This week advocates and educators across the country recognized National Charter Schools Week (NCSW). From events to media coverage, NCSW is a celebration that stretches across both sides of the aisle. And while charters have been around for more than 25 years, today, enrollment is at an all-time high with more than 6,900 charter schools educating nearly 3 million students every day. And their profile is rising—six high schools just made the U.S. News and World Report top ten list of America’s best public high schools. Although many lessons have been learned over the years, advocates at both the state and national level know they have more to fight for and are making recent strides to enhance charter school policy in various ways.
Increasing Facilities Access & Funding
GeorgiaCAN teamed up with the Georgia Charter School Association (GCSA) in support of a new law (HB 430) that will help charters access unused buildings and more funding for facility upkeep. This legislation, which has been years in the making, represents Georgia advocates long-term commitment to refining charter policy. In a joint description of the legislation and process, Andrew Lews, executive director of the Georgia Charter Schools Association, and Michael O’Sullivan, executive vice president of GeorgiaCAN said, “Meaningful legislation is taking what the defense gives you; a three-yard gain here, a ten-yard pass there. If you lose some yards, what are you doing to pick up more yards on the next play?”
While advocates in D.C. are waiting for action on the mayor’s budget, DFER D.C. Executive Director Catharine Bellinger applauded a component of the proposed budget that commits to increasing the facilities allotment for charter schools 2 percent annually for four years. In a statement on their website, Bellinger says facilities funding has been largely flat for a decade. D.C.’s budget could be final as soon as late May.
And in Tennessee advocates like the Campaign for School Equity, TennesseeCAN, and Tennessee State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) experienced a big win for facilities funding when legislation called the High-Quality Charter Act moved to the governor’s desk. The bill, designed to strengthen the relationship between charters and districts, clarifies everything from authorizer fees, applications and closures in addition to establishing a fund of up to $6 million in facilities funding.
Strengthening District and Charter Collaboration
Education Cities released new research about how three cities, Indianapolis, Springfield, and New Orleans, are working together through an organizational quarterback to create “conditions for more educator autonomy and school-level accountability, with better academic outcomes for kids as a result.” Drawing from more than two-dozen interviews, the report, “Beyond District/Charter: How Education Leaders Can Catalyze and Support Systems of Great Schools,” introduces a framework with recommendations for how to catalyze this work and support successful implementation for other states who may be considering this type of work.
Ensuring Equitable Funding for Charter Schools
Jenese Jones, Interim Executive Director of MarylandCAN released a statement thanking state legislators for ensuring all schools have equitable funding through the State Grants for Education Aid (HB 684). The bill gives $28.2 million in additional funding to Baltimore City Public Schools, as long as the funding is distributed equally among traditional public schools, charter public schools, and other jurisdictions with declining enrollment.
Expanding Access to Quality Schools
In advance of an upcoming election for the Los Angeles city council and school board, Martin Capuchino, Students for Education Reform member and UCLA sophomore, penned a blog about the importance of access to high-quality educational options, traditional or charter school. Capuchino said “A student is a student, and quality education should be the main priority for voters in this upcoming election, no matter what type of public school it comes from.”
In the Show Me State, the Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri (CEAM) continues to fight for the expansion of charter schools throughout Missouri. House Bill 635 is currently with the Senate for approval. If approved the bill will allow charter schools to open in other heavy populated areas in the state. Right now charters can only operate in urban cities like St. Louis.
Nationally, Nina Rees, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), published an op-ed in The 74, calling charter schools an important piece of the fabric of education. The 74 included a video, “What a charter school is (and isn’t) in 100 seconds,” that they released in March but remains relevant this week.
Advocates and leaders across the country are navigating unique environments as they work to refine and strengthen charter policies in their state; however, lessons learned in other places could expedite your progress. Please reach out if you’d like to connect with any of the advocates above or share work that is happening in your state.