Across the Network, Advocates Pursue High-Quality Options for All Kids
January 24, 2019

Photo courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

As a parent, I want to make sure that my kids and all kids graduate from high school ready for the challenges ahead, and I know that there is no one-size-fits-all education model to meet that goal. That’s why I’m inspired by the work PIE Network members across the country are taking on to ensure that our education system adapts, innovates, and improves to meet the unique needs of kids and families.

National School Choice Week provides an opportunity to spotlight PIE members’ wide-ranging efforts to ensure children have access to the high-quality educational options they need and deserve. Our recent survey of PIE Network members’ priorities for 2019 shows that the number of advocates prioritizing public charter school issues increased by more than 60 percent since last year.

Members’ top concerns include increasing student access to quality seats, as well as equalizing per pupil and facilities funding for public schools of choice. Below are just a few highlights from advocates’ efforts to ensure students have quality educational choices and pathways to success.

Highlighting & Celebrating Progress on School Choice Across the Network

  • The New York City Charter School Center is celebrating the 20th anniversary of New York’s charter law. Currently, NYC charters serve roughly 123,000 students across 236 schools. To mark the anniversary, the Charter Center launched the Shaping Futures campaign to highlight how charters have helped transform and improve the city’s public education system.
  • The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ annual ranking of state public charter school laws is based on 21 essential metrics like accountability, flexibility, and funding equity. States with new or overhauled laws have moved up in the rankings since last year—a sign that charter laws are improving—and Georgia is celebrated for making the biggest jump in the rankings. (GeorgiaCAN, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, the American Federation for Children (AFC), and their partners were recognized as 2018 Eddies! nominees for their work to make public charter school funding more equitable, as well as expand the state’s successful tax-credit scholarship program.)
  • On January 15th, Empower Illinois kicked off the application process for the state’s 2019-2020 tax credit scholarship program. Just 24 hours after registration opened, more than 30,000 students had already applied. Created in 2017 as part of a larger education funding bill, the program provides scholarships to low-income students to attend a private school of their choice.
  • Missouri advocates are focused on implementation of a 2018 law that increased access to virtual education options. Supported by Network member the Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri (CEAM), the policy enables K-12 students to take high-quality courses through state-approved virtual settings—an important option for families in underperforming districts and in smaller or rural districts that might not be able to offer higher-level courses.
  • 67 percent of voters support school choice, according to the latest polling data from AFC. Additionally, three out of five voters are more likely to support a member of Congress or state legislator who supports expanding school choice.

Advocates Spotlight the Need for Improved Access, Equity

  • Using Ohio funding data from fiscal years 2015–17, a new report shows that Ohio charters face massive inequities in funding compared to district schools. The analysis from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute-Ohio finds that charters in Ohio’s Big Eight cities receive on average 28 percent less revenue than district schools.
  • Ready Colorado’s Open Doors, Open Districts report provides important insights into an often-overlooked aspect of school choice: open enrollment policies. More than 145,000 Colorado students use the state’s open enrollment law to attend a traditional district-run school of their choice. Ready Colorado examines the key policy components that affect families’ access to open enrollment options, and offers recommendations to make the policy more effective.
  • Terry Ryan, executive director of Bluum, recently placed a spotlight on the frustrating paradox that many Idaho charter schools face: attempting to build schools with fewer public tax dollars, at higher financing costs and in some cases while paying more in local fees and taxes. Bluum worked with Bellwether Education Partners to document these challenges and suggest key strategies for equalizing access to facilities funds. (Many Network members named facilities funding as a key priority in 2019.)

As 2019 sessions unfold, the PIE Network team will continue to provide updates on charters and school choice advocacy efforts across the country, and, stay tuned for future updates on advocates’ work in other key policy areas across the Network. Want to learn more or share resources with PIE Network? Please reach out. We’re eager to provide connections to campaigns, strategies, and lessons learned in order to support all Network members in accelerating progress for kids.  

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Jen Alexander

Jen is PIE Network's Executive Director

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