Public Charter School Leaders of Color Advocate for Kids to Members of Congress

lead image

52 charter school leaders of color visited the nation’s capital to advocate for public education, families, and students in their states 

In 85 meetings with congressional lawmakers and staff today, 52 public charter school leaders of color delivered a message of equity, innovation, and hope in public education. Hosted by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the National Charter Collaborative, Diverse Charter Schools Coalition, and the Freedom Coalition for Charter Schools, leaders from 21 states and the District of Columbia took this message to the Capitol and advocated for these unique public schools and their families and students. The leaders also educated lawmakers and their staff about equitable funding for the Charter Schools Program, the only source of dedicated federal funding to support the growth of public charter schools.

“The debate on public education has never been louder and the time is now for Congress to truly listen to the nation’s public charter school leaders of color. These leaders, who are teachers, principals, advocates, and community members, know firsthand how the charter school model successfully provides a high-quality education to the children and families in their communities, and especially to students of color,” said Ron Rice, Senior Director of Government Relations for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “These 52 leaders are advocating for solutions, resources, and innovations that will address the significant inequities and gaps in public education that children and families from historically disadvantaged communities experience every day. Support from our elected leaders is imperative to this mission.”

Charter schools historically serve proportionately more students of color and more students from low-income communities than district schools. According to the most recently available data (2020-21 school year), 69% of charter school students are students of color compared to 53% of district school students, and 60% of charter school students participate in the federal free and reduced-price lunch program, compared to 53% of district school students. Charter schools also employ more teachers of color and are more likely to be led by a leader of color. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 31.5% of charter school teachers and 33.4% of charter school leaders are people of color compared to 19.3% and 21.8%, respectively, in district public schools.

“We are working to broaden the scope of the high-quality public educational opportunities we are providing for students, particularly for those students and families that look like us,” said Jade Rivera, Founder and Executive Director of Albuquerque Collegiate Charter School in New Mexico. “We are here in the nation’s capital with the National Alliance because we believe investing in the Charter Schools Program is investing in a down payment for the future of our communities. Congress needs to understand that our charter school students are that future.”

The Charter Schools Program (CSP) is critically important to the growth of the charter school sector. Charter schools are often located in urban areas and overwhelmingly serve students who are Black, Hispanic, or from low-income families. More than one million students have access to high-quality public schools that would not have existed without the CSP. At its current funding level of $440 million, the CSP amounts to less than one percent of federal spending on K-12 education. Equitable funding is necessary to provide the same quality of public education – regarding facilities, teacher pay, curriculum, technology, meals, etc. – to all students, and to provide more students with the opportunity to attend a public charter school. 

Parent demand and support for charter schools remain high. According to a 2022 survey of 5,000 parents by The Harris Poll, 74% of parents would consider sending their child to a public charter school if one were available in their area, 77% of parents want more public charter school offerings in their area, and 81% of parents support expanding the number of slots in existing public charter schools in their area.

What’s more telling, 84% of parents agree that, although they may not choose a charter school for their child, charter schools should be available to families who would choose them.

When looking at what parents of color what for their children, 70% of Black parents and 63% of Hispanic parents strongly agree that parents should be able to have a choice in where their children go to school. 53% of Black parents and 40% of Hispanic parents strongly agree that they want options for their children other than the district school they are zoned for or assigned.

Overall satisfaction with the quality of children’s education at charter schools is higher than in public district schools (46% charter schools vs. 35% district schools).

Three-year data compiled by the National Alliance shows that since the start of the pandemic, enrollment gains in charter schools held steady while enrollment losses in district public schools also remained constant. During the first full year of the pandemic, there was a large increase in charter enrollment (7%, or 240,000 students) and a large decrease in public district enrollment (3.5%, or nearly 1.5 million students).

