I recently had the great pleasure to tour Liberty Common Charter School in Fort Collins, Colorado. This visit was particularly special given the fact that the school’s leader is a former member of Congress, Bob Schaefer, with whom I worked during my time in the Bush Administration. The school set an all-time state record for SAT scores last year and ranks high on all metrics. The secret sauce is its teachers. Schaefer seeks the highest-quality instructors and, given the freedom he has to hire the best, he is able to attract those who have a command of the subject and the ability to connect with students. This came across over and over in every classroom. I am used to seeing former members of Congress as lobbyists in DC. It was cool to see one who is doing work on the ground, putting into practice every day the laws and policies he enacted when he was in DC.
Thousands of school leaders are doing similar hard work across America and we celebrated them all during National Charter Schools Week. As you’ll read below, the National Alliance helped to elevate the voices of charter school teachers, students, and leaders. We also recognized political leaders in both parties as Charter Champions and announced the three newest members of the National Charter School Hall of Fame. Given the political headwinds our movement is facing, it was important to take a week to toot our own horns and remind people that charter schools are strengthening public education by extending opportunity to students everywhere. That was the theme of an article I wrote for The 74.
We’re continuing to celebrate the success of charter school students with our Charter Grads campaign. And we’ll have another opportunity to tout charter schools when we gather in Las Vegas for the National Charter Schools Conference later this month. Our theme this year is Reimagining Education. We’ll feature speakers who are charting new paths for students and host numerous sessions designed to help us raise our game as teachers, principals, board members, advocates, and supporters. It’ll be an exciting time you won’t want to miss. Click here to join us from June 30 to July 3. I hope to see you there!
President and CEO
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
National Charter Schools Week
National Charter Schools Week (May 12-18) was a big success, as the entire charter school movement joined together to celebrate our schools. We worked with Storyvine to provide state charter support organizations and charter schools with an app that allowed them to produce videos featuring school leaders, students, and teachers. Several of the videos are featured on our YouTube channel, others were included in a video produced by Education Post, and the remainder were shared on social media by the schools and organizations that filmed them.
The National Alliance recognized as 2019 Champions for Charters federal, state, and local elected officials who are putting kids first by supporting charter schools. Special awards were also given: a lifetime achievement award to House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) (pictured here with the award) and rising star awards to Rep. Joe Morelle (D-NY) and Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA). Leaders took time to celebrate National Charter Schools Week with a Proclamation from the White House coupled with a bipartisan Senate Resolution led by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) supporting charter schools’ ongoing contributions to strengthening and improving public education.
We also announced the 2019 Charter School Hall of Fame inductees: California’s Margaret Fortune, President and CEO of Fortune School of Education; Minnesota’s Joe Nathan, Director of the Center for School Change; and Florida’s Fernando Zulueta, President of Academica. These charter school trailblazers will be inducted into the Hall of Fame during the 2019 National Charter Schools Conference in Las Vegas.
For more information about this year’s charter champions and hall of famers, check out this feature article in The 74 by the National Alliance’s Amy Wilkins and Todd Ziebarth.
Charter Schools Outperform in Rankings
Charter schools landed three of the top 10 spots in the most recent U.S. News and World Report annual rankings of the best public high schools. Although charter high schools are just 10 percent of the country’s public high schools, they comprise 23 percent of the top 100 public high schools. In addition, 153 charter schools were recognized by GreatSchools for excelling at preparing students to attend and succeed in college with the College Success Awards. We’re delighted that charter schools continue to be recognized for outstanding performance.
Public Opinion Update
Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) released A Democratic Guide to Public Charter Schools: Public Opinion, based on a DFER-commissioned poll by the Benenson Strategy Group. Among other findings, the poll indicates that there is strong public support for public charter schools among key Democratic constituencies, particularly black and Hispanic voters. Read the full report.
The report was particularly timely, as presidential candidate Bernie Sanders issued a misguided call for a moratorium on high-quality public charter schools. We pushed back with a forceful statement picked up by several media outlets, and Amy Wilkins was quoted in the New York Times. Numerous other commentators, organizations, and charter school leaders also spoke out against the proposal, and the Washington Post published a strong editorial setting out the benefits charter schools bring to students. As the presidential race heats up, the charter school community must be prepared to respond to candidates who mischaracterize charter school students, families, and educators.
On Wednesday, May 8, the House Labor HHS Appropriations Subcommittee announced its FY2020 funding levels, which included a $40 million—9 percent—reduction in funding for the Charter Schools Program (CSP). While we are disappointed, we are working hard to ensure this reduction will be corrected in the Senate. If you haven’t yet taken the time to contact your senators about the importance of CSP funding, please take a minute to do so by clicking here. Congress needs to hear from us!
Although the potential CSP reduction is bad for our movement’s growth, many of the programs that charter schools rely upon received substantial increases in the House subcommittee bill. For instance, Title I was increased by $1 billion to $16.68 billion and funding for IDEA State Grants was increased by $1 billion to $13.4 billion.
It’s important to remember the Senate has yet to act. We expect Senate action in the first week of June. Once the full House and Senate approve their respective bills, a conference committee would need to work out differences between House and Senate funding levels. Please contact your senators today!
The Education Department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education anticipates issuing Notices Inviting Applications for a number of grant competitions. The Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities Program supports entities that use innovative methods to help charter schools address the cost of acquiring, constructing, and renovating facilities by enhancing the availability of loans and bond financing. State Charter School Facilities Incentive Grants are intended to help states establish and enhance or administer per-student facilities aid for charter schools. We’ll keep you posted about these important facilities grant opportunities.
