2021 Year in Review

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Logo of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

As we approach the end of the year and enjoy the festive season with friends and family, I’m reflecting on what a tremendous year it’s been for the charter school movement. Yes, we’ve had challenges. Students and educators are now in their third school year shaped by the pandemic. But it’s been inspiring to see charter schools lead the way in delivering the best for students under trying circumstances. That’s a big reason why enrollment in charter schools continues to climb, with more families than ever choosing a public school that’s responsive, innovative, and a good partner in their children’s education.

Charter schools continue to face threats from certain factions on Capitol Hill, but this year we saw our advocacy armies rally in historic numbers to defend the Charter Schools Program and let opponents know we won’t let them undermine the educational choices of 3.5 million schoolchildren and their families. We’re grateful to our allies in both parties who stood up to protect charter schools this year.

Several states listened to parents and improved their charter school laws. On Election Day, we saw candidates who promised the most educational freedom emerge victoriously. And thanks to federal relief funding making its way to public schools across the country, charter schools have an opportunity to lead by example, investing in academic, technological, and social-emotional tools that make a real difference for students.

With 30 years of experience responding to the needs of students and families, charter schools are meeting this moment and demonstrating the very best of what public education can be. I’m excited for the new opportunities ahead in 2022.

Happy Holidays!

Nina Rees
President & CEO
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

P.S.: As you finalize your end-of-year giving plans, please consider a donation to the National Alliance, including our new Rising Leaders Initiative, which will equip charter high school students to become powerful advocates for their own futures.

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Charter School Movement Celebrates 30 Years

2021 marked the 30th anniversary of the charter school movement. Over three decades, charter schools have made innovative, student-centered public school options available to millions of families. During National Charter Schools Week, we released a timeline video showcasing the growth and development of the charter school movement.

We also demonstrated the impact of charter schools through our 30 Under 30 Changemaker awards. 30 Under 30 documented the stories of a diverse group of young leaders who have already had a meaningful impact on their communities and the country. Educating and inspiring future leaders—that’s the true impact of charter schools in America.

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Parents Choose Charter Schools More Than Ever Before

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge educators, students, and families. Through it all, charter schools have kept rising to the occasion. By adapting quickly, keeping students’ needs front and center, and listening to parents and caregivers, charter schools have attracted interest from more families than ever before.

Our report, Voting with Their Feet: A State-level Analysis of Public Charter School and District Public School Enrollment Trends, found nearly 240,000 new students enrolled in charter schools during the 2020-21 school year—and this at a time when enrollment in district schools declined significantly. We helped explain the data in a video and spread the news far and wide in major media coverage so more families could learn about the free, open-to-all, innovative public schools available to them.

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Advocates Raise Their Voices to Defend Charter Schools

Remarkably, just as demand for charter schools was soaring, some in Congress wanted to cut funding for charter schools. The U.S. House Appropriations Committee voted to reduce funding for the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) by nearly 10%, even as funding for all other education programs increased and both President Biden and bipartisan supporters in the House and Senate wanted to keep CSP funding intact. Sadly, charter opponents also tried to threaten funding for all charter schools that contract with private companies to provide critical services—something district and charter schools routinely do.

Facing an unprecedented threat to charter school students and families, our community leaped into action. We rallied the largest number of advocates ever to write, tweet, and call members of Congress and let them know that attacks on charter schools are unacceptable. Our advocacy had an impact! The Senate stripped the dangerous House provisions from their own appropriations language and protected the CSP.

The lesson for policymakers is clear: When political opportunists try to limit options for students and families, the charter school community will fight back—and win!

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Campaigns Clear Up Charter School Myths

Over the past 30 years, millions of students have found the path to realizing their dreams through charter schools. Yet for just as long, opponents of public school choice have been misrepresenting what charter schools actually are. This has led many people who support social justice and opportunity to oppose charter schools, despite charter schools enrolling higher percentages of students of color—and delivering better results for these students—than other public schools.

In 2021, the National Alliance sought to clear up the confusion with our “If You Believe” ad campaign, which explains how charter schools align with the values and goals of people who believe in strong public schools and high-quality public education for all. We also rolled out a campaign in targeted states featuring teachers who emphasize that “One Size Doesn’t Fit All” when it comes to finding public schools that work for each student.

Public, open-to-all, innovative, student-centered, and personalized—these are the facts about charter schools and we’re making sure more people hear them.

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State Policymakers Respond to Demands for More Public School Options

The charter school movement reflects the power of educators and advocates in states across the land. We work with state allies to expand access to charter schools, improve funding, and cultivate a policy environment that allows charter schools to flourish. This year delivered major state-level victories for charter schools.

West Virginia greatly improved its charter law with the addition of a state-level authorizer and appeals process. Wyoming improved its authorization process while strengthening both charter school autonomy and accountability. Iowa will now allow charter school founding groups to apply directly to the state, while establishing clear expectations for performance. Nevada protected equitable operations funding for charter schools and provided $15 million in COVID relief funding to help more than 16,000 students from low-income backgrounds recover from the pandemic’s educational toll. Leaders in these states responded to rising demand for high-quality public school options. In doing so, they stayed ahead of the curve.

On Election Day in November, we saw candidates win major races by putting the needs of students at the top of their agenda. We look forward to more charter school victories in 2022.

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Support the National Alliance

Our work is possible thanks to the generous contributions of individuals like you. Please consider giving a year-end gift before December 31 to support our work. Your donation will ensure we can continue to push for equitable educational options for all students in America!

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