A new year is always the time for setting goals and looking ahead. At the National Alliance, we know where we’re going. We will continue to advance the charter school community’s interests in Washington, D.C. We will also work to pass charter school laws in states that don’t have one and strengthen laws where they are weak. If you have questions about our priorities, or suggestions, please feel free to reach out any time.
I look forward to keeping you posted on our progress this year.
President and CEO
2014 Federal Spending Details Released
Late Monday night, Congress finalized the spending details for fiscal year 2014. The Charter Schools Program (CSP) is set to receive $248.1 million, which restores $7 million of the $13 million cut from the program in the sequester. In addition, some of the cuts made to Title I and IDEA under sequestration were partially restored. Both chambers are expected to pass the bills by Saturday.
While this legislation did not restore the full cut to the Charter Schools Program under the sequester, we are pleased with the increase in funding for charter schools, the investment in high-performing charter school networks and facilities, and the increases in Title I and IDEA. Charter schools that want to open but have lacked funding can now get out of a holding pattern and open their doors. We led a coalition of education reform groups and charter support organizations to ask President Obama to include $330 million for the Charter Schools Program in his 2015 budget.
National School Choice Week
January 26-February 1 marks the 4th annual National School Choice Week, when more than 5,500 events will be held throughout the country celebrating school choice. Charter schools are one of the most popular school choice options in the U.S. today and we are proud to be a partner in efforts to spotlight the importance of giving families more school options. On January 22, we are co-sponsoring the kick-off of the School Choice Week Whistle Stop Train Tour in D.C. On January 29, we are co-sponsoring the Put Kids First Rally in D.C. We are also co-sponsoring events in Columbia, SC; Birmingham, AL; and Jackson, MS. All of these events are free and open to the public. Click here to learn more about these events and RSVP to attend. I know many charter schools are hosting their own events and we’d be glad to help you promote what you are doing. Please share your plans with Katherine Bathgate so we can help spread the word.
America’s Biggest Charter School Communities
Just before the holidays, we released our annual report examining charter school growth. Today, one-in-20 American children attend a charter school. The top three communities for charter school student share are: New Orleans, where an astounding 79 percent of public school students attend charter schools; Detroit, where 51 percent attend charters; and Washington, D.C., where 43 percent of all public school students attend charters. In four additional school districts, at least 30 percent of public school students attend public charter schools: Flint, Mich.; Gary, Ind.; and Kansas City and St. Louis, Mo. In 135 American school districts, at least 10 percent of public school students attend charter schools. When given the option, parents coast-to-coast are increasingly choosing public charter schools; and this trend shows no sign of slowing. There are nearly one million student names on charter school waiting lists nationwide.
Charter Schools Upheld in Washington State
Washington State became the 42nd state to allow charter schools when Initiative 1240 was passed by voters in 2012. Several special interest groups filed a lawsuit to overturn the voter initiative, but in December, a King County Superior Court judge upheld the charter school law. The charter school opponents are basing their lawsuit on legal claims that have been used in many lawsuits before, but have never been successful. In every state where charters have been challenged as unconstitutional, they have been upheld. The National Alliance is working with the Washington State Charter Schools Association and local attorneys to help defend the law. The decision has been appealed to the State Supreme Court, where we will file an amicus brief in support of the law. You can read more about this case and the arguments being made against charter schools here.
Will Kentucky be 43?
Kentucky is one of only eight states without a charter school law, but we’re hoping that changes this legislative session. After years of laying the groundwork in the Bluegrass State, 2014 may be the year that lawmakers approve a bill that will allow 20 charter schools to open over the next five years. A recent poll found that nearly three-quarters of Kentucky voters favor creating public charter schools, with support crossing party lines and across all parts of the state. Eighty-two percent of voters support providing Kentucky parents with more public school choice options and, in the Louisville area, support for more choices rises to 89 percent. We will continue working with our partners in Kentucky, including the Black Alliance for Educational Options, Kentucky Youth Advocates, and the State Chamber of Commerce, to pass a strong law that will allow high-quality charter schools to serve the state’s children.
Will Mayor de Blasio Keep His Promise?
During his campaign for Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio pledged to put the brakes on the city’s growing charter school movement. But he also pledged to address inequality. With more data than ever showing that charter schools in New York are closing the achievement gap and addressing racial and income inequality in schools, which promise will the mayor keep? In a USA Today column that ran on January 1, the day he was sworn into office, I encouraged Mayor de Blasio to work with the charter school community to give more children a chance at a great education.
Meet Sal Kahn!
Sal Kahn, the dynamic founder and CEO of the sensational Kahn Academy, will be one of the keynote speakers at the National Charter Schools Conference this summer in Las Vegas. This year’s conference will be better than ever—with inspiring keynote speakers, relevant breakout sessions, and terrific opportunities to network with 4,000 of your peers. Registration rates will increase in mid-February, so I hope you will take a minute to register for the conference today.
2013 was a banner year for the National Alliance and we know we can’t do our work without you. We also know that it is critical for the charter school community to have a strong voice in Washington and in states where we don’t yet have charter schools. Please help us continue to be your voice in Washington with a tax-deductible gift. Thank you.