Welcome to 2017! We’re anticipating a big year, with a lot of attention focused on Washington, DC, and what the incoming presidential administration will mean for charter schools, school choice, and public education more broadly. Betsy DeVos, a longtime supporter of school choice, is poised to become the next secretary of education, pending her Senate confirmation this month. I recently wrote about the opportunities that await Ms. DeVos, who can unite people across America around the goal of empowering parents and expanding opportunity for students who sorely need better schools.
The National Alliance works with people across the political spectrum to ensure that charter schools are treated just like any other public school, with equal access to funding from the full range of federal education programs. We look forward to developing relationships with the new administration and the new Congress. And, as you’ll read below, we’ll be bringing the National Charter Schools Conference to Washington, DC, this June. It’s an opportunity for our movement to rally in the nation’s capital and let our leaders know why charter public schools deserve their support – and funding!
I’m looking forward to 2017 being a great year for a strong and united charter school movement that puts students’ interests first!
President and CEO
Jointly Sponsored Event on Race, Social Justice, and Ed Reform
On Wednesday, January 25, the American Enterprise Institute, NewSchools Venture Fund, and Education Next will host discussions on race, social justice, and school reform. While the education reform movement has prided itself on bringing together a politically diverse coalition of supporters, some worry that the current, hyper-polarized political environment could threaten the movement’s unity. Two panels (one featuring Nina Rees) will explore how we reached this point, and how to promote a more productive and less divisive discussion moving forward. Click here to register to attend in person in Washington, DC, or to watch the livestream. You can also join the conversation on social media using #RaceInEdReform.
National Alliance Files Amicus Brief in U.S. Supreme Court IDEA Case
The National Alliance’s new Charter School Legal Action Fund filed its first amicus brief in the case of Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, which was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on January 11. The brief supports Endrew F., a child with autism who was removed from his Colorado district public school by his parents, who felt the school was not providing the appropriate level of “educational benefit” – the standard used to ensure that children with disabilities receive the free appropriate public education guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Click here for more details about the case, the questions at issue, and our brief, which was filed jointly with the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (NCSECS). The publication redefinED also examined the case and its implications here.
Ed Next Survey Finds High Levels of Satisfaction Among Charter School Parents
New polling from Education Next finds that charter school parents are more satisfied than district school parents when it comes to important issues such as teacher quality and expectations for student achievement. Charter school parents also report stronger communication with their children’s schools and fewer behavioral problems in school. One area where charter school parent satisfaction slightly lags satisfaction among district parents: school location. Further evidence that students and parents need more access to charter schools. A full rundown of the results is here. The 74 also covered the highlights here.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee yesterday held a confirmation hearing for education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. Click here for The 74’s report on the hearing. In the new Congress, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) remains chairman of the HELP Committee, while Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is the ranking Democratic member. Over in the House, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) is the new chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, replacing retired Rep. John Kline (R-MN). Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) returns as ranking member.
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is inviting applications for the FY17 Charter Schools Program Grants for charter management organizations to help replicate and expand high-quality charter schools. This is the first CMO competition since the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that contains newly authorized priorities, definitions, application requirements, and selection criteria from ESSA. However, it does include other priorities, definitions, application requirements, and selection criteria from prior competitions. Details are available on the Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII) website. Applications are due by 4:30 p.m. ET on Monday, February 27, 2017 and must be submitted through Grants.gov. For more information on the pre-application webinar for prospective applicants or about becoming a peer reviewer, visit the OII website.
It’s been a busy couple of months on the regulatory front. The U.S. Department of Education released final rules on accountability and state plans for Title I of ESSA. This memo from the National Alliance explains key changes affecting charter schools.
ED released three sets of new guidance that may have an impact on special education in charter schools. These documents clarify the rights of students with disabilities and the responsibilities of institutions in ensuring that all students have the opportunity to learn. The documents include a parent and educator resource guide to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act in public schools; a Dear Colleague letter on the use of restraint and seclusion in public schools; and a Dear Colleague letter concerning the rights of students with disabilities in charter schools under both Section 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Section 504 guidance explicitly pertains to IDEA in charter schools.
Finally, ED released a series of resources to support states in their transition to ESSA. The Consolidated State Plan guidance, State and Local Report Cards guidance, and High School Graduation Rate guidance provide additional clarity on the role of states, districts, and schools under ESSA. In particular, the state and local report cards guidance includes details on new reporting requirements for charter schools.
Louisiana’s First Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that a certain type of charter school does not meet the state constitution’s definition of a public school, rendering these particular charter schools no longer eligible to receive money from the state’s main stream of public school funding. The case was brought by the Louisiana Federation of Teachers for politically motivated reasons. We believe the court’s unfortunate and erroneous interpretation of the state constitution will not stand up to scrutiny, and we look forward to supporting local advocates and attorneys as they push forward to the Louisiana State Supreme Court. The National Alliance released a statement condemning the ruling and standing with Louisiana charter school families.
NACSA Finds Indiana, Nevada, Washington State Tops in State Policy
The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) released its third annual analysis of state charter school policies across the nation, On the Road to Great Charter Schools. The report finds that since 2012, more than half of the 44 states (and DC) with charter schools have strengthened their laws by adopting one or more of the report’s eight recommended policies.
New Resources to Help Build Intentionally Diverse Charter Schools
The National Charter School Resource Center has released a suite of materials on intentionally diverse charter schools, including a toolkit for charter school leaders and a video case study of Valor Collegiate Academies. The resources demonstrate how charter school leaders can aim to recruit, enroll, serve, and maintain a diverse student body while being held accountable for student achievement.
Understanding Special Education School Transfers in New Orleans
New Orleans’ Recovery School District (RSD) has begun tracking why students with special-education needs transfer between schools midyear. Parents can use the OneApp citywide enrollment system to request a transfer, which the RSD will review on a case-by-case basis after consultation with schools and parents. The process should provide greater insight into how many parents of students with special-education needs seek out a new school for their child, and why they do so.
On the Blog
Have you thought lately about your school’s brand? Many parents and teachers are still unfamiliar with what exactly a charter school is, let alone the unique and innovative offerings your charter school provides. That’s where branding comes in. Branding is more than a logo or a slogan – a good brand helps people to understand your school’s mission and what makes it special. Branding can be vital to helping attract both talented teachers and parents who are looking for a particular public school option for their child. Our friends at the Kansas City-based creative studio REACTOR recently wrote a post for the National Alliance blog about how to develop and nurture a great brand. Check it out here!
The 2017 National Charter Schools Conference is being held June 11-14 in Washington, DC, and early registration pricing is available through February 27. We recently announced our first two keynote speakers: Netflix CEO and educational philanthropist Reed Hastings; and Dr. Steve Perry, founder of Capital Preparatory Schools (read more about them here). You won’t want to miss the opportunity to engage with colleagues from around the country and take our message to the new leadership in the nation’s capital. Register here, or visit the NCSC website for more details!
The National Charter Schools Conference is also the setting for the annual induction of new members into the National Charter Schools Hall of Fame. Do you know someone who qualifies as a pioneer and innovator in the movement? Someone who has made a lasting contribution to charter schooling and inspired others to follow their lead? Then please use this form to submit your nomination by March 31, 2017.
Welcome to the National Alliance!
The National Alliance is thrilled to welcome lifelong education and civil rights advocate Cheryl Brown Henderson to our board of directors. Ms. Brown Henderson is the daughter of Oliver Brown, plaintiff in Brown v. Board of Education. She is also the founding president and CEO of the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research, which has awarded scholarships to students of color pursuing degrees in teacher education, established libraries for children in low-income communities, and convened national conferences on education and civil rights. For more on Ms. Brown Henderson’s distinguished life and career, please see the National Alliance’s press release announcing her appointment. And be sure to read Ms. Brown Henderson’s recent op-ed on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Get Schooled blog.
The National Alliance is also pleased to welcome Warren Sander as our new finance director. Warren has experience in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors, working for community-based and international organizations. He has held senior management positions in banking, higher education, and most recently with the Society for Conservation Biology. He earned his MBA from the College of William & Mary, holds a BA in Political Science/International Studies, and has studied extensively in South Korea and mainland China.