Our vision at the National Alliance is that every family can choose a well-funded, high-performing public school that delivers an excellent education for their children. Our activities in 2023 are a great reflection of that vision.
As I look back on my last 11 years leading the National Alliance, I am proud to end my tenure on several high notes:
- Securing record legislative and regulatory victories across the country, including enacting a new law in Montana.
- Advocating at the federal level for increased funding for the Charter Schools Program and leading three bipartisan bills that would further empower charter school leaders and educators.
- Launching intentional public awareness campaigns to define what charter schools are and underscore the consistent demand for our schools as enrollment continues to grow.
- Putting the spotlight on teachers by elevating their voices and amplifying the diversity of our movement through storytelling.
- Convening the movement at our annual conference and uniting them behind our shared mission.
I am inspired by all we’ve accomplished in 2023 and I hope you’ll take a few minutes to review some of our highlights. While this is my final month at the helm of the National Alliance, I can’t wait to see what the future holds!
President and CEO
P.S. As you’ll see below, students and families depend on us. As you finalize your end-of-year giving plans please consider a donation to the National Alliance.
Defining What Charter Schools Are and Who They Serve
Study after study shows that nearly half of Americans don’t know exactly what charter schools are—but also that, once they have the facts about charter schools, they support them. This year we continued our journey to set the record straight.
The National Alliance led the charter school sector’s first nationally coordinated public awareness and advertising campaign. Using a single set of creative assets, anchored in a unified message about charter schools being free, public, and open to all, this campaign ran in 20 markets and engaged nearly 30 local and national partners. In all, we reached nearly 24 million people over the course of four weeks. We plan to continue collaborating with partners across the sector and building on this campaign as we look to a new year full of opportunities.
We breathed a collective sigh of relief when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging charter schools as public schools. Our strong position on this issue shaped national media coverage and public discussion. Also on the legal front, we continue to defend against a threat to the separation of church and charter schools in Oklahoma. We hope to put these matters behind us in 2024 and move forward with the critically important work of ensuring every child in this nation has access to a high-quality public education.
We also continued our demographic and state-level analysis of public school enrollment trends at district and charter schools over the past four school years. The data shows that charter school enrollment is continuing to grow while district school enrollment has been stagnant or declining in nearly every state, making charter schools the only part of public education experiencing consistent growth. We hope this report demonstrates the need for increased support for public school choice and will be leveraged by advocates throughout the next year. We published another report that focused on the current landscape of rural charter schools, noting their growth, challenges, opportunities, and overall impact.
Putting the Spotlight on Teachers
This year, the National Alliance took a special interest in teachers—the backbone of education. We started by commissioning a national survey of more than 1,200 public school teachers, conducted by The Harris Poll, to examine teachers’ experiences and opinions and learn more about their motivations for entering, staying in, or leaving the classroom, as well as the challenges they believe the American public education system is facing. The results revealed similarities among all teachers in public schools as well as interesting findings unique to charter school teachers. These findings will be foundational as we further tap into teacher influence and elevate their voices.
During National Charter Schools Week, which coincided with National Teacher Appreciation Week, we put the spotlight on seven exceptional charter school teachers with the 2023 Changemaker Awards. These seven individuals are unique in their communities, but together represent the type of educator who thrives in public charter schools: one who has the ability to personalize teaching and the freedom to meet the differing needs of the students in their classroom.
We invited the changemakers to join us for a special event on Capitol Hill, where they spoke about their commitment to the charter school community and what drives their passion for educating students and advocating for families. For a recap of the week’s biggest moments, revisit the celebration of National Charter Schools Week 2023.
Later in the year, as part the U.S. Department of Education’s national dissemination grant, we pulled together a panel of leaders to discuss best practices for supporting teachers of color in the classroom, elevating teacher voice in schools and politics, and cultivating a more diverse teacher pipeline—just another way to put the spotlight on teachers and their needs.
Bringing Coalitions Together
One of the core missions of the National Alliance is to assemble a politically and ideologically diverse coalition of advocates, educators, policymakers, families, and partner organizations, and in 2023 we continued our commitment to bringing our community together.
