CharterFolk Chat #4 – Bradford, Skandera and Rotherham on Elections and Implications for Charter Schools

Good morning, CharterFolk.

I’m delighted to be able to share with you this month’s CharterFolk Chat with Derrell Bradford, Hanna Skandera and Andy Rotherham, where we discuss last week’s election results and what the implications are for charter schools.

As I said during the interview:

Our folks that are joining us today, really need very little introduction. They have been working in charter schools for so long. They’re so respected for their commitment and their smarts that I don’t need to go on very long …. We have with us Andy Rotherham, who is the Founder and Partner at Bellwether, Derrell Bradford, Executive Vice President at 50Can, and Hanna Skandera, Founder and CEO of Mile High Strategies who, among other things that she has done in her career, served as Secretary of Education for the State of New Mexico …. There is a buzz and excitement among CharterFolk about this interview …. It speaks to how much people are excited to hear your opinions and it speaks to the importance of being able to process these election results with people who we trust.

I hope you find the time to view the interview in its entirety. If there has ever been a moment when we should be summoning our collective smarts to chart out a wise path forward, it is certainly now when elections have revealed so much about the challenges and opportunities that await us. I learned a great deal from our panelists during the discussion, and I am sure that you will as well.

Below I provide some of the highlights from the conversation:

  • At the 3:40 mark, Derrell talks about how he found the rhetoric about charter schools in the campaign “incredibly unsettling” because “Black folks helped Biden carry the primary” but Biden’s campaign did not reflect the level of support that many Black voters feel about charter schools.
  • At the 6 minute point, Hanna points out that Senate results might serve to moderate Biden’s shift away from policies supportive of charter schools but she generally remains highly concerned that a hostile Secretary of Education could inflict great harm on charter schools.
  • At 9:30, Andy acknowledges the range of threats coming at charter schools but he sees Biden wanting to be a moderating influence and he thinks it very possible he will want to bring that general disposition toward charter school policies as well.
  • At 18:30, Hanna recognizes that Biden is likely to try to be a unifier, but she expresses her concern that education is unlikely to be one of those realms where he seeks unity. That makes it incumbent upon charter supporters that we be savvy about how to make the Biden Administration be reasonable on education policy.
  • At 24:20, Derrell highlights some of the many successes that charter school supporters saw in state elections and how we have to keep focused on the fact that most education policy is made at the state level.
  • At 27:00, Andy talks about the “split verdict” electoral results we saw in many states where a mix of conservative and more progressive candidates and ballot initiatives won, and he posits that the political party that can drive “additive” proposals are likely to fare best going forward.
  • At 31:00, Derrell talks about how the COVID crisis has changed the education policy landscape and how we can position charter schools more strongly for the future if we bring forward solutions for COVID problems now.
  • At 34:20 Hanna underscores how “charