Ensemble Casts Advancing Policy
October 13, 2017

Recognizing Coalitions Across the Country

As the reform movement grows, there’s often more than one organization in most states advancing reform in their state capitol. (Visit our member map to see who’s working where.) That’s a positive trend: the line at the microphone lobbying against the status quo is even longer.

Because that’s true, most advocates find themselves working in coalitions, or in partnership with other organizations, to advance shared goals. Read more about coalitions across the Network here and here.

The Eddies!—annual, advocate-nominated awards—celebrate excellent policymaking and advocacy campaigns across the country, and in this case exemplar coalition building.


Below are the nominations for Best Ensemble Cast—an especially broad reaching coalition that faced unusual obstacles to advance a significant win.

Best Ensemble Cast Top Nominees:

Advance Illinois, Stand for Children Illinois, & Educators for Excellence – Chicago

School Funding Reform

Advance Illinois is a convener of Funding Illinois’ Future, a coalition of 200-plus superintendents and teachers, civil rights leaders, and community organizations that came together five years ago to fix Illinois’ worst-in-the-nation, highly inequitable school funding system. In addition to Advance Illinois, this coalition included PIE Network member Educators for Excellence – Chicago who led teacher voice work in Chicago on the issue. Additionally, Illinois for Educational Equity and Teach Plus Illinois, both groups outside the Network, are honorably mentioned as they both played critical roles in fixing the formula. Outside the formal coalition, Stand for Children – Illinois engaged the issue by doing strategic polling, mail, field, and digital campaign focused on flipping votes. The collective efforts of these organizations and many others in the coalition united rural, suburban and urban areas of the state, areas often at odds with one another in Illinois, and became a force for change throughout the state, keeping the volume level high every day. The unwavering support of a solution, even in the face of sharp criticism, kept the pressure on legislators and led to the Governor signing a new formula into law. Illinois now is on a path to one of the most equitable school funding formulas in the country.

Campaign for School Equity, TennesseAN, Tennessee SCORE, Stand for Children Tennessee

Charter School Policy in Tennessee

The ensemble was critical in the passage of the Tennessee High Quality Charter Schools Act (HB310). This bill provided for three, annual $6 million investments, totaling $18 million, for a new charter facilities fund, established an authorizer fee and fine-tuned the existing charter statute to increase transparency. This legislation marks the first time that Tennessee has designated funds specifically for charter school facilities. The group faced a challenging legislative climate and opposition from some of the state’s largest school systems. This group used their collective strengths engaging elected officials, hosting meetings, and updating the public.

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) 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, we 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 us to rewrite the bill and rework our political strategy. The win significant 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!

America Achieves, Colorado Succeeds & DFER Colorado

STEM High School Diploma

Colorado Succeeds, DFER Colorado, and America Achieves’ Colorado Educator Voice Fellowship teamed up to create a new law that establishes Colorado’s first STEM-endorsed diploma. It began when two Colorado educators, who were America Achieves Fellows, saw firsthand that most students were not on track to meet requirements for success in STEM careers, and therefore were missing out on the great STEM jobs in Colorado’s thriving high-tech economy. The educators teamed up with Colorado Succeeds and DFER Colorado to introduce and advance legislation that was signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper in May. Combining the forces of influential business leaders and extraordinary educators created a strong alliance that provided both the inside and outside classroom perspective. The STEM diploma recognizes and rewards student mastery in STEM fields and their acquisition of essential workplace skills. To ensure the diploma is valued by businesses and aligned to industry needs, local school districts are required to work with higher education and STEM employers to develop the STEM capstone project. This critical provision ensures that the two chief consumers of our K-12 system—business and higher education–collaborate to ensure success for our students.

Democrats for Education Reform-DC, PAVE DC, FOCUS DC, and the DC Association of Chartered Public Schools

Charter School Funding

This year, DFER-DC, PAVE DC, FOCUS DC, and the DC Association of Chartered Public Schools worked in a coalition to advance two significant budget objectives during the 2017 session—an end to a freeze on charter facilities funding through the tying of the facilities allotment to an annual escalator tied to inflation; and a minimum of a 2 percent increase to per-pupil funding. Ultimately, this coalition achieved both wins, exceeding expectations in both areas by winning a 2.2 percent annual increase to charter facilities funding and a 3 percent increase to the baseline per-pupil funding. Challenges included a perception that the city should either fund charter students or traditional public schools but not both; and that per-pupil funding in D.C. was already high. In addition, this same coalition had made strong attempts but ultimately failed to advance the charter facilities funding objective in past sessions—and one long-time government relations professional at FOCUS called this year’s budget wins “the best budget session for DC kids in recent history.” This coalition’s work around creation of a cost escalator for charter facilities (given dramatic increases in cost of construction, lease rates, and other real estate costs) could be a model for other cities.

Democrats for Education Reform Louisiana, Stand for Children Louisiana, The Education Trust

Louisiana ESSA State Plan Coalition

As the Louisiana Department of Education was drafting its plan pursuant to the Every Student Succeeds Act, a coalition of advocates came together by way of Ed Trust’s ESSA Boot Camps to review, revise and recommend additional policy to ensure Louisiana’s accountability program remains strong and rigorous. Through multiple internal policy meetings and meetings with State Superintendent John White and the Louisiana Department of Education staff, the coalition’s recommendations become key tenets of the state’s ESSA plan that was proposed and approved by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE)  in April. Leading up to the Board’s approval, coalition members met with BESE members, external partners and media outlets to increase awareness of and support for the proposed plan. The coalition members and other advocacy organizations, education activists and community leaders testified as a united front before BESE as they considered the proposed state plan. The result: A thorough, innovative, and comprehensive state ESSA plan that received final approval from the US Department of Education in August. Louisiana’s plan has been called one of the best in the country and this coalition work served as a model for similar coalition’s in New York and Colorado.

Tennessee SCORE, The Education Trust, Foundation for Excellence in Education

Tennessee ESSA Coalition

SCORE worked with partners across Tennessee and the country to ensure a strong ESSA plan that will support the needs of all Tennessee students. SCORE has been a leader in the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition, which advocated for strong school accountability and supports for historically underserved students. SCORE also hosted five forums where state advocates provided plan feedback to the state. Finally, SCORE worked with national partners –including The Education Trust, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and Achieve–to review Tennessee’s draft from the student-focused perspective of how quickly it will advance college and career readiness for all.

Winners will be announced at the PIE Network 2017 Summit on Thursday, Oct. 26.

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    PIE Network

    PIE Network connects, strengthens, and catalyzes the work of education advocates across communities, states, and ideological lines. Network members are powerful and diverse champions for students whose organizations lead efforts to transform education so that every learner can succeed.

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