National Alliance Monthly News - August 2019

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It’s back-to-school time across America! For teachers and principals, especially those in charter schools, the work never stops. Hopefully the learning didn’t stop for students this summer either. But it’s great to be officially starting a new year, fresh with optimism and excitement.

Back-to-school season is also a great time to be thinking about inviting elected officials to visit your school. Hosting school visits for members of Congress or local leaders is one of the most effective ways to build a case for charter schools and leave a lasting impression when it comes time for policymakers to take action. Congress is on recess from September 30 to October 11 this year, which means your members of Congress will be back home in their states and districts. It’s the perfect time to welcome them to your schools.

U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) with Ron Rice, senior director of government relations, and Nina Rees, president & CEO, with the 2019 Champion for Charters award

U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) accepts the 2019 Champion for Charters award from Ron Rice, senior director of government relations, and Nina Rees, president & CEO.

It may seem like a daunting task to have a politician visit, but the National Alliance is here to help. We’ve put together a special how-to toolkit that includes everything you need to host a successful school visit. Our manager of policy and government relations, Marlon Greatrex, is also ready to offer additional support. Just drop him a line.

If you do host a school visit, be sure to let us know, either directly or by tagging us on social media @charteralliance. We’ll help amplify your pics and stories so that your visit has maximum impact. You may also inspire others to host their own visit!

Thank you for all you do on behalf of the 3.2 million children attending public charter schools. Best wishes for your best year yet!

Warmly,

Nina Rees
President and CEO
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

PS – Don’t forget to tell the 2020 candidates that #ChartersWork and share the petition with your networks. And be on the lookout for information about our voter registration day campaign coming in September. We’ll be featuring special graphics and other shareable content to make sure our charter school supporters are registered to get out and vote!

Raise Money for Your Classrooms with DonorsChoose.org

The National Alliance is thrilled to support charter school classrooms through a new partnership with DonorsChoose.org—the leading crowdfunding site for K-12 education. Our partnership includes a toolkit and exclusive content for charter school teachers. The DonorsChoose.org toolkit features everything school leaders need to run a successful crowdfunding campaign, including information on the most-funded types of resources, case studies of charter schools that have run successful campaigns, and tips for engaging your teachers. Get started now. And tag us on social with @charteralliance when you post your fundraisers so we can share them, too!

EdNext Poll Shows Rising Support for Charter Schools

Last week, Education Next (EdNext) released the 2019 EdNext Poll, its 13th annual nationwide survey of public opinion on a range of issues affecting students, education spending, schools, and teachers. Support for charter schools jumped to 48 percent this year, up four percentage points from last year and nine percentage points from a low in 2017.

For more than 25 years, charter schools have maintained bipartisan support. In the EdNext results, 61 percent of Republicans support charter schools while just 27 percent oppose them. For Democrats, 40 percent support charter schools, with 55 percent of African-American Democrats, 47 percent of Hispanic Democrats, and 33 percent of white Democrats favoring them. Nina Rees discussed these findings on the Lars Larson Show and will appear on a panel discussion about the poll on September 13 at the Hoover Institution.

Misinformation about charter schools continues to be an issue. Only 22 percent of survey respondents knew that charter schools cannot hold religious services and only 27 percent of respondents knew that charter schools cannot charge tuition. All charter schools are public, open to all, and tuition-free. Comments from the 2020 Democratic presidential debates indicate that even some political leaders struggle to understand the valuable role charter schools play in public education. An accurate understanding of charter schools is key for those who hope to set our nation’s education agenda, and the EdNext poll indicates that voters will reward politicians who support charter schools.

Two other pieces of opinion research also made news this month:

Success Academy Students Set the Pace

New York’s state test results are in and Success Academy students once again knocked it out of the park. At schools with testing grades across the network—a total of 43 schools—99% passed math, with 86% scoring at the highest level of 4, and 90% passed English Language Arts (ELA), with 41% scoring a 4. Of particular note, 98% of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch passed math and 89% passed ELA. If Success Academy were considered a school district, it would be the best-performing district not just in New York City, but across the entire state. Success Academy’s website has more details. They’re another testament to the tremendous opportunities high-quality charter schools make available to students from all backgrounds across America. Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews recently wrote about Robert Pondiscio’s new book on Success Academy and what it reveals about the importance of parents having public school choices.

