It’s back to school season! Some of you have been back in class for more than a month. Others got started more recently. And for many schools affected by the recent hurricanes, the start of the new school year has been difficult and chaotic. But as we approach the end of September, I hope you all are energized and engaged for the year ahead!
Recently I had the opportunity to visit the Purdue University Polytechnic High School, a brand new charter school in Indianapolis whose mission is to prepare U.S. students for the rigors of STEM college majors and careers. The school’s focus on project-based learning has attracted students from all walks of life who want to gain the skills needed for in-demand careers. I also visited two of Cleveland’s Breakthrough Schools, a top charter school network in Ohio that’s delivering high quality at the scale students and parents need.
My visits were a great reminder of how important it is to invite policymakers to see our schools for themselves so they can better understand why you need—and deserve—more funding and other policy support. Everyone who visits your school will leave impressed, so show it off! If you need help getting an invitation to your federal, state, and local officials, drop us a line. We’d be glad to help.
A lot has happened in the charter movement since we last sent a monthly update in July. So keep scrolling for the latest on how you can help protect the Dreamers, big developments in state charter school policy, and some major research reports that have people talking.
PS – If you haven’t caught our back to school video, featuring some of the adorable students at Creative Minds Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., take a look today!
First Things First
Over the next five months, President Trump is phasing out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, which currently protects 800,000 Dreamers—undocumented immigrant youth who entered the United States before the age of 18. The only permanent solution for Dreamers is to pass legislation that gives them the security of legal status and the opportunity to become citizens and continue to build their lives in this country. The National Alliance continues to urge Congress to pass—and the president to sign—the Durbin-Graham DREAM Act of 2017. We need your help. Click here to be connected directly with your members of Congress and ask them to co-sponsor the DREAM Act of 2017. Many charter schools in our country serve students, and are staffed by dedicated educators, who would benefit from the DREAM Act. Speak up today!
Have you been affected by the recent hurricanes, or are you looking for a way to help those who have? The U.S. Department of Education has established a webpage, toll-free hotline, and e-mail address to provide answers to questions and share information related to the hurricanes. The National Alliance is also collecting information and resources on our blog, and we will continue to update the page as more information comes in. Our staff has been working with partners to ensure that the federal government’s relief package makes charter schools impacted by the hurricane eligible for the same federal aid as district schools.
Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month
Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15th to October 15th) is underway! Across the country, approximately 30 percent of public charter school students identify as Hispanic, and 84 percent of Hispanic parents say they favor or strongly favor allowing parents to choose which public school their child attends. We’ll be celebrating these students, schools, and parents on our blog and social media channels throughout the month. Check out five charter schools whose commitment and innovative approach is making a difference for Hispanic students.
The House and Senate have both made progress is moving legislation that includes FY18 funding for the Charter Schools Program (CSP)—and both houses would include more money for the CSP than it’s receiving this year. See the National Alliance’s statement on the Senate Labor HHS Appropriations bill here. And check out The Charter Blog for more details about this year’s appropriations process.
Deadline Extended for Texas and Louisiana. ED issued a notice inviting applications for new awards for FY 2017 for the Promise Neighborhoods Program—Grant Competition. The purpose of the Promise Neighborhoods program is to significantly improve the academic and developmental outcomes of children living in the most distressed communities of the United States, including ensuring school readiness, high school graduation, and access to a community-based continuum of high-quality services. Nonprofit entities working with high-need LEAs are eligible to apply. See ED’s website for more information. Applications are due by October 6, 2017 for eligible entities in Texas and Louisiana.
News From the States
llinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a bill that provides a fair funding system for public school students across the state—regardless of their zip code or type of public school they attend. The bill reforms Illinois’ statewide funding formula, provides charter funding equity, and gives Chicago Public Schools additional funds. Click here to read our statement.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law a bill that will, for the first time, give Texas public school students who attend charter schools direct support from the state for facilities funding. The new law will direct $60 million in relief to public charter schools—helping to keep instructional funds in the classroom for students, and lessening the detrimental impact of these dollars going towards the rent or mortgage. Click here to read our full statement.