The annual National Charter Schools Conference—where the movement meets—took place in June in Austin, Texas, bringing together more than 4,200 charter school leaders, educators, and advocates. The four-day conference featured an empowering slate of keynote speakers, more than 80 breakout sessions, and nearly 300 exhibitors, as well as a special recognition of Juneteenth and its roots in Texas history. Watch our recap video for highlights from NCSC23. We look forward to reconvening for NCSC24 in Boston, June 30-July 3, 2024, where we will continue to offer the best learning experience for those shaping K-12 education!
We also organized our annual advocacy event for charter school leaders of color from across the country, this year in partnership with the Diverse Charter Schools Coalition, Freedom Coalition for Charter Schools, and National Charter Collaborative. The school leaders shared their stories with their federal Congressional delegations and made the case for charter schools. Leaders from Georgia, Hawaii, and New Mexico even shared their stories in this video on the Charter Schools Program and how it gives leaders of color in particular an opportunity to start their schools.
Securing Bipartisan Support
We’re grateful that Congress, despite ongoing turmoil, advanced a proposal to grow funding for the Charter Schools Program (CSP) for the first time in four years, introduced three bipartisan bills that would make a huge difference for charter school leaders and educators across the country, and recognized an impactful week.
The Equitable Access to School Facilities Act, introduced by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Michael Bennet (D-CO), would ensure access to public property and provide federal grants to states for charter school facilities. The Empower Charter School Educators to Lead Act would allocate CSP grant funding for pre-planning grants to school leaders and educators looking to start high-quality public charter schools and close equity gaps. The effort is being led by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tim Scott (R-SC), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mike Braun (R-IN), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Brian Schatz (D-HI). A companion bill was also introduced in the U.S. House by Reps. Julia Letlow (R-LA), Jill Tokuda (D-HI), John James (R-MI), and Juan Ciscomani (R-AZ).
While these bills haven’t passed yet, we are encouraged to see this level of bipartisan support and we will work with lawmakers to reintroduce them next session.
In May, dozens of Senators signed the 2023 Senate Resolution to celebrate National Charter Schools Week, a meaningful action to acknowledge charter schools’ contributions to public education. The resolution was led by Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Michael Bennett (D-CO). We also presented several lawmakers with our 2023 Champions for Charters award, honoring a bipartisan cohort of eight congressional lawmakers and 19 state and local elected officials for their exceptional support of public charter schools.
Strengthening the Sector in the States
In 2023, charter school advocates continued to make legislative gains in statehouses across the country. These gains were made in red, blue, and purple states, demonstrating enduring bipartisan support for charter schools.
One of the biggest wins this year was a new charter school law in Montana. Charter school advocates also notched an unusually large number of major wins on funding and facilities legislation, such as in Idaho, with especially significant progress in Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Wyoming. Charter school supporters opened the door to new types of authorizers in several states and successfully played defense against anti-charter school efforts in several states.
We also provided storytelling and campaign support to on-the-ground partners in dozens of states, such as Colorado and Wyoming, to give them tools to share the message of charter schools and sway public support.
Amplifying Diverse Voices
The National Alliance continued to tell the story of the charter school movement—one of diversity, academic success, and educators who want the best for students.
We celebrated more than 30 years of chartering through a compilation of essays from diverse and prominent voices in the sector. The authors reflected on key milestones and achievements from the movement’s history and the vital role charter schools will play in the future.
We also congratulated the inaugural class of the Rising Leaders Initiative while simultaneously welcoming the second class of students to this one-year advocacy training program for charter high school students. The new class of ten students—hailing from Maine to Arizona—are passionate about ensuring their peers have access to a free, high-quality public education.
Also in 2023, we launched our new podcast, Get Schooled on Public Education. The podcast is hosted by Brittnee Baker, the National Alliance’s communications manager and a former charter school teacher. Episodes so far have provided deep dives and diverse perspectives on support for students with special needs, why parents choose charter schools, and public school enrollment trends, among other topics, and even an episode in Spanish for Hispanic Heritage Month. Tune in for more in 2024!
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