The National Alliance for Public Schools honored 16 bipartisan State and Federal Lawmakers with the 2022 Champion for Charter Schools Award, recognizing these leaders’ commitment as lawmakers to seeing charter schools thrive and expand in their state and across the US. These lawmakers earned this distinction for their tireless efforts supporting these unique public schools and for displaying the political courage to prioritize high-quality public education options for students, and their work has provided many more students with a solid foundation to succeed in life.
“These leaders have made a difference in the lives of thousands of students by enabling charter schools to exist and thrive,” says Nina Rees, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “Charter schools wouldn’t be possible without legislation that allows for their creation, funding and facilities finance. Please join us in expressing gratitude to these leaders for their steadfast support of public charter schools.”
The following leaders received the 2022 Champion for Charter Schools Award:
- Lifetime Achievement: Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO): Senator Blunt has been a formidable charter school supporter throughout his service in the U.S. House and Senate. Most recently, as ranking member of the Senate subcommittee responsible for Charter Schools Program funding, Senator Blunt has gone to bat again and again to support high-quality charter schools. Without his leadership, many fewer children would have the opportunity to attend the charter school of their choice and the National Alliance is immensely grateful to Senator Blunt for his decades of service and support.
Senator Blunt says, “Public charter schools provide opportunities that can fundamentally change the trajectory of a student’s academic and professional career. As the top Republican on the subcommittee that funds education programs, I’ve been proud to prioritize resources to open and expand high-performing charter schools, especially in underserved areas. I’m honored to receive this recognition and grateful for the work the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools does to ensure parents and students have access to quality schools that best fit their needs.”
- Rising Star: Representative Ritchie Torres (D-NY-15): Representative Torres uses his political platform to advocate for the students and families in his community. He founded and leads the bipartisan House Public School Caucus which looks at lessons learned throughout the pandemic from exceptional public educators across the country to address learning loss, promote best practices in knowledge and skill attainment, improve family engagement, address the teacher shortage, and ensure all children can access meaningful career pathways. Representative Torres is a powerful voice for students, and we look forward to working with him for many years to come.
- Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA): As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Senator Cassidy is a tireless advocate for ensuring that students have access to a quality education. A medical doctor and professor by trade, Dr. Cassidy believes that parents and teachers, not federal bureaucrats, make the best education decisions for students.
Senator Cassidy says, “Parents should have the ability to choose what is best for their child’s future. Charter schools give parents that choice. The best thing I can do for education is to empower parents to have choice. Honored to receive this recognition.”
- Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI): Representing a diverse state far from the nation’s capital, Senator Schatz understands the importance of allowing new and culturally responsive school models to flourish and believes “the best investment we can make is in our kids.” As a member of the Senate Labor House committee, he advocates for the 11,000 charter school students in his state as well as the millions across America.
- Representative Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA-02): As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Representative Bishop has secured millions of dollars for education programs, including the Charter Schools Program, and is also a leader in the Congressional Black Caucus and focuses on policies that expand access to world-class education opportunities at all levels to communities of color.
- Representative John Moolenaar (R-MI-4): Representative Moolenaar leads the School Choice Caucus in the House of Representatives. In this role, he is a fierce defender of public charter schools and he was a point person in the effort to defend the Charter Schools Program in the House last year as a member of the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee.
- Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (R): In 2021, Governor Reynolds signed into law a game-changing bill that sets a high bar for opening charter schools to ensure quality, holds schools accountable, and allows applicants to apply directly to the state board of education. In her state of the state address that year, Governor Reynolds said, “If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us about education, it’s that our parents need choice.”
Governor Reynolds says, “Charter schools provide an alternative learning environment that motivates students to be successful and allows schools to focus on student achievement at all grade levels. Through proven curriculum, charter schools focus on meeting the needs of every student and preparing them for their future and the ever-changing workforce. Every family deserves educational freedom and school choice.”
- Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R): Governor DeWine is a true champion for educational opportunity for all and believes in the innovation and high-quality academic rigor that public charter schools provide. During his tenure, Governor DeWine has created funding for supporting and replicating high-performing charter schools, removed restrictions on charter school growth so that more families can be served, and supported facilities funding. Finally, read Governor DeWine’s proclamation declaring this week to be Ohio Charter Schools Week.
Governor DeWine says, “I’m honored to receive this award and will continue to do what I can to help Ohio students and schools thrive because I know that one size does not fit all when it comes to education. Giving Ohio families quality school options is fundamental in ensuring that each child’s unique needs are met.”