Wisconsin’s legislature enacted provisions within the K-12 education budget to allow independent charter schools nationwide. The Office of Educational Opportunity at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will now have the ability to authorize independent charter schools across the state, not just in Milwaukee and Madison. Click here to read our statement.
We’re concerned about Kentucky. Earlier this year, we cheered when Kentucky became the 44th state (along with Washington, D.C.) to allow public charter schools. But last week, the state’s Department of Education produced draft regulations and a charter school application that would severely limit the growth of high-quality charter schools in the state. The National Alliance and the Kentucky Public Charter Schools Association called on the state’s charter schools advisory council to significantly revise the draft.
A new study from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) finds that on average, public charter school students in Texas experience stronger annual growth in reading (gaining an additional 17 days of learning) and similar growth in math compared to the educational gains of their matched peers. Texas charter students from low-income backgrounds also fare better than their district peers in both reading and math, as do some low-income students of color. Click here to read our statement on the findings.
CREDO also released its new study on public school closures titled “Lights Off: Practice and Impact of Closing Low-Performing Schools.” Utilizing student-level data from 26 states, CREDO looked at the performance of schools before they closed and the impact on displaced students after their school closed. Click here to read a blog post by our Director of Research Kevin Hesla and click here to read our statement.
New research from Temple University finds that charter schools appear to have small positive effects, or at the very least no significant negative effects, on nearby district student performance. The study looked at New York City district school students in grades 3-5 who attended a district school in an attendance zone that included a charter school serving at least one of those grades. Read more on The Charter Blog.
The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) released a paper looking into declining enrollment in traditional public schools and the role of public charter schools. One of the paper’s recommendations includes slowing the growth of charter schools to allow district schools to “catch up”—a recommendation that the National Alliance disagrees with.
Education Next released a report finding a dip in broad public support for charter schools. The National Alliance responded with a statement recognizing the findings, while also acknowledging that charter-school parents are considerably more satisfied with their schools than are district-school parents. Meanwhile, a new poll from GenForward finds that a majority of millennials support charter schools, including 65% of African Americans, 61% of Asian Americans and 58% of Latinxs. Click here to read the report.
In case You Missed It
The Charter Schools Committee of the State University of New York (SUNY) has issued proposed regulations that would allow flexible pathways to teacher certification for staff members of high performing SUNY-authorized charter schools. The National Alliance submitted comments supporting the proposal and Nina Rees highlighted how this new pathway will bring diverse, committed educators into the field.
As states wrestle with finding effective ways to turn around poorly performing schools, Denver’s University Prep—Steele Street may be a model to emulate.
Welcome to the National Alliance!
Jake Custer has joined the National Alliance as Director of HR and Operations. Prior to joining the National Alliance, Jake served as the Director of Growth Strategy for Opportunity 180, a Nevada non-profit focused on increasing the number of high-quality public school seats in the state. He also has served as Director of Recruitment at DC Prep Public Charter Schools and as a special education teacher in the DC Public Schools. Jake holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Michigan State University and a Master of Arts in Education and Human Development from George Washington University.
Ashley Duffy is the National Alliance’s new Coordinator of Federal Policy and Government Relations. Ashley developed a love of education policy twelve years ago when she began volunteering for the Boys and Girls Club of Milford, Delaware, where she was a long-time tutor and mentor. She has previously worked on U.S. Senator Tom Carper’s staff as his Constituent Services Representative. Ashley earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Hampton University and a Master of Science in Public Policy from Drexel University.
Briana Gilchrist joined the National Alliance as a Press Assistant. Previously, Briana was a fellow at Marion P. Thomas Charter School, where she worked in the central office learning the organizational structure and operations of a community-based charter school. Briana is originally from Newark, New Jersey, and earned her Bachelor of Arts in Planning and Public Policy and Africana Studies from Rutgers—The State University of New Jersey. Be sure to read Briana’s reflections on how attending a charter school changed her life.
Support the National Alliance!
The National Alliance is a non-profit organization that relies on generous partners like you. Please consider supporting the growth and sustainability of charter schools by making a tax-deductible gift or adding your name to our advocacy list. Thank you!