I have just returned from Columbus, Ohio, where I spent the day with some outstanding state charter school organization leaders. I meet with these leaders a few times a year to talk through what is happening on the ground and what’s around the corner for charter schools. I spend a lot of time encouraging my Washington, D.C.-based colleagues to get outside of the Beltway and visit a charter school in their home state. Talking to a local charter school principal or teacher can really demonstrate why we need even more federal support for charter school growth. If you’re ever on the road and you’d like a recommendation for a terrific charter school to visit, please let me know.
President and CEO
Federal education spending: more of the same
With Congress unable to work through its normal budgeting process, the federal fiscal year will end on September 30 without a budget to begin the next year. At this time, Congressional Leadership is working to pass a continuing resolution, which would fund all federal programs at the current levels through December 15, at which time Congress would have to pass another funding bill. That means the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter School Program and all other programs that provide funding for charter schools will hold steady at current levels. We will begin working with lawmakers in the coming months to break this logjam and try to get funding for charter schools back up to pre-sequestration levels and increased to account for growth in the sector.
Back to work for Congress
The start of the school year also marks the end of the congressional recess. And this fall, Congress's education "to do" list includes updating the federal statute governing America's public schools. If Congress doesn't act this year, there may not be any action for another four years (owing to the political pressures connected to the midterm elections in 2014 and the presidential election in 2016). With the left and the right agreeing that reform of the law is long overdue, there's an urgent need for action this fall. President Obama has a role to play, too.
National Alliance weighs in on E-Rate reform
The National Alliance joined with other education reform groups yesterday in a joint comment letter to the Federal Communications Commission asking for reforms to the federal E-Rate program to ensure that charter schools receive their fair share of funding. The E-Rate program was created in 1996 to give schools discounted rates to connect to the Internet. The same rules that were in place when the program was created are still in force today—even though the technology landscape for schools has changed dramatically. The letter asks the FCC to streamline the application process for schools, to give schools more flexibility in how they use E-Rate funds, and to leave room for the technologies of the future to qualify for the program. You can read the letter here.
Will Kentucky be #43?
You may remember that last month we joined the Black Alliance for Educational Options, Democrats for Education Reform, and Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul at an event kicking off the effort to pass a charter school law in Kentucky. I’m excited to report that the effort is picking up steam. Last week Hal Heiner, the president of the Kentucky Charter Schools Association, Wayne Lewis, a board member of the Kentucky Association, and Ken Campbell, the president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, testified before a joint hearing of the state House and Senate education committees on charter schools. We postedphotos from the kick-off event on our Facebook page and if you have 90 seconds to spare, you should watch this terrific TV news story about last week’s hearing.
Student Elliott Kelly talks about why he would like to attend a charter school, as Senators Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell listen.
Are big changes coming to the Big Apple?
The result of last week’s mayoral primary elections in New York City could have a profound impact on one of the nation’s most robust charter school markets. Two Democratic candidates may face each other in a run-off on October 1. Both of those candidates have been openly hostile to charter schools, and the leading candidate, Bill DeBlasio wants to end the city’s policy of allowing charter schools to use public facilities unless they pay rent. No matter who wins the November 5 general election, you can bet it will be a departure from the aggressively reform-minded tenure of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. I wrote about Bloomberg’s school reform legacy for U.S. News & World Report. You can also read more about the stakes of the election from our friend Bill Phillips at the Northeast Charter School Network.
Speaking of New Yorkers
New York-based charter school critic Diane Ravitch has a new book out today called Reign of Error. The book rehashes many of the arguments we have heard from Ms. Ravitch before, but this book focuses on one in particular: that charter schools have been taken over by for-profit companies that are answering to Wall Street, not parents and communities. This concern is unjustified. Just under 13 percent of charter schools are run by for-profit companies, and four states do not allow for-profit charters; 20 percent are run by non-profit organizations that operate more than one school; but 67 percent are independently operated, non-profit, single-site schools. With no wide-spread evidence that networks perform worse than single site schools (and some of the best schools in the country are part of networks), this is hardly a crisis calling out for more restrictions on charter schools. Diane’s suggestion is to ban for-profit companies from managing charter schools and any organization from managing more than one school.
And the survey says…
A recent collection of public opinion surveys show that public support for charter schools is at an all-time high. A PDK/Gallup poll found that 70 percent of respondents supported charter schools and EdNext found similarly high support. This is significant. Charter schools enjoy support from voters and policymakers from all parties at the local, state, and federal levels. And, with one million names lingering on charter school wait lists nationwide, we know parents want more of what we have to offer. By keeping our eye on the ball of opening more high-quality charter schools around the country, public support should keep climbing.
Study finds no evidence of “coaching out”
A new study of a large, urban school district with more than 60 charter schools examined seven years of student transfer data and found no evidence that charter schools are pushing out their lowest performing children. This is the second empirical research study to find the same result. It would be great to see more studies examine this issue, so that this oft-repeated myth can finally be put to rest.
Don’t wait for charter school news
Each day we post original, insightful commentary on our blog. We also distribute relevant charter school news stories each weekday and a weekly round up on Fridays, and you can sign up for either of those emails here. You can also follow the National Alliance on Twitter at @charteralliance, or become a fan on Facebook to get the latest. Are videos your thing? Then subscribe to our channel on YouTube. And, for my take on pressing education reform issues, check out my weekly blog on USNews.com or follow me on Twitter at @ninacharters.
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