Reflecting on State Wins for Charter Schools in 2020

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Two students and teacher in charter school classroom

At the National Alliance, we look to our state charter school organization (CSO) partners for insight into how to build and strengthen policy and advocacy landscapes to benefit public charter school students, teachers, and families.

Here are just a few examples of the remarkable work going on across the country to create state policy environments that foster the growth of high-quality charter schools:

  • New Mexico: Public Charter Schools of New Mexico, New Mexico Kids CANN, and other coalition partners delivered a big win for the state’s 90,000 charter school students. Through diligent advocacy and organizing, this coalition successfully mobilized support for pro-charter school candidates for seats on the Public Education Commission (PEC), New Mexico’s statewide authorizer. For the first time in fifteen years, the PEC will have a charter-friendly majority.
  • Tennessee: In January 2021, the new Tennessee Public Charter Schools Commission will begin hearing appeals from operators whose charter applications were denied by local school boards. The Commission’s work will be especially relevant in Memphis and Nashville, home to most of the state’s 118 charter schools.
  • Colorado: The Colorado League of Charter Schools avoided a potential funding cut to the Charter School Capital Construction Fund. Additionally, kudos to the Durango School District Board of Education for collaborating with its charter schools to pass a $90 million facility investment bond election. Durango’s three charter schools each will receive $2.5 million from the bonds.
  • Michigan: Thanks to voters in Wayne County, charter schools will receive a portion of a $90 million millage tax beginning in 2022.
  • Illinois: The Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS), through its newly-created COVID Relief Fund, worked with its schools to identify and distribute $65,000 in cash grants to 99 families representing a wide range of demographics, including immigration status. Previously, INCS partnered with FEMA to distribute 25,000 reusable masks to charter schools throughout Chicago.
  • Georgia: The Georgia Charter Schools Association saw some big legislative wins this year, including a bill that requires local boards of education to provide local charter schools with annual allotment sheets that itemize how much local, state, and federal funding they provide to charter schools. 
  • Texas: To mark the 25th anniversary of Texas’ charter school law, the Texas Public Charter Schools Association released a report on 25 years of charter schools in Texas. Results from state assessments show that from 2012 to 2019, as total statewide charter enrollment almost tripled, the average district raised its student achievement from 4% to 8%.

The Black Lives Matter protests demanded action around racial diversity, equity, and inclusion in education. Two CSOs are prioritizing ways to eliminate the diversity gap and fight for educational equity.

  • Washington: The Washington Public Charter Schools Association has long had an Aspiring Leaders program to help create school start-up pathways for community stakeholders committed to social justice and educational equity. The CSO also developed a list of anti-racist resources that may be helpful to stakeholders.
  • California: The California Charter School Association developed a Diversity in Leadership initiative, a community of practice for leaders of color to increase the talent pipeline of African American and Latino leaders in charter schools. They recently launched their first cohort of leaders.

These wins were not easy in a year filled with challenges due to the COVID-19 crisis. From advocating for charter school funding to welcoming back students to in-person learning in areas where it is safe to do so, charter schools made a difference for millions of students.

We look forward to seeing this innovation and flexibility from charter schools and our CSO partners throughout 2021.


Lisa S. Grover, Ph.D. is the senior director of state advocacy and support at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Read more of the National Alliance's series of year-end blog posts for 2020: