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National Alliance Monthly News – October 2019

National Alliance Monthly News – October 2019

November 4, 2019

When Sen. Elizabeth Warren released her presidential campaign education plan, it was a call to action. The senator, a previous supporter of charter schools, now threatens to end the federal Charter Schools Program, which is critical to helping new charter schools open their doors and reduce waitlists across the country. She also repeats several of the discredited arguments we’ve heard from charter school opponents over the years.

The National Alliance released a statement outlining how this plan would hurt students and families that need the most support. I penned an op-ed pushing back on Sen. Warren’s plan. Many other friends and allies pointed out how Sen. Warren’s attack on charter schools is simply inconsistent with the values she and other progressive Democrats espouse. And the headline on the Washington Post’s editorial put it bluntly: “Children are the losers in Elizabeth Warren’s plan for charter schools.”

The fact that Sen. Warren has shifted her stance on charter schools gives me hope that she’ll shift it back in the future. Hopefully she’ll realize that her anti-charter proposal is at odds with Democratic primary voters, specifically black and Hispanic Democrats who are the strongest supporters of charter schools. 

In the meantime, it’s important for all of us to raise our voices on behalf of the schools we love and support. Speak out on social media and tag us in posts so we can help amplify your message. Get out and vote tomorrow and in the 2020 primaries. And sign our petition and tell the 2020 candidates that #ChartersWork. As political challenges mount, we can’t sit back and hope for the best. It’s time to stand up and be counted!


Nina Rees
President and CEO
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

Election Day is Tuesday, November 5th

All attention is on the Democratic presidential primaries, but several important races around the country will be decided on Tuesday. Among key races, voters in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi will choose governors and other executive officers and state legislators. New Jersey and Virginia voters will decide state legislative races. In a local election with implications for charter schools and school reform, three open seats on the Denver School Board will determine whether a city that models the portfolio approach to school governance ends up with a new board majority less friendly to charters and parental choice. We’ll provide updates on these races next month—and wherever you live, please vote!  

Democratic Primary Voters Support Charter Schools

Recent national education polling results found that voters—especially voters of color—want new investments, new ideas, and real changes in our schools. Notably, 61 percent of Democratic primary voters say they agree with President Obama’s K-12 education policies, which included increased support for charter schools—more than any president before him. U.S. News and World Report has more on the findings.

Sorting through the NAEP Results

The U.S. Department of Education released the latest results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress—NAEP, commonly referred to as the Nation’s Report Card—and the related Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA), which bores in on performance in certain cities. Overall, the results were not encouraging. As a nation, we are not progressing in the last decade like we did in the one prior. Worse, society is failing our most vulnerable students and the gap they face today is widening. While NAEP and TUDA are not strong barometers for making school comparisons because of the relatively small sample sizes of charter schools included, one lesson is clear: This is not a time to be limiting access to high-quality public school options for students, as some political leaders have suggested. We need to keep encouraging creative and passionate educators to bring their new ideas to public education, open new schools, and give more students the opportunity to attend a public school that sparks a love of learning and prepares them for lifelong success. Read the National Alliance’s full statement.

Washington Update

The federal government is now in fiscal year 2020 and the appropriations process in Congress has come to a standstill. As you may recall, the House passed an appropriations bill to reduce Charter Schools Program (CSP) funding to $400 million in FY20 from $440 million in FY19. The Senate appropriations committee released a proposed bill to increase CSP funding to $460 million, but the Senate hasn’t voted on that bill. Both houses have passed a continuing resolution to extend FY19 funding for all federal programs, including CSP, through November 21. Due to the challenging political climate, we may see continuing resolutions for quite some time. 

The U.S. Department of Education announced the recipients of $67 million in annual Charter Schools Program (CSP) grants:

Credit Enhancement: California School Finance Authority, Charter Schools Development Corporation, Civic Builders, Inc., Hope Enterprise Corporation, and Massachusetts Development Finance Agency were jointly awarded more than $47 million over 30 years to help charter schools meet the cost of financing facilities.
State Facilities Incentive Grants: The Indiana Department of Education was awarded $20 million over four years to establish and enhance per-pupil facilities aid for charter schools.
These grants are in addition to CSP State Entity grants announced earlier this year to the Alabama Coalition for Public Charter Schools, the New Hampshire Department of Education, and the Washington State Charter Schools Association, which together received more than $90 million in new grants over five years. A formal announcement on Developer grants is still pending. Looking forward, several CSP competitions are expected to open in the coming months. Grants for the Replication and Expansion of High-Quality Charter Schools (CMO grants) are expected to open in the next few months and Grants to State Entities as early as January 2020.

The National Alliance filed a comment with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to oppose proposed changes to the way families qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). These changes could jeopardize access to free and reduced-price school meals for nearly 1 million children. Given the deep connection between nutrition, health, and learning, we are urging the USDA to reject the proposed changes.

The U.S. Department of Education released final non-regulatory guidance on how local education leaders can make sure families have accurate and accessible information on school performance. Opportunities and Responsibilities for State and Local Report Cards replaces previous guidance issued in January 2017.

State Update

In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed a per pupil funding increase for charter school students while enacting it for district school students. The veto was among dozens the governor issued as part of a strategy to win concessions on other budget priorities. The National Alliance released a statement insisting, “We cannot let Gov. Whitmer deem charter school students less valuable than other public-school students.” The theme was echoed in a blog post by Todd Ziebarth. Nina Rees and Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, co-wrote an opinion piece questioning why students who attend charter schools—including some of the most vulnerable students in the state—are being used as pawns in a political battle.

Charter schools have been a lifeline for many families of color in North Carolina and elsewhere who finally have access to a public school that educates their children well. Nina Rees and Rhonda Dillingham, executive director of the North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools, teamed up for an op-ed to clear up the confusion around what charter schools are and what they aren’t.

A court in New Jersey has granted a motion allowing a group of New Jersey public charter school parents, schools, and the state charter school association to intervene in Latino Action Network v. State of New Jersey, a lawsuit filed in May 2018 that erroneously blames charter schools for school segregation in the state. The Charter School Legal Action Fund is supporting the case.

Charter School Facilities Update

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Charter School Facility Center managing director Mark Medema explains why impact investors should be looking at financing charter school facilities: “Strong performance makes charter schools an ideal opportunity for impact investing…. The discrepancy between charter schools’ high cost of capital and their demonstrated stability and low default rate is exactly the sort of gap impact investors should naturally seek to fill.”

Idaho’s Bluum Organization held a conference in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help potential charter school operators learn more about the opportunities to expand educational options for Idaho’s rural students. The conference held talks on school finance and pointed out additional funding opportunities. The Charter School Facility Center, the BuildingHope Foundation, and Momentum Strategy & Research also sponsored the conference.

The U.S. Department of Education is making advice available to help charter school networks open new schools in Opportunity Zones.

Research Roundup

The National Alliance research team analyzed a new report from the U.S. Department of Education examining school choice in the United States. The report tracks growth in the charter school sector and parent satisfaction in school choice, and compares academic performance between public school students.

The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics creates unique identification numbers (NCES IDs) for every school in order to provide the most up-to-date and comprehensive account of schools in the nation. The National Alliance reviewed charter school data from the past 15 years and recorded more than 500 instances of NCES IDs changing. A new report analyzes the reasons for the changes.

The Center on Reinventing Public Education and the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools released Seizing the Opportunity: Educating Students with Disabilities in Charter Schools, a report studying charter schools with successful records for educating students with disabilities and identifying the core principles that drove their success. Notably, the authors identify “blurred lines” between special and general education students—defined as shared experiences rather than simple proximity—as one of the practices the most successful schools had in common.

A new working paper shows large learning gains for special education students and English language learners in Boston charter schools, with effects persisting into college: “Enrolling in a Boston charter school doubles the likelihood that students lose their special education or English Language Learner status, but exposes students to a high-performing general education program that includes high intensity tutoring, data driven instruction, and increased instructional time.”

From The Charter Blog

The National Alliance organized a charter school visit for tribal leaders and policymakers in D.C. for the National Congress of American Indians’ Tribal Unity Impact Days. The group visited DC Bilingual Public Charter School, a top-rated cultural and language immersion school in northeast D.C. Fiona Sheridan-McIver, manager of policy and government relations at the National Alliance, provides a recap of the visit and the three themes that stood out.

Brenda Corley, principal of Oceanside Collegiate Academy in South Carolina, finds that her goal as a leader of a charter school is to build community, then protect and defend that community. Her experience as an immigrant has shaped who she is today and informed her practice as a leader.

Last year, Minnesota celebrated its highest graduation rate on record with more than 83 percent of high school seniors graduating. But the rate doesn’t tell the whole story. Caleea Kidder, dean of college programming at Hiawatha Academies in Minnesota, discusses her school’s efforts around making sure students are ready to get to and through college by connecting them with their passions.

Jenna Allen, a 2nd grade teacher at Liberty Common Elementary School in Colorado, loves her work and the rich tapestry of her school. She shares the four reasons—character, curriculum, colleagues, and community—that make her job so special.

National Alliance Team News

We’re thrilled to welcome George Parker to the National Alliance as our Senior Advisor for School Support. In this role, George will be leading our work on school support issues. He brings a wealth of experience to the position, having been the president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, a senior fellow at StudentsFirst, and a middle school and high school math teacher for three decades in Washington, D.C. George’s extensive experience is matched by his deep commitment to ensuring that all students have access to high-quality public school options. We are thrilled to have him as part of our team!

Great Talent Needed!

The National Alliance is on the hunt for a new Vice President of Communications. This is a highly strategic role, responsible for both the development and implementation of the National Alliance’s communications and public relations strategy during a critical time for the charter school movement. Please see the job description for more details. We are also looking for a Coordinator of Communications and Marketing. The person in this role will collaborate with all departments to manage the execution of major public relations campaigns and publication releases. Please pass the word and tip us off to any great candidates you know.

Also, don’t forget to visit our Charter School Job Board, which includes job openings for a variety of positions across the country. It’s a great resource for organizations looking to hire and for individuals looking to make a difference in the lives of students.

Support the National Alliance

The National Alliance is a non-profit organization that relies on generous partners like you. Please consider supporting the growth and sustainability of charter schools by making a tax-deductible gift or adding your name to our advocacy list. Thank you! 

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