Washington Update

Washington Update

Congress agreed on a budget deal before the August recess that includes lifting caps on domestic spending. This relieves some of the downward pressure on domestic spending levels. When the Senate comes back in September, they will work on the FY2020 appropriations bill. Our funding request for the Charter Schools Program (CSP) in the Senate remains $500 million. The House passed a bill to provide $400 million for the CSP.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education announced the FY 2019 awards for the CSP Grants to State Entities. Congratulations to the Alabama Coalition for Public Charter Schools, the New Hampshire Department of Education, and the Washington State Charter Schools Association for receiving more than $90 million in new grants over 5 years. This year’s awards will support approximately 60 new, replicating, and expanding public charter schools led by two charter support organizations and one state education agency. The State Entity program provide grants to support opening and preparing to operate new charter schools and replicating and expanding high-quality charter schools through competitive subgrant competitions at the state level. This will be the first state-level CSP award for Alabama since passing its state law. For more information, please visit the awards page.

The National Alliance is co-hosting the second annual Charter Leadership Awards Reception during the Congressional Black Caucus’s 49th Annual Legislative Conference on Wednesday, September 11. The Charter School Leadership Awards honor African-American charter school leaders and advocates who are advancing the movement to give parents and students high-quality public school opportunities. This year, we are pleased to honor Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO); Rep. Don Payne, Jr. (D-NJ); Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (D-TX); Lagra Newman, Founder and Head of School, Purpose Prep Academy Charter School; Tysie McDowell-Ray, co-founder and Chief Academic Officer, Crossroads Charter Schools; Dominique Lee, founder and Chief Executive Officer, BRICK Education Network; and Michael Carter, co-founder, Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. The inaugural “Trailblazer Award” will be presented to former NCAA and NBA basketball star Jalen Rose, who is the co-founder of the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in Detroit.

In conjunction with the Congressional Black Caucus’s Legislative Conference, on September 13 the National Alliance is co-sponsoring a panel discussion, Why School Choice is the Black Choice, with Roland S. Martin and The 74. The discussion will present a fact-based conversation on high-quality, alternative K-12 education options for black students with a panel of black charter school leaders, parents, and advocates. We’ll share coverage of the events next month.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) is accepting applications for several grant:

Charter schools that are their own LEAs are eligible to apply for each grant. OSERS has posted informational webinars and Q&A blogs for each.

State Update

WV_State Update

This week, California’s governor and legislative leaders reached an agreement to modernize the state’s charter school law. The agreement provides improved accountability measures while protecting core elements of a strong charter school law, including the preservation of charter school appeals to county boards of education and the State Board of Education, streamlined renewals for high-quality charter schools that have demonstrated success in closing the achievement gap, and balancing consideration of the academic needs of students against fiscal impacts on school districts when considering new charters. Charter school advocates successfully pushed back against the most extreme proposals in the initial bills. The National Alliance issued a statement, as did the California Charter Schools Association.  

Many 2019 state legislative sessions across America have ended for the year and the National Alliance has been working with West Virginia, Ohio, and Nevada on regulatory issues, particularly with respect to full-time, virtual charter schools.

Another major priority for our state team has been to help our charter support association partners improve the quality of their sectors. We are active with local partners in Alabama and Mississippi to help these states with newer laws attract high-quality school founders. In Nevada and North Carolina, we supported workshops for founding groups writing charter school applications. In Massachusetts, we supported legal research for how charter school restarts (in which a low-performing charter school is taken over by a high-performing charter school) might work in the state. In Colorado, we are supporting the development of additional quality metrics for charter schools based upon feedback from charter school stakeholders. In Delaware we are supporting the creation of an online data dashboard for the state’s charter schools. And in Puerto Rico, we supported the commonwealth’s only charter school with its federal developer grant application.

Legal Update

Legal Update

On July 30, in a favorable ruling, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the state’s classification of public school academies (i.e., charter schools) as “local governments” for state funding purposes, which allows the schools to continue to receive state funding allotted for local governments.

