through the lens of the school where she taught—Minnesota’s Achieve Language Academy.

Mental Health Q&A: A social worker at Democracy Prep Agassi elementary in Las Vegas answers 10 questions about the importance of mental health in students’ lives.

School Choice: A Right, not a Privilege: A Baltimore dad explains what prompted him to become a school choice supporter.

A Road to Cultural Prosperity: The National Alliance’s Jamison White profiles Hope Chinese Charter School, a community-centered, globally oriented charter school in Oregon.



Innovation Station


Success Academy, last year’s winner of the Broad Prize, has added new resources to the Success Academy Education Institute, its digital platform for sharing curriculum, training, and school design. The network just published its complete middle school literacy curriculum, and for the first time shared online courses from its renowned training program. Together with the K-4 THINK Literacy curriculum published last June, this new release makes Success’s comprehensive K-8 approach to reading available for free to educators (register here for access). These robust resources are designed to empower teachers and principals in any kind of middle school setting to help students become insightful, informed readers who are ready to tackle the demands of high school and college. Take a look—and share with other teachers and school leaders!

Welcome to the National Alliance!

The National Alliance has been thrilled to welcome four new team members in recent months.

KelseyKelsey Nelson is our new Manager of Campaigns and Publications. Prior to joining the National Alliance, Kelsey worked as a communications consultant and is the co-founder of the community action project “Books Breaking Borders: Books to End Educational Bankruptcy.” Kelsey received a BA in Broadcast Journalism and a Certificate in African-American Studies from the University of Maryland and her MPS degree in Sports Industry Management, with a concentration in Strategic Marketing, Communications & Digital Media, from Georgetown University. She is currently pursuing her Certificate in Teaching from Georgetown.

Staff HeadshotsFiona Sheridan-McIver will be joining our team full-time as Manager of Policy & Government Relations. Fiona has been with National Alliance since last September as a Leadership for Educational Equity fellow. In addition to her policy work, Fiona served as a classroom teacher for seven years, in both charter and district public schools. She majored in Government at Colby College and has a Master’s in Education from Hamline University.



Untitled design (3)-1Kat Sullivan is our new Director of Advocacy Communications. Prior to joining the National Alliance, Kat was a senior associate in the Financial Services practice of The Glover Park Group and spent more than three years at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Center for Education and Workforce and the Global Intellectual Property Center. Kat graduated summa cum laude from the University of South Carolina Honors College with a BA in English and a minor in Public Relations.



MelindaMelinda Tolliver is our new Manager of Digital Media. Melinda started her career as a community outreach and marketing coordinator working with children and families touched by autism in South Texas. After moving to Washington, D.C., she joined the Association of American Law Schools, where she built the organization's digital communications strategy from the ground up. Melinda graduated from Miami University with a degree in Mass Communications.



Please join us in welcoming these awesome talents!

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