National Alliance Monthly News – September 2019

National Alliance Monthly News – September 2019

The National Alliance advocates every day for policies that allow charter schools to grow and flourish. The success of our work depends on our supporters getting out to vote. Last week, the National Alliance announced a new partnership that empowers everyone to check their registration status and register to vote. As I wrote in a piece for Education Post, voting is always special to me because I immigrated to America from a country where people can’t freely choose their leaders. My good friend Keri Rodrigues, who now leads the National Parents Union, also penned a blog post about how important it is for parents to vote so they can shape their children’s future.

Whatever you may think of our current politics, the fact is that politicians rely on our votes to remain in office. 2019 may not be a high-profile national election year, but local races for state legislator, mayor, city council, and school board have major consequences for schools and students. We need to support the people who stand with us to defend charter schools, and we need to mobilize to let anti-charter politicians know that they can’t win by attacking our schools, our students, and our teachers. Register today and make sure your vote is counted on November 5. Also, don’t forget to sign our petition and tell the 2020 candidates that #ChartersWork. More than 6,000 people have already signed!


Nina Rees
President and CEO
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

Honoring Leaders in the Movement

The National Alliance recently co-hosted the Charter School Leadership Awards and Reception during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual legislative conference. This second annual event brought together more than 200 guests, awardees, and co-sponsors to celebrate eight black leaders from the world of education and politics—Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO); Rep. Don Payne, Jr. (D-NJ); Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (D-TX); Lagra Newman, founder and Head of School, Purpose Prep Academy; Tysie McDowell-Ray, co-founder and Chief Academic Officer, Crossroads Charter Schools; Dominique Lee, founder and Chief Executive Officer, BRICK Education Network; and Michael Carter, co-founder, Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. We were especially thrilled to present the inaugural Trailblazer Award to former NBA star and charter school founder Jalen Rose. The award garnered coverage from ESPN’s The Undefeated. You’ll find more photos from the event on Twitter.

Also at the CBCF’s legislative conference, Roland Martin hosted a panel, “Why School Choice is the Black Choice.” The panel featured Margaret Fortune, CEO of Fortune School of Education; Dr. Steve Perry, founder & head of Capital Preparatory Schools; and Shawn Hardnett, founder and executive director of Statesmen College Preparatory Academy. The panelists made a strong case for why political leaders should support school choices for all families. An article in the Sacramento Observer has some good quotes.

New Report on School Leaders of Color

In partnership with Public Impact, the National Alliance released the first in a series of three reports profiling charter school leaders of color to show some of the ways their experiences and perspectives shape how they lead schools with excellence. The first report, “Identity and Charter School Leadership: Profiles of Leaders of Color Building an Effective Staff,” highlights the experiences of school leaders in California, Louisiana, and North Carolina and the calculated steps they take to ensure the staff in their schools are positioned to support outstanding outcomes for students. The remaining two reports in the series will spotlight how some charter school leaders of color use their backgrounds to cultivate family and community engagement and to create a strong school culture.

Charter Schools Recognized as 2019 National Blue Ribbon Schools

Congratulations to the 23 public charter schools recognized as 2019 National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education for demonstrating overall academic excellence or making progress in closing achievement gaps. The charter schools selected hail from Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, D.C., Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Texas. Read our full statement congratulating and listing the winners. The National Blue Ribbon Schools website also includes features on the stand-out practices of past honorees, including many charter schools.

Diving Deep on EducationNext Poll Results

Nina Rees appeared on a panel hosted by EdNext to discuss the results of the 2019 EdNext Poll, and their impact on the 2020 election. As the National Alliance noted in our statement on the poll, support for charter schools jumped to 48 percent this year—up four percentage points from last year and nine percentage points from a low in 2017. We still see partisan splits, with 61 percent of Republicans supporting charter schools versus 40 percent of Democrats. But the EdNext polling echoes other recent surveys in finding that 55 percent of African-American Democrats and 47 percent of Hispanic Democrats favor charter schools, outstripping support from white Democrats.

The TODAY Show Visits Uncommon Schools

Watch what happens when the anchors of NBC’s TODAY Show take over teaching duties at Uncommon Schools North Star Academy!

Washington Update

In September, the Senate Appropriations Committee released the text of the FY 2020 Labor HHS appropriations bill, which funds a range of programs vital to American children and families, including the Charter Schools Program (CSP). The bill would provide $460 million for the CSP—a $20 million increase over this year’s funding and $60 million more than the funding level approved by the House. In our statement, we expressed appreciation to Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee responsible for education funding, whose strong advocacy for charter school students and families was pivotal to including this funding level in the bill. Unfortunately, the full Senate is unlikely to act on this appropriations bill in the near future—and even after the Senate acts, the Senate bill will have to be reconciled with the House bill through negotiations. In the meantime, both houses have passed a Continuing Resolution to extend current funding for all federal programs in the new fiscal year, which started on October 1. We will continue to keep you apprised of developments.

The Department of Education announced new grant awards to 41 school districts, nonprofit organizations, and state educational agencies across the United States as part of the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program. These grants provide funding to create, implement, or take to scale an evidence-based innovation to improve academic achievement for high-need students, and for a rigorous evaluation so that others may learn from its results. Among the winners: IDEA Public Schools;, whose founder, Hadi Partovi, was a keynote speaker at this year’s National Charter Schools Conference; and the National Math and Science Initiative, whose CEO, Dr. Bernard Harris, was a keynote speaker at the 2018 conference.