On July 19, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that there was no jurisdiction to bring D.C. charter schools’ equal funding claims in federal court (notwithstanding that the case arose out of the congressionally passed DC School Reform Act), because the issues focused exclusively on D.C. activities. Local advocates and attorneys are currently assessing whether to re-file the lawsuit in the local D.C. courts. We continue to offer our support as these deliberations progress.

We continue to support our New Jersey and Minnesota partners in cases where our opponents are alleging that charter schools are re-segregating public education. In New Jersey, our partners are planning to intervene in the case very soon. In Minnesota, our partners continue to participate in court-ordered mediation sessions, which will most likely run through September or October. If the parties in that case cannot reach a settlement, the case will ultimately proceed to trial.

Charter School Facilities Update

Facility Center

The Charter School Facility Center at the National Alliance released a new report, State Policy Snapshot: Facilities Funding for Public Charter Schools, that looks at how states are enacting policies to help offset the cost of leasing, purchasing, and maintaining public charter school facilities. Out of the 45 states with charter school laws, 31 have at least one charter school facilities funding policy in place. Colorado, New Mexico, and Ohio lead the states, with each adopting four of the policies. Education Week used data from our report to produce an interactive map of state funding policies that support charter school facilities. Be sure to check it out!

Recently, the Equitable Facilities Fund began selling the first bonds ever used to finance a loan pool for charter schools. The fund plans to issue about $110 million in bonds, which received an A rating from S&P, to help charters access lower-cost, long-term debt. This means schools can spend more dollars in the classroom rather than for the classroom, which is good for everyone.

Resources for Charter Schools

Need advice—or just another perspective—on an issue facing your school or students? The Charter Support Unit, a free service available courtesy of grants from the U.S. Department of Education, the State of Florida, and the Walton Foundation, offers webinars on a wide range of topics vital to educators and school leaders. View upcoming webinars or sign up for their mailing list.

Research Roundup

Research Roundup

With conversations about race and education on the national stage, it’s imperative to consider how choice is exercised across the education system and the role that policy can play in ensuring equitable access to quality schools. Nathan Barrett, Ph.D., our senior director of research, moved this conversation forward in an insightful piece for The Hill on the need for high-quality public school opportunities for families of color and for policymakers to protect schooling options. (The Urban Institute report Nate refers to was featured in EducationNext.)

A new study from the Center for American Progress finds that D.C. charter schools lose fewer students midyear than district counterparts, while also enrolling fewer students midyear, a valuable contribution to the discussion over “backfilling” in charter schools.

The Show-Me Institute looks at the latest CREDO research on Kansas City, which finds big gains for charter school students.

Charter School Hall of Famer Checker Finn recently published an article on the history of the Charter Schools Program that is valuable reading for anyone looking for a deeper understanding of the policy and politics of this vital program.

From The Charter Blog

From The Charter Blog

The National Alliance’s Ron Rice recaps how the National Charter Schools Conference helped school leaders of color build relationships, plug into grant opportunities, and get advice on handling everyday challenges.

Two IDEA leaders explain how they’re recruiting and mentoring great principals and teachers to catalyze student success. 

The National Alliance’s Shaelyn Macedonio offers 10 recommended reads to share with people who need a better understanding of charter schools.

And don’t forget to check out the awesome stories of 2019 #CharterGrads who are starting college this month.

Revisiting the 2019 National Charter Schools Conference

Missing your peers in the charter school movement from across the country? Relive your experience at the 2019 National Charter Schools Conference with video recordings from the general sessions. And mark your calendars for Orlando, June 21-24, 2020.

National Alliance Team News

Marlon Greatrex headshotMarlon Greatrex is the National Alliance’s new manager of policy and government relations. Marlon joined us as a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute graduate fellow in September 2018 and quickly became a valued member of the federal relations and research teams. We’re thrilled that he’ll be staying with us in this new role. Marlon’s previous experience includes working as a student and family resource navigator for the LA Unified School District and serving in several roles with Bright Star Charter Schools in Los Angeles. Marlon has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from California State University, Northridge and a master of public policy degree from California State University, Long Beach.

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.

Support the National Alliance

Donate

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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