The following 52 leaders from around the country participated in meetings with their congressional representatives today:

  • CA: Erin Whalen, Executive Director, Da Vinci RISE High School
  • CA: Jessica Cuellar, Vice President of Student and Family Supports, Camino Nuevo Charter Academy
  • CA: Monique Daviss, Executive Director, El Sol Science and Arts Academy
  • CA: Raul Alarcon, Chief Academic Officer and Founding Principal, City Charter Schools and City Language Immersion Charter
  • CA: Ricardo Mireles, Executive Director, Academia Avance
  • CA: Ruben Duenas, Chief Operations Officer, YPI Charter Schools
  • CT: John Taylor, Chief Executive Officer, Elevate Charter Schools
  • DC: Naomi Shelton, CEO, National Charter Collaborative
  • DC: Rictor Craig, Co-Founder/Founding Director of Instruction, Statesmen College Preparatory Academy for Boys
  • GA: Christopher Brian King, Executive Director, Liberation Academy
  • GA: Ebony Payne Brown, Executive Director, PEACE Academy Charter
  • GA: Rashaun Kemp, Senior Director, National Charter Collaborative
  • HI: Amber Leon Guerrero, Chief Student Success Officer, DreamHouse ‘Ewa Beach
  • ID: Mariela Rosales-Kamman, Assistant Principal, Gem Prep: Twin Falls
  • IL: Ebonie Durham, Executive Director, Great Lakes Academy
  • LA: Adierah Berger, CEO and Head of School, International High School of New Orleans
  • LA: Antigua Wilbern, CEO, Bricolage Academy
  • MD: Atasha James, Co-Founder& CEO, Legends Charter School
  • MD: Kristina Kyles-Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Lillie May Carroll Jackson Charter School
  • MD: Rickkay King, Co-Founder/Director, Phoenix International School of the Arts 
  • MI: Juan Martinez, HS Leader & Director, Cesar Chavez Academy High School
  • MN: Mary Kathleen Aviña, Executive Director, El Colegio High School
  • MN: Norma C Garces, Executive Director, Academia Cesar Chavez
  • MO: Khalil Graham, CEO, Kairos Academies
  • MO: Nicole Goodman, Superintendent, Scuola Vita Nuova
  • MO: Tysie McDowell, Co-founder and Superintendent, Crossroads Charter Schools
  • MS: DeArchie Scott, Founder & Executive Director, Ambition Prep
  • NC: Dr. Michelle Johnson, Superintendent of Schools, The Point: College Prep and Leadership Academy
  • NJ: Danielle West-Augustin, CEO, Queen City Academy Charter
  • NJ: Elizabeth Phillips Lorenzo, Director, Advocacy & Engagement, Achieve Community Charter School
  • NM: Isaac Rivas-Savell, Founder and CEO, Voz Collegiate Preparatory Charter School
  • NM: Jade Rivera, Founder/Executive Director, Albuquerque Collegiate Charter School
  • NM: Jaqlyn Baldwin, Executive Director, Siembra Leadership High School
  • NY: Charles Ortiz, Founder/Executive Director, WHIN Music Community Charter School
  • NY: Christina Perry, AVP, Communications and Special Projects, Founder, Black Latinx Asian Charter Collaborative and Kwenda Girls Charter School
  • NY: Danique Day, Chief of Schools, Ascend Learning
  • NY: Karlene Cowan, VP, Membership and Program, Black, Latinx, Asian Charter Collaborative
  • NY: Melissa Melkonian, Executive Director, American Dream Charter School
  • NY: Michelle Haynes, Principal, Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem
  • NY: Miriam Raccah, CEO, Black, Latinx, Asian Charter Collaborative 
  • NY: Rafiq Kalam Id-Din (Founder and Managing Partner) Ember Charter School for Mindful Education, Innovation, and Transformation
  • NY: Rev. Al Cockfield, Executive Director, Lamad Academy Charter School
  • NY: Richard Lee, CAO, Our World Neighborhood Charter Schools
  • NY: Sonia Park, Executive Director, Diverse Charter Schools Coalition
  • NY: Sylvia Fairclough-Leslie, Principal, Rochdale Early Advantage Charter School
  • OH: Randy Smoot, Director, Oakmont Education and Cliff Park High
  • PA: Kwanza Waters, Principal, Tacony Academy
  • PA: Naimah Wimberly, CEO, Tacony Academy
  • TN: Elaine Swafford, CEO, Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy and Montessori Elementary at Highland Park
  • TN: Lagra Newman, Founder & Head of School, Purpose Preparatory Academy
  • TX: Jay Artis-Wright, Executive Director, Freedom Coalition for Charter Schools
  • TX: Narciso Garcia, Superintendent/CEO, Vanguard Academy

The 2023 Day of Advocacy is dedicated to the memory of Connecticut State Representative Quentin Williams, a dedicated charter school leader and advocate who was taken tragically from us in January 2023.