The National Alliance joined the Association of American Educators Foundation and 74 education organizations representing teachers, principals, superintendents, teacher educators, and education staff in sending a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Congressional leaders calling for their help in addressing the lack of teacher diversity in our nation’s classrooms. The broad range of organizations in the coalition reflects the importance of this issue and our ability to come together to advocate for what’s best for students.
The California Assembly passed a bill that would severely restrict approvals of new charter schools, and several more bills are pending that would threaten existing charter schools. The National Alliance issued a statement on the first bill and has been working with state advocates to do all we can to prevent these bills from becoming law. The 74 summarized the policy and politics surrounding the bills. One of the newest Charter School Hall of Fame inductees, Margaret Fortune, a school founder and board chair of the California Charter Schools Association, penned an important piece outlining the potential consequences of the legislation for students of color.
In addition to our defensive work in California, we continue to help our colleagues in Maine and Nevada as they fight back against anti-charter school legislation.
We expect the West Virginia legislature to reconvene for a special session focused on education reform in June. We are working with our key partners and legislators to make sure that a strong charter school bill is enacted into law during the special session. As part of that effort, we recently took a group of legislators to visit a rural charter school in Ohio to illustrate the potential of high-quality charter schools in West Virginia.
We are working with partners in Nevada and Ohio to get legislation enacted to strengthen full-time virtual charter school accountability and funding. In Nevada, an amended version of our bill has passed the Senate and is now in the Assembly. While the bill is not as strong as we would like it to be, it does make some helpful changes to the law. In Ohio, we are monitoring the work of the legislative task force that is creating a performance-based funding system for full-time virtual charter schools.
We are working with partners in Alabama on a funding priority during the legislative session. This priority will provide pre-planning grants to help founding groups write strong applications. The provision is in the budget bill, which has passed the Senate and is now in the House.
Charter School Facility Center Update
As part of the ongoing effort to raise awareness of the facilities challenges facing charter schools, and provide solutions, the Charter School Facility Center’s Mark Medema joined the Charter School Superstars podcast to talk facilities funding and strategies. In addition, Nina Rees and Ramona Edelin wrote for the Washington Examiner about how charter school facilities are still overlooked and underfunded in the nation’s capital.
If you’re looking to better understand facilities funding issues and you’re attending the National Charter Schools Conference in Vegas next month, join the Charter School Facility Center for a pre-conference “Facilities 101 Training" from 1:30-5:00 pm on Sunday, June 30. Click here for more info and to register.
On The Charter Blog
To celebrate National Charter Schools Week, the Charter Blog featured a number of posts elevating voices in the movement.
- LaKendra Butler, founder and executive director of STRIVE Collegiate Academy, describes how charter schools are a movement.
- Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School, led by 2018 Charter School Hall of Famer Maquita Alexander, goes above and beyond to develop a close-knit community both inside the school and in Washington, D.C.
- KIPP’s Rich Buery, chief of policy and public affairs, shares how KIPP has fulfilled its promise of helping low-income students to and through college.
- The middle school principal at Tulsa Honor Academy explains how her school puts students first—always.
- NCSC19 planning committee member Jerilyn Olsen talks about reimagining education through conversation.
In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, the Charter Blog highlighted thank you letters to charter school teachers across the country. Read them all here.
And with graduation season under way, the Charter Blog is featuring the stories of 2019 #CharterGrads. Click here to read the first installments, and keep checking back for more!
The National Alliance’s Nathan Barrett, Ph.D., brings together the numerous studies showing charter schools are getting results.
A new study finds that Boston charter schools are successfully scaling up, and teacher training may be the key.
A new CREDO study finds that New Orleans is outpacing the state in student growth scores for demographically similar students in both reading and math.
Get Ready for NCSC19!
We’re less than a month away from the 2019 National Charter Schools Conference in Las Vegas. If you haven’t done so yet, click here to register. We’ll be gathering from June 30-July 3. As you make your plans for the conference, be sure to use our new program search tool! You can search for specific topics that interest you, view our session lineup by strand, and see who’s presenting at #NCSC19. Also, check out how the conference format itself will help all attendees reimagine education.
Discover Charter Schools Campaign Wins Award
The Discover Charters campaign was recently recognized with the non-partisan Golden Eagle award as part of the 2019 Goldie Awards. The Goldies recognize excellence in political practice and communications judged by a panel of industry peers. This is just the latest award for Discover Charters; earlier this year, the campaign picked up a 2019 Reed Award recognizing the best of the political industry for Best Web Video–Under 30 Seconds. Discover Charters is part of a national effort to raise awareness and support for charter schools.
Welcome to the National Alliance!
We’re excited to welcome Adam Gerstenfeld to the National Alliance full time. Adam, who previously summered with us as a fellow, is our newest manager of data and research. Before joining the team, Adam was a first-grade teacher in Miami, Florida, where he taught reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. Adam received his bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Florida, where he was a radio and television producer for the local NPR and PBS stations. He has been published by USA TODAY, the Huffington Post, and British website Future Foreign Policy. He is currently pursuing his master’s degree in government analytics from Johns Hopkins University.
Great Talent Needed!
Don’t forget to visit our Charter School Job Board, which 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.
The National Alliance just moved into some new digs in Washington, D.C. You can now find us at 1425 K Street, NW, Suite 900, Washington, DC 20005.
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!