- Hawaii Lt. Governor Josh Green (D): As a charter school parent, Lt. Governor Green knows firsthand the benefits and opportunities that charter schools bring to all families. Previously a state house representative and state senator, Lt. Governor Green has consistently supported equitable funding for public charter schools. In addition to his state duties, Lt. Governor Green is a doctor and he led the State of Hawaii’s medical response to COVID with a special focus on the health and safety of public school students.
- Kentucky Representative Chad McCoy (R): During the 2022 legislative session, Representative McCoy fought tirelessly to pass HB 9, a landmark bill that makes major improvements to the state’s charter school law, most notably by providing a permanent funding mechanism for charter schools. Until now, Kentucky has been one of only seven states in the nation without any operating charter schools, which will now change.
- New Mexico Representative Cathyrnn Brown (R) and New Mexico Senator Siah Correa Hemphill (D): New Mexico Senator Hemphill and Representative Brown sponsored House Bill 43 during the 2022 legislative session, creating a $10 million Charter School Facility Revolving Loan Fund and standardizing the amount of facilities funding provided to charter schools to a per student calculation, versus the previous inequitable per square foot allocation.
Senator Hemphill says, “I know from a lifetime in education and working with thousands of students, that we all learn in different ways. Anyone who has spent time in a classroom knows what a challenge it can be to deliver a lesson that works well both for students who learn best by doing and for students who learn best by quiet contemplation. Because one size does not fill all in education, charter schools have become an essential tool in our efforts to ensure that every New Mexican child receives the most effective public education possible.”
Representative Brown says, “It is gratifying to see the great strides public charter schools have made in the past 20 years. When I helped form one of New Mexico’s first charters two decades ago, there was a lot of skepticism, resistance, and even frostiness. Today it’s a totally different story! I attribute the change in attitude about charter schools to the persistent hard work and dedication of students, parents, teachers, and administrators, all of whom are committed to seeing students succeed.”
- South Dakota Senator Troy Heinert (D): Senator Heinert sponsored legislation to create charter schools focused on the Oceti Sakowin language and culture considering the achievement gap between indigenous and white students present in South Dakota schools. While the legislation did not pass, leaders and educators in South Dakota will continue pursuing this vision. He is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and a former elementary school teacher.
- Wyoming Senators Ogden Driskill (R), Affie Ellis (R), and Charlie Scott (R): In 2021, Senator Driskill, Senator Ellis, and Senator Scott led the charge to pass SEA 74, a bill that added a statewide authorizer to review public charter school applications, created a transparent public charter school application process, and ensured strong accountability for public charter school performance. These changes will support the creation of high-quality public charter schools for Wyoming families for many years to come.
Senator Ellis says, “Charter schools offer students, parents and teachers more flexibility to develop a classroom environment and curriculum designed to meet the needs of students and their interests. Wyoming has lagged behind other states in its charter school authorization laws for far too long and I was proud to support efforts to strengthen public school options.”
Senator Scott says, “One of the reasons I took on the chairmanship of the Senate Education Committee was to work on a charter school bill because I believe they help to improve all public schools. A little competition makes the world go round. Our charter law is now much better and we still have more work to do.”
This group of lawmakers responded to the increased demand for public charter schools and listened to the parents and students in their state and across the US. Leaders saw the success that charter schools offered communities and families, and took responsibility to seek the same public education options. This is an example of strong government leadership – listening to constituents, noticing nationwide trends, and enacting policy in response.
This week, U.S. Senators Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) led 25 of their colleagues on a bipartisan resolution celebrating National Charter School Week and commending charter schools on their contribution to education.
According to a study led by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, data shows that during the 2020-21 school year, charter school enrollment grew 7%, the largest increase in half a decade. Nearly 240,000 new students enrolled in these innovative, student-centered public schools, despite a sharp decrease in overall public school enrollment during the same period. Of the 42 states evaluated, 39 experienced charter school enrollment increases, while only three saw modest decreases.
Learn more about National Charter Schools Week and join the National Alliance to celebrate National Charter Schools Week and the Changemaker and Champion honorees with a virtual celebration on Thursday, May 12. Sign up here. Students, parents, teachers, school leaders, and advocates are celebrating National Charter Schools Week across this country this week. This year’s theme is National Charter Schools Week 2022: Charter Schools Rising. Having just celebrated our 30-year anniversary in 2021, this year we are looking to the next 30 years of education innovation and freedom, service and excellence.