In June, the U.S. Department of Education made important clarifications for charter schools in its final guidance on what is known as the “Supplement, not Supplant” requirement. National Alliance Vice President of Policy and Planning Christy Wolfe outlines the requirement and how it affects charter schools.

As a part of National Preparedness Month, the U.S. Department of Education released a new planning guide to help districts support schools developing and maintaining customized emergency operations plans with their community partners. See the complete Role of Districts in Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans.

State Update

Ohio passed a budget that includes $30 million in additional funding for high-quality charter schools. Eligible schools will be required to score highly on student proficiency and growth measures and have a majority of students who are economically disadvantaged. The funding will help to narrow—though certainly won’t eliminate—the funding gap between Ohio’s charter and district schools, which the Fordham Institute pegs at about $4,000 per pupil for urban charter schools.

Massachusetts lawmakers increased facilities funding for charter schools from $893 per pupil to $938 per pupil.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law eliminating the Illinois State Charter School Commission after one more full year of operation and transferring the Commission’s duties and powers to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). Under this new law, ISBE will assume the charters of all existing Commission schools, have the authority to grant renewals for all existing Commission schools, and have the power to grant expansions and amendments to all existing Commission schools, allowing for continued growth. However, ISBE will not have the power to hear appeals of school district denials of charter school applications.

In Maine, legislation to indefinitely extend the statewide cap of 10 charter schools went into law without the signature of Gov. Janet Mills. The cap had been set to expire at the end of 2021. The cap also now includes district-authorized schools (it had previously just included state-authorized schools). The Maine Charter School Commission recently authorized its tenth charter school, which means no more charter schools can open in the state without further legislative changes.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced plans to change the state’s charter school funding formula, add further red tape to charter schools, and start charging charter schools to adjudicate appeals when local districts withhold funding. Charter school advocates have fought back hard, including with a rally at the state capitol in Harrisburg.

Legal Update

The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the state’s charter school funding structure, allowing state and local funding to follow students to the charter school of their choice. The Charter School Legal Action Fund has supported this case since its inception.

In another case supported by the Legal Action Fund, the Florida First District Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of HB 7069, which was passed by the Florida legislature and signed into law in 2017 to ensure that school boards share capital outlay dollars (local tax revenue) with public charter schools. As the court explained, “[T]he State’s constitutional duty to make adequate provision for Florida’s public schools must be interpreted to mean that the State has a duty to ensure that charter schools are not neglected by the school boards.” The county school boards that brought the case have indicated they will appeal the district court’s ruling to the state supreme court.

Finally, the Charter School Legal Action Fund is supporting a group of New Jersey public charter school parents, schools, and the state charter school association who have filed a motion 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. As the National Alliance’s Senior Director of Legal Affairs, Rob Reed, explained in our press release, “We should be looking to find ways to increase opportunities for children to attend high-quality public charter schools; the public should not be misled, and charter schools should not be scapegoated for segregation, a serious issue that requires thoughtful wide-ranging solutions.”

Charter School Facilities Update

The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) launched the Spark Opportunity Grant Program to support the development of feasibility plans for charter school facility projects up to $50,000. Charter schools that have been in operation for at least one school year and are in the planning or predevelopment phase for a new facility are eligible to apply and priority will be given to applicants that seek grant funding to advance a facility project in a designated Opportunity Zone. Applications are due by November 1. 

Research Roundup

A report from the National Center for Education Statistics shows big growth in charter school enrollment since the turn of the century, with charter schools serving higher percentages of students of color and students in poverty than district schools and achieving similar NAEP scores. Given the demographic makeup of charter schools, parity in national results is encouraging. Many charter schools are educating their students to achieve at the same level as wealthier communities, and we expect to see this trend continue.

Education Week reports on the results of a new study from Mathematica: “Students who choose to attend KIPP middle schools are nearly 13 percentage points more likely than their peers to enroll in a four-year degree program after high school.”

A new report from NACSA reveals that Georgia has a growing, diverse charter sector driven by the State Charter Schools Commission and freestanding schools.

A new study from the Fordham Institute examines how the growing presence of charter schools affects the achievement levels of all students in a given community, not just charter school students.

Traditional approaches to addressing low-performing charter schools include warnings, closure, and restart. In a new brief, Considering Turnaround for Low-Performing Charter Schools, WestEd proposes school turnaround as a possible response for authorizers. 

National Alliance Senior Director of Research Nathan Barrett has new research out on disparities and discrimination in student discipline by race and family income. When comparing the punishments given to black and white or poor and non-poor students who fight one another, Nathan and his coauthors find that black and poor students are, in fact, punished more harshly than the students with whom they fight.

From The Charter Blog

To help honor Hispanic Heritage Month, the National Alliance’s Kelsey Nelson chats with filmmaker, entrepreneur, and National Alliance Board Member Moctesuma Esparza about his motivation as a leader in the charter school movement.

Kelsey also conducts a Q&A with Dominique Lee, founder and Chief Executive Officer of the BRICK Education Network, to discuss his experiences as the first and only African-American to lead a CMO in New Jersey and how his network is moving forward.

Michele Williams, Education Advising Coordinator at Nevada State High School’s Henderson Campus, discusses the school’s unique college-ready program to prepare students for the future and allow them to take college classes with college professors.

National Alliance Team News

We’re excited to welcome Jessica Snydman to the National Alliance research team as a research specialist! Jessica is a master’s student at George Washington University majoring in education policy. She has a background in federal advocacy, having worked at Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.’s public advocacy office and in the office of Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD). She will be working with the research team to create a master codebook for our database and help create collateral for our organization.

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

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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