This year was an important one for the public charter school movement. While we’ve seen pushback from those who have historically supported us—most notably among Democratic presidential candidates and in governors' mansions—we were also inspired by overall growth in public support for charter schools, our families raising their voices against policies that would negatively impact students, and charter schools continuing to make strides for students through it all.
Here are the top 10 highlights from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (National Alliance) in 2019:
In response to Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s education agenda proposal, Amy Wilkins, senior vice president of advocacy at the National Alliance, gave a strong statement reminding Democrats of almost three decades of bipartisan support for charter schools and our students. Wilkins outlined how Senator Warren’s plan to kill the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) would destroy the dreams of a quality education for students who need it the most.
When Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders called for a moratorium on charter schools last May, Amy Wilkins called out the senator for being out of touch with what African American voters want and limiting their choices. Of the 3.2 million charter school students, 68 percent are students of color and their families are opting into these schools on their own accord. Wilkins rightly pointed out that Senator Sanders’ plan would lock students into schools that have failed them for generations.
The nation's premier conference for the charter school movement brought more than 5,000 educators, school leaders, policymakers, charter support organizations, and advocates to Las Vegas this summer. The 2019 National Charter Schools Conference concluded with keynote speaker Clifton Taulbert—author of Once Upon A Time When We Were Colored and a Pulitzer Prize nominee—and the final inductions of the 2019 Charter School Hall of Fame honorees.
For the fourth year in a row, Indiana took first place in our annual state-by-state ranking of charter school laws. The full report, Measuring Up to the Model, Tenth Edition, measured each state’s charter school law against the National Alliance’s model law based on 10 essential metrics. Indiana’s charter school law continues to be a gold standard for the nation with no cap on charter school growth, strong autonomy and accountability, and multiple authorizers.
We were thrilled when 23 charter schools were recognized as 2019 Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education! Blue Ribbon Schools demonstrate overall academic excellence and progress in closing achievement gaps and charter schools are well-represented on the list.
We were very excited to see that support for school choice is on the rise, according to this year’s Education Next poll. The 13th annual poll surveyed U.S. public opinion on education and found that support for charter schools jumped to 48 percent—a four-percentage point increase from last year. 2020 presidential candidates need to take note.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement awarded about $100.2 million in Charter Schools Program Grants to Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) this year. This critical funding will ensure the 15 CMOs awarded will be able to continue and grow the great work that they do for thousands of students. President & CEO Nina Rees congratulated the recipients on the awards.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute released a report that found black students in charter schools are about 50 percent more likely to have a black teacher than their district school counterparts. Charter schools also employ more black teachers than district schools. Ron Rice, our senior director of government relations, provided a statement on the research supporting that classroom teachers who reflect the diversity of their students are extremely beneficial for the students.
During National Charter Schools Week 2019, the National Alliance recognized a new cohort of federal, state, and local elected officials as Champions for Charters who are making a difference for public school students attending charter schools. We also announced our three 2019 Charter School Hall of Fame inductees: Margaret Fortune, president and CEO of Fortune School of Education; Joe Nathan, director of the Center for School Change; and Fernando Zulueta, president of Academica. Thank you to the recognized legislators and passionate leaders who make up the backbone of our movement!
The National Alliance released a statement on a California bill that sought to limit access to a high-quality public school for students after it was passed in May of this year. In voting to take away educational opportunity from students, we saw that Sacramento politicians are more interested in appeasing special-interest backers than doing what is best for kids.
Reed Mitchell is the communications coordinator for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Read more of the National Alliance's series of end-of-year blog posts: