National Alliance Monthly News – April 2019

National Alliance Monthly News – April 2019

Detroit has had well-publicized ups and down. Prior to its recent renaissance, the city endured mismanagement and economic turmoil. Schools suffered. Charter schools were no exception. The charter school sector in Detroit and across Michigan has faced quality issues. But Michigan is beginning to show that good public policy can make a difference. The charter school community worked with policymakers to pass a series of reforms that have strengthened charter school and authorizer accountability.

I recently visited Michigan and was particularly struck by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Education Center Academy in Detroit and the West Michigan Aviation Academy in Grand Rapids.

MLK Academy is a former private school that converted to a charter school in the 1990s. The school’s leader, Dr. Constance Price, is a no-nonsense educator with an entrepreneurial spirit, a can-do attitude, and a big heart. Like many leaders, she’s adapted to meet the needs of her students, scraping together space over time—buying adjacent land, adding a gym, an art room, and more. The school has been recognized for its ability to help students from low-income families beat the odds and outperform peers.

When I asked Dr. Price what keeps her up at night, she immediately brought up a set of twins whose dad was murdered while they were at home. Dr. Price now sends someone to the twins’ home to help with transportation to and from the school. 

In Grand Rapids, West Michigan Aviation Academy offers a rigorous science-focused curriculum to students who want to pursue careers in aviation and related areas. The school is located right at the airport! While it’s not part of a network, WMAA has benefited from philanthropy. When I asked school leader Larry Fisher about his biggest challenges, he mentioned the rising trend of teen vaping.

These are two schools serving very different communities, but united around the belief that all kids can learn and that schools should meet the unique needs of each child. My visits reminded me that we can’t wait until all conditions are perfect to bring the promise of charter schools to a community. It’s important to use the flexibility in the charter model to adapt to different policy environments and fill the needs we see around us, while constantly working to improve public policies around access, funding, and accountability. For anyone in a position to help expand access to charter schools, I encourage you to look at Michigan.


Nina Rees
President and CEO
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

PS – I recently participated in a panel on the challenges of developing the modern schoolhouse, hosted by the Reagan Institute Summit on Education. I emphasized how charter school flexibility and innovation are raising student achievement in K-12 and making college a reality for many students from under-represented backgrounds. You can watch the panel here and read a recap here.

National Charter Schools Week

Join the National Alliance to celebrate the public charter school movement, May 12-18! National Charter Schools Week is a chance for students, teachers, leaders, parents, supporters, and advocates to come together to show how charter schools are committed to providing high-quality public education to students nationwide. Sign up to receive updates on the week’s festivities! This year we’re excited to elevate the voices and faces of our movement. We’ll be highlighting our school leaders, teachers, and students through Storyvine, a guided video platform that guides user step-by-step to create authentic, branded, and edited videos. Free access to the app is available—please contact Kelsey Nelson if you would like to participate. And be sure to read Shaelyn Macedonio’s blog post with three tips on how to tell your charter school’s story.

National Alliance Annual Report

Our 2018 annual report is now available. We accomplished a great deal for the movement last year, including securing a record $440 million in funding for the federal Charter Schools Program, helping Mississippi and Alabama launch new high-quality charter schools, and contributing to precedent-setting legal wins in Washington state and Louisiana. Read all about it by clicking here.

Op-ed by Mary Landrieu

Former U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, a National Alliance board member, published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. In “Democrats, Support Charter Schools,” Sen. Landrieu writes that charter schools are “a powerful tool to fix the generations-long challenge of unequal educational opportunity.” She calls on her fellow Democrats to “unite around protecting and improving public education everywhere—traditional district schools, magnet schools and charter schools.” Click here to read the op-ed.

Leverage Research and Partnerships to Succeed with Every Student

As part of an effort to share valuable information with the charter school community, we’re pleased to offer the opportunity for our sponsors to present webinars on key topics of interest. Coming up on Tuesday, May 7 at 1 p.m. eastern, Catapult Learning and Legacy Traditional Schools will present a set of actionable strategies for accessing and leveraging research and partnerships to provide high-quality special education and behavior modification to students most in need. Catapult Learning helps schools achieve sustained academic gains and build teacher and leadership capacity through evidence-based programs that include special education, interventions for struggling students, programming for Title I students, alternative education, school needs assessment, professional development, family support services, and autism-focused programs. Legacy Traditional Schools are public charter schools attended by more than 18,000 students in Arizona and Nevada and are schools where ALL children can learn and thrive. To register for the webinar, click here.

Charter School Facilities Webinar

Join LISC (Local Initiative Support Corporation) on Tuesday, May 7 at 2 p.m. eastern, for the next SchoolBuild webinar on the Project Cost Calculator, a tool to help you plan for your own facility project. School leaders, board members, and facility managers will have the opportunity to learn about key factors in planning financially for an expansion or a permanent facility. The webinar will also run through sample cost estimation and affordability, and introduce participants to LISC’s Project Cost Calculator. Register here.

Washington Update

The formal appropriations request process wrapped up on Monday, April 15. We were pleased to have strong bipartisan support in the House and Senate for “Dear Colleague” letters, in which members requested that their colleagues support funding increases for the Charter Schools Program. A bill markup in the House Labor HHS Appropriations subcommittee is taking place today and should provide the first—but far from final—concrete signals on likely CSP funding levels for FY2020. 

Speaking of the CSP, the U.S. Department of Education announced the recipients of about $100.2 million in grants for the CSP’s Replication and Expansion of High-Quality Charter Schools program. This year’s recipients were: Alpha Public Schools, AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation, Aspire Public Schools, ASU Preparatory Academy, Building the Future Education Collaborative, Building Responsible Intelligent Creative Kids (BRICK), Collegiate Academies, Crescent City Schools, Ednovate Inc., IDEA Public Schools, Inspire NOLA Charter Schools, KIPP Foundation in Consortium with KIPP Regions, Responsive Education Solutions, Scholarship Prep, and Success Academy Charter Schools. Congrats to all these proven performers!

The Department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education anticipates issuing Notices Inviting Applications for a number of grant competitions. The Credit Enhancement for Charter School Facilities Program supports entities that use innovative methods to help charter schools address the cost of acquiring, constructing, and renovating facilities by enhancing the availability of loans and bond financing. State Charter School Facilities Incentive Grants are intended to help states establish and enhance or administer per-student facilities aid for charter schools. We’ll keep you posted about these important facilities grant opportunities.

Lastly, the Department issued a notice of proposed priorities, requirements, definitions, and selection criteria for grants to charter school developers for the opening of new charter schools and the replication and expansion of high-quality charter schools under the Expanding Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Program (CSP). Some of these proposed priorities may be used in future competitions. Comments are due by May 6, 2019. Please contact Christy Wolfe with any comments or questions.

State Update

Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill supported by Gov. Bill Lee that will establish a nine-member independent Tennessee Public Charter School Commission with authorizing authority. The law allows charter applicants from any district in the state to appeal to the Commission a decision by a local school district denying an application to establish a public charter school within its jurisdiction. It also authorizes the Commission to serve as a local education agency for any public charter school it authorizes. The Commission will begin hearing appeals in the 2020-21 school year.

During the state’s most recent legislative session, Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed into law three bills that will directly support the state’s growing charter school movement. Most recently, he signed Senate Bill 1180 into law, which creates a credit enhancement program for charter schools that will help lower interest rates on bonds for charter school facilities. This bill goes into effect on July 1. For more information, check out the Idaho Charter School Network’s blog post.

In Utah, the legislature appropriated $4 million to make up for lag times in calculating funding for charter schools. The Local Replacement Formula relies on two-year-old data to determine charter school funding, which results in charter schools receiving less funding than they should be entitled to. In addition to alleviating current funding inequities, the legislature also directed agencies to use more recent data going forward.

The cap on charter schools in New York City will prevent further schools from opening, despite wait lists of more than 50,000 students. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo came out in favor of lifting the cap. It’s unclear whether the legislature will respond, though advocates in New York are making a strong push. This article sums up which policymakers favor lifting the cap and which are committed to preventing families from accessing charter schools.

In California, multiple bills pending before the legislature would severely curtail the growth of charter schools. Parents, students, and school leaders went to the capitol to make their voices heard and explain to lawmakers the real-life impact of the legislation.

Florida’s House of Representatives passed a bill that would require local school districts to share voter-approved tax increases with charter schools and another bill that would allow colleges and universities to authorize charter schools. The legislation still needs to be considered in the state Senate.

Legal Update

National Alliance Senior Director of Legal Affairs Rob Reed gives an overview of the three legal cases charter schools should watch in 2019, which the National Alliance’s Charter Schools Legal Action Fund will continue to monitor. Hint: Mississippi, Florida, D.C.

Our Alliance of Public Charter School Attorneys (APCSA) convened in San Diego last week. More than 100 attorneys from around the country came together to discuss the latest trends in school law and learn how to support schools in creating safe, equitable, and effective educational environments for their students. You can find more information about how to join APCSA here.

From The Charter Blog

Robert Spencer, vice president of schools at Camino Nuevo Charter Academy and an attendee of the School Leaders of Color meeting in Washington, D.C., talks with Kelsey Nelson about his educational journey and the importance of diversity and minority educators in classrooms.

Dr. JaQuinda Jackson, a therapist who also attended the School Leaders of Color meeting in D.C., writes about the need for trauma-informed schools that serve students, leaders, and educators.

When former Minnesota state senator Ember Reichgott Junge authored the first-in-the-nation charter school law in 1991, she didn’t realize the powerful forces she had unlocked. Parents and teachers were finally given the freedom to innovate and provide more opportunity for kids. She shares her mission to ensure the history of the charter school movement is remembered. 

From Our Partners

CRPE is partnering with SRI International and the U.S. Department of Education to produce a series of profiles illustrating how charter schools, networks, and authorizers are rising to the challenge of serving students well by using innovative practices. Nominate a charter school, network, or authorizer that is solving some of the most complex and challenging problems facing charter schools today.

Research Roundup

Author Richard Whitmire recently published The B.A. Breakthrough: How Ending Diploma Disparities Can Change the Face of America. His research has shown that low-income students at large charter school networks are graduating college at two to four times the national peer-group average. Click here to read more about his findings and several profiles of schools and educators.

The growth of charter schools over the last two decades has shaken the status quo of public education. Charter Storm: Waves of Change Sweeping Over Public Education by Mary Searcy Bixby and Tom R. Davis delves further into this phenomenon and what we can learn about district-charter collaboration.

Get Ready for NCSC 2019!

Vegas is so close! If you haven’t done so yet, click here to register for the 2019 National Charter Schools Conference in Las Vegas. We’ll be gathering from June 30-July 3. In addition to tremendous keynote speakers including Sal Khan, Hadi Partovi, and Clifton Taulbert, there will be plenty of fun in store. Here’s our list of the top five things to add to your NCSC19 schedule.

Great Talent Needed!

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

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