What an eventful year it’s been! Throughout 2022, the charter school movement was challenged in profound ways and parents, educators, and allies stepped up to fight for high-quality public school options at every opportunity.
Charter school opponents once again targeted the Charter Schools Program (CSP), a modest federal source of funding that provides outsized benefits for students, families, and communities. We rallied our political allies and cheered on thousands of families as they raised their voices to help defeat threats to the CSP and defend their schools. And, on the positive side, dozens of states passed laws to improve the landscape for charter schools. Many states now have more equitable funding for charter schools, improved access to facilities, and better authorizing policies.
We saw parents make support for charter schools and educational choice a key factor when voting, which led to the election and re-election of charter school champions in both parties and at all levels of government. This puts us on solid footing heading into the new year.
We were also thrilled to reconvene in person for the first time since 2019 at the National Charter Schools Conference in Washington, DC. Just like the students we represent, our movement benefits from the connections and conversations that happen when we can be together.
We are inspired by all we accomplished in 2022 and we hope you’ll take a few minutes to look through some of the highlights below to see how we spurred action, elevated authentic voices, and continued to notch key policy wins. With so much momentum on our side, we can’t wait to see what we’ll achieve in 2023!
Parents and Education Voters Win
The 2022 election cycle proved, once again, the power of parents is shaping America’s education and political agenda. From coast to coast, a bipartisan roster of charter school supporters handily won elections at all levels of government.
It was no surprise parents showed up in force at the ballot box. Our report, Never Going Back: An Analysis of Parent Sentiment on Education, examined results from a survey of more than 5,000 parents conducted by The Harris Poll in May, which found that parents overwhelmingly like and want the freedom to choose the best education option for their children. In fact, 74% of parents would consider sending their child to a public charter school if one were available in their area.
The surge in support for high-quality public school choices was confirmed in our new enrollment report, Changing Course: Public School Enrollment Shifts During the Pandemic. Even as students returned to classrooms full-time, most students who left their district schools in 2020 or 2021 did not return in 2022. The pandemic enrollment shift, which resulted in nearly 240,000 new charter school students and a loss of 1.5 million district students, appears to be a new normal rather than a temporary reaction to turbulent times.
Showing Our Political Power
This was a historically challenging year for the Charter Schools Program (CSP), the only source of federal funding for charter school growth, expansion, and replication. In March, the U.S. Department of Education released draft revisions to CSP rules and requirements that would have seriously impeded charter school growth. With just 30 days to fight back, the National Alliance sprang into action, producing dozens of news stories bringing the injustice of the rules to light and rallying parents and other allies to submit more than 25,000 comments to the Department. A bipartisan group of governors, members of Congress, state school chiefs, and educators also weighed in.
Most inspirational was a public rally near the White House led by more than 1,000 parents protesting the CSP rules. As this video recap shows, the rally put the charter school movement’s energy and passion on full display as parents, grandparents, and other supporters banded together to fight for their schools and for every student’s right to a high-quality education. The rally even earned front-page coverage in the New York Times. We are happy to report that the final rules—while not perfect—were improved in significant ways.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of the CSP fight. The U.S. House Appropriations Committee once again proposed a $40 million cut to CSP funding for 2023. As in past years, we rallied our supporters in the House and champions in the Senate to stave off the funding cut and protect the CSP. While it is clear charter school opponents won’t stop in their efforts to limit opportunities for students, voters showed this year that they want more bipartisan compromise—and that includes ensuring access to high-quality public education for all students on both sides of the aisle.
Elevating Community Voices
The National Alliance is often called on to speak for the charter school community, but we also work to elevate grassroots voices in our movement, including students, parents, educators, and alumni. We were especially excited this year to announce the first cohort of students in our Rising Leaders Initiative, which offers immersive training in civics, education advocacy, leadership development, and public speaking to charter high school students who want to address education issues in their communities and advocate for increased access to high-quality public school options. So far this year, they have already engaged in national-level opportunities like speaking at the National Charter Schools Conference and providing perspectives on The Charter Blog.
We were also proud to amplify the voices of parents and teachers standing up for their schools through our #BestForMe campaign, which called attention to the need for unique learning environments where students and educators can be their best.
Some of the most inspirational advocates and community leaders in our movement were honored as 2022 Charter School Changemakers. These unsung heroes and heroines have touched the lives of people in their charter school community, brought innovation and creativity to tricky problems, and consistently amplified voices around them. We are thrilled to elevate their voices and the voices of current and future leaders throughout our movement.
Reconnecting In Person
One of the greatest joys of 2022 was getting together in person again. In June, our movement met in Washington, D.C., for the first in-person National Charter Schools Conference since 2019. More than 3,000 school leaders, teachers, board members, advocates, and supporters convened to share best practices, hone their skills, and celebrate our progress. We published a blog and a video recap of highlights from the conference. Hopefully, they inspire you to join us June 18-21 in Austin, Texas for the 2023 National Charter Schools Conference!
In October, we held the Dream Big for Kids Benefit in Miami, Florida, to celebrate more than 30 years of charter schooling. More than 200 supporters, school leaders, state leaders, and philanthropists joined us for an exciting program featuring the champions of today and rising leaders of tomorrow. We were particularly pleased to welcome Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, a lifelong educator and longtime charter champion, as a featured speaker. He was joined by one of our Rising Leaders, Isabella Paez. It was a fun and memorable night that helped us build momentum and energy for the work ahead. Be sure to check out our video recap of the event.
Renewed Support Among Elected Officials
The charter school movement gained ground in 2022 on a range of issues that included funding equity, support for facilities, and more effective authorizing practices. Equally as important, we fended off major threats to our autonomy and our ability to grow and serve more students. In all, nearly 50% of the states with charter school laws had at least one legislative win this year, and some states racked up multiple victories. Read our full summary of state legislative highlights.
One particularly huge win was in New Mexico where—with unanimous, bipartisan support—the state legislature and Governor approved new facilities funding that will help charter schools finance school buildings and keep more per-pupil spending in the classroom. Another was in Kentucky where, after years of hard work, the state legislature approved a funding mechanism that will finally allow charter schools to open five years after the state’s charter law was first passed. In both Kentucky and New Mexico, we benefited from strong networks of state and local advocates and our determination to keep pushing forward even when small setbacks made progress difficult.
In all our work, the charter school movement is honored by the support of Champions for Charter Schools—lawmakers from both parties who have listened to parents and students and responded to the increased demand for public charter schools across America. We’re looking forward to partnering with charter champions and all our allies to make even more progress in 2023!