2021 was a banner year for the public charter school movement due to lawmakers in state capitols boldly expanding options for learning and parents voting with their feet. The year also saw incredible coverage and support from our partners in the media.
Reporters, editors, and producers are taking notice of parent demand for more and better education options and reflecting that demand back in their stories about charter schools and the challenges they face. The National Alliance thanks our media partners for their willingness to go a step further than basic rhetoric and find the truth about charter schools.
Here are the top 10 stories and editorials in major news outlets about the charter school movement for 2021:
Equity in Education
Equity in education remained a dominant discussion topic in the media. The focus on equity in education comes as our nation is in a constant struggle to confront and heal the deep wounds of racial injustice. Nearly 70% of charter school students are students of color. Given that both the pandemic and racial injustices hit communities of color the hardest, we must do everything we can to ensure our students have the resources and support they need.
USA Today Opinion, Families need options: Why school choice is essential to ensuring racial equality by Lenny McAllister, CEO of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools.
“America needs to come to terms with this truism: No pathway for real civic equality for African Americans will exist without a permanent and unthreatened bridge of education equality connecting everyone to the promise of the American dream. Today’s push for equity must include school choice.”
Fair Funding Fight
The federal Charter Schools Program is a critical funding stream to grow and expand high-performing charter schools. When the U.S. House of Representatives made overt political moves to threaten this lifeline, the National Alliance made sure the national media took notice and led with the truth in Politico, CNN, The Hill, Education Week, and many more. Media coverage and op-eds sprang up across the country, too, in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, and Nevada—and a piece by charter school champion Governor Jeb Bush.
Wall Street Journal Editorial, Congress Beats Up Charter Schools
“Democrats in Washington say they want to reduce inequality. So why are they running a guerrilla campaign against charter schools that help so many children escape educational inequality?”
C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, Nina Rees on Efforts to Reduce Funding for Charter Schools
The Power of Education
The power of a great education is life-changing. National Alliance President & CEO Nina Rees and 30 Under 30 Changemaker and Calhoun Falls Charter School Principal Kalan Rogers join host Trey Gowdy to talk about the ways charter schools harness this power to serve their communities and families.
Sunday Night in America with Trey Gowdy, Fox News, Gowdy: The power of education can change your life
Parents Voting with Their Feet
Hundreds of thousands of families switched to charter schools during the first full year of the COVID pandemic, signaling strong demand for new public school options. Charter school enrollment has not grown this much in a single year in half a decade. Conversely, district enrollment dropped precipitously during the same period.
According to Voting with Their Feet: A State-level Analysis of Public Charter School and District Public School Enrollment Trends, charter school enrollment increased 7% during the 2020-21 school year. In all, nearly 240,000 new students enrolled in these unique public schools, while 1.4 million students left their district public schools.
The News with Shepard Smith, CNBC, Students leaving public schools for other options – featuring i3 Academy’s Head of School, Dr. Martin A. Nalls, and Mrs. Merkerson and her son, a student at the school
USA TODAY Opinion, Listen to parents: Families say they want more school choice. We should give it to them. by Nina Rees
“By the hundreds of thousands, families made the decision last school year to enroll their children in charter schools – public schools that had the flexibility to adapt quickly during the crisis. Across the country, charter schools rapidly met children’s and families’ needs through remote learning, adapted curriculum, individual family outreach, even food and internet security.”
A Moral Obligation – That No One Thinks About
Public charter schools need more and better access to affordable facilities and facility financing. Access to school buildings is one of the biggest obstacles to expanding charter school options. Charter schools rarely have access to taxpayer-funded facilities, even if those facilities are vacant. By the same token, public charter schools do not have access to the same affordable financing options as government-supported district schools. Single-site charter schools, those in high-poverty or rural areas, and those with new models are at a significant disadvantage in the facilities financing market—they have to pay much higher interest rates to borrow money.
Wall Street Journal, That Vacated Sears Store May Reopen as a Public School
“Mall owners have hit on a new way to fill gaping holes left by failed department stores and other departing big-box tenants: hosting public schools in need of more space. Landlords are focused in particular on the nation’s 7,500 charter schools, which are public-funded institutions run independently of school districts. These schools usually have to find and finance their own buildings.”
Finding the Common Ground
Today’s divisive outlook shuts out common sense. In a moving piece by George Parker, senior adviser for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and former teachers union president, a case is made for believing in and holding true to the ideals of an education system that works for all kids and teachers.
Wall Street Journal Opinion Editorial, How My Mind Opened to Charter Schools by George Parker, Senior Adviser for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools
“I used to oppose charter schools, not because they were bad for kids, but because they were bad for unions. Some call it a binary choice: You either support teachers unions or you support charter schools. Nowadays I disagree.”
Virtual Learning is the Right Choice for Some
At a time when virtual education is being criticized, National Alliance President and CEO Nina Rees defends public charter school leaders and their decision to listen to families who want and need remote learning options. When families of students at Washington, D.C. charter schools said they were not yet comfortable with in-person instruction for their children, charter school leaders had the flexibility to listen. Many chose to finish the school year with a virtual curriculum and focus on a full, in-person return this past fall. These decisions were made thoughtfully and reflect the wishes of the families these unique public schools serve.
Washington Post Letter to the Editor, Opinion: Virtual learning is the right choice for some D.C. charters by Nina Rees
“Education is not a building. It is about knowing how to meet the diverse learning needs of our children, especially those who have been traditionally underserved. Our leaders know our students and their families.”
Jennifer Diaz is the vice president of communications at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Read more from the National Alliances 2021 series of year-end blog posts: