Advocacy is hard work. Advocates take tough stands and hold strong in sometimes unpopular positions.
The Eddies!—annual, advocate-nominated awards—help tell a collective story of education reform over the past year. For every effort that didn’t quite make the finish line, somewhere else, the broader movement moved the dial for kids. Both the Eddies! winners and nominees help us celebrate the progress made by the movement—together.
Please join us in congratulating the following 2017 Eddies! award winners. You can find the entire slate of Eddies! nominees here.
Best Kept Secret
EdAllies & Educators for Excellence Minnesota: Teacher Licensure Overhaul
Although it didn’t get much national coverage, Minnesota’s recent teacher licensure overhaul was called “one of the biggest reforms to state education policy in recent history” by a state-based education reporter.
In response to teacher shortages and stagnant educator diversity, advocates have been fighting since 2011 for a clear licensure system that would empower schools to find the best educators for their students. Several lawsuits and contentious legislative sessions later, and despite stiff resistance from the teachers union, higher education, and state agencies, EdAllies—along with advocacy partners like Educators for Excellence Minnesota, school districts, and dozens of teachers—was finally successful in 2017 in securing an extensive overhaul to teacher licensure and governance.
The hard-fought reform abolishes the powerful, but oft-criticized, Board of Teaching, and institutes a revamped “tiered” licensure structure that creates more clear, fair pathways into Minnesota classrooms.
This under-the-radar yet major victory from “fly-over country” is proof of the importance of multi- year, multi-pronged, and relentless advocacy. Read more in this blog post from earlier this year.
Most Actionable Research
The Collaborative for Student Success & Bellwether Education Partners: An Independent Review of State ESSA Plans
In conjunction with Bellwether Education Partners, the Collaborative for Student Success worked with more than 30 education experts – from both sides of the aisle, and with experience on both the national and state levels – to conduct an independent peer review of submitted state ESSA plans. The goal was to identify best practices alongside areas for improvement, while communicating with SEAs and in-state advocacy partners about the findings. The data are invaluable for anyone working on an ESSA plan, and the organizations sought to provide states with helpful suggestions on improvement, and advocates with independent support for areas they were pushing on. The analysis was particularly timely, because by rolling out the findings from round 1 and amplifying the results through exhaustive media outreach, round 2 states had the benefit of both best practices and pitfalls to avoid.
The findings are broken down to identify key factors necessary to improve education and the data are being utilized nationally via a website that is clear, substantive, and easy to navigate. This report was conducted by education policy experts and reviewed by numerous current and former PIE Network members (including Dale Chu, previously with America Succeeds; Aimee Rogstad Guidera, Data Quality Campaign; Paige Kowalski, Data Quality Campaign; Claire Voorhees, Foundation for Excellence in Education; Kerry Moll, previously with Stand for Children; Scott Sargrad, Center for American Progress; and Christy Wolfe, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools), for the benefit of everyone involved in this body of work. Read more in this blog post from earlier this year.
Best Ensemble Cast
The Kentucky Charter School Project: Passage of Enabling Public Charter School Legislation
The Kentucky Charter School Project (Americans for Prosperity-KY, Foundation for Excellence in Education, Funding Equity Project, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Kentucky Pastors in Action Coalition, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, National Association of Charter School Authorizers, and Campaign for School Equity) is a group of local and national groups that rose above political and policy differences and six years of failed attempts to pass a strong charter school law. The bipartisan group prepared to confront external opposition and to work within its own internal differences. However, they did not expect to learn about severe state constitutional constraints on charter school authorizing and funding (Kentucky case law was the basis of the first Washington state lawsuit against charters), which midway through the session forced the coalition to rewrite the bill and rework our political strategy.
The win’s significance beyond the state is the knowledge of how to craft and pass a strong charter laws in those jurisdictions with limiting state constitutions and/or permissive voter referendums. The coalition’s approach to working with unexpected legislative and constitutional setbacks while maintaining discipline and a sense of humor is a playbook of lessons from which many others can learn–and not in such a hard way.
Most Valuable Player
Ben Boer, Deputy Director, Advance Illinois
Ben Boer, deputy director of Advance Illinois, was a brilliant and steady force in the funding reform effort ever since its earliest days. Ben served as both chief wonk and youthful Yoda to so many in Springfield, school management, and partner groups. He is the epitome of civility and charity, and like a marathon runner, pored over funding model after funding model. When not solving the funding crisis in Illinois, he is an essential voice at the Illinois policy table on ESSA, workforce readiness, and so much more. Furthermore, his contributions don’t just stop at the Illinois border. Ben regularly collaborates with stakeholders in other states.
Game Changer of the Year
Advance Illinois, Stand for Children Illinois, Educators for Excellence-Chicago, Illinois Network of Charter Schools, One Chance Illinois, Foundation for Excellence in Education and many others: Funding Formula Reform, Charter School Funding, and a New Tax-credit Scholarship Program
The recent education legislation passed in Illinois is nothing short of historic: newly passed legislation overhauls the most regressive funding formula in the nation. The legislation also improves equity for charter school funding and creates the largest tax credit scholarship program at inception. After years of advocacy efforts around the funding formula and some pragmatic compromise this summer, both parties in the Illinois legislature and the Governor’s office came to an agreement on fixing the funding formula to make sure schools would be able to open. The resulting compromise was forged through a bi-partisan commitment to Illinois students and offered prized policy wins.
Network Members Advance Illinois, Stand for Children Illinois, and Educators for Excellence-Chicago (along with many others, including Teach Plus Illinois and Illinois for Educational Equity) worked with legislators on the funding formula piece. One Chance Illinois and the Foundation for Excellence in Education worked with key stakeholders on the tax-credit scholarship program and the Illinois Network of Charter Schools led the effort to ensure charter funding equity was included in the final proposal. This should inspire reform in other states nationwide. Read more in this blog post from earlier this year.