President's Day is just around the corner; so it's a fitting time to reflect on how important presidents have been for charter schools. The federal Charter Schools Program was authorized as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1994, with the support of President Clinton. It was expanded under President George W. Bush; and has grown even more under President Barack Obama. It's a rare issue in these polarized political times that enjoys such bipartisan support. But it's easy to see why-who can argue against the success charter schools are having in preparing some of our most disadvantaged children for college and the workforce. With charter schools getting increasingly better over time, here's hoping they continue to be a priority to future presidents. Also, I wanted to let you know I will be on the Fox News show Fox & Friends tomorrow morning (2/14) at 7:20a.m. Eastern time. I hope you'll tune in.
Enjoy the long weekend!
Increasing Federal Support for Charter Schools
Yesterday more than two-dozen leaders of state charter school organizations teamed up with the National Alliance's federal affairs team to meet with more than 100 members of the U.S. House and Senate and their staffs. From Hawaii to Idaho to New York, these charter community leaders were all delivering the same message: federal support for charter schools is critical. The federal Charter Schools Program is the only federal money dedicated to supporting the creation of new charter schools and the expansion of proven, high-quality charters. We are asking Congress to increase the federal appropriation for the Charter Schools Program to $330 million in 2015.
In the coming weeks, we will be reaching out to you to ask for your help in this effort. We will be rallying charter school advocates from across the country to contact their Representatives and Senators to ask for more support for charter schools. The Department of Education only spends $248 million on the Charter Schools Program, less than 1 percent of its budget. With nearly 1 million names on charter school waiting lists, we believe Congress can do better for our students. We will need your help to make a difference.
Progress in the States
The ranking showed that a dozen states made significantly positive changes to their laws in the last legislative session by making it easier for high-quality charter schools to open, closing the funding gap between charter students and their peers at district-run schools, and bringing more accountability and transparency into the charter approval and closure processes. Minnesota is hanging on to our top-ranked spot by a thread; and Maryland became the lowest-ranked state. You can see how your state ranked here.
One reason we do this annual ranking is to identify states whose laws need to be improved. This year, our top priority state for improving its charter law is Oklahoma, ranked 36 out of 43. We are working with the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center, National Association of Charter School Authorizers, and others to eliminate the barriers to opening high-quality charter schools in the Sooner State. Oklahoma has had a charter school law on the books since 1999, but the law primarily limits charter schools to the two urban areas in the state-Oklahoma City and Tulsa. We believe children in other communities deserve high-quality school options too and are working to ease the restrictions in the law to allow charters to open in any community where there is a need.
Charter School Impact on College Outcomes and Future Earnings
A new study by Mathematica Policy Research shows that students who graduate from a charter school in Chicago or Florida have a better chance of entering and finishing at least two years of college. But the truly groundbreaking finding is that charter high school graduates in Florida actually go on to have higher earnings in early adulthood compared to their peers. While much more research into this question will be done over time, the initial results show that high-quality charter schools can have a positive impact on life outcomes beyond K-12 education.
More Charter Schools and Students than Ever
Sometimes we don't need research to tell us charter schools are making a difference; sometimes we just need to look at what's happening in communities from coast to coast. This school year, more charter schools opened their doors than ever before and a record number of students enrolled in them. Yesterday we released the state-by-state details on the number of charter schools open this school year and the number of charter school students. Nationwide, there are now more than 6,400 charter schools and more than 2.5 million charter students. That's 100% growth in the number of charter school students since the 2008-09 school year. What's more, 288,000 new students are enrolled in charters this year, the largest single-year enrollment jump we have seen since we started to collect these figures. See your state's numbers here.
There's Always an Outlier…
The 10 largest cities in America have many things in common, among them, they all have Democratic mayors. Nine out of ten have embraced charter schools as critical partners in meeting the educational needs of disadvantaged students. Who's the outlier? New York City's new mayor, Bill de Blasio. Mayor de Blasio is making aggressive moves to limit the number of charter schools in New York City and take away their funding. Mayor de Blasio recently announced he is redirecting school building funds dedicated for charter schools to fund pre-school programs; he is putting a hold on 33 new building-sharing agreements between charter and district schools that were slated to take effect this coming school year; and he has said he may start charging charter schools rent if they use a public school building, even though no other public schools in the city pay rent. What happens in New York City matters-it has one of the largest concentrations of charter school students and some of the very best charter schools in the country. We continue to work with our partners in New York to show Mayor de Blasio how important charter schools have been in creating opportunities for the very families he was elected to serve.
Like 'Breaking Bad'? Then Don't Miss the National Charter Schools Conference.
If you were a fan of the hit series Breaking Bad, you won't want to miss the National Charter Schools Conference in Las Vegas June 30-July 2. Real-life charter school parent and Albuquerque school board member Steven Michael Quezada, who played DEA agent Steven Gomez in the show, will offer his insights on how charter schools have worked for his children and being a school reform activist. In addition to hearing from inspirational speakers like Steven Quezada and Sal Khan, the conference will feature more than 100 breakout sessions offering practical, actionable tools applicable to you, and plenty of time to network with your peers from charter schools around the country. Register here today.
We Need You!
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is the only national organization dedicated solely to advancing the charter school movement. By advocating on behalf of charter schools, their students, parents, and leaders at the federal level, serving as a clearinghouse of information, and working to pass charter school laws in states without them and strengthen laws in states with weak ones, we are helping to make more high-quality public schools available to all American children. But we can't do it without you. Please join us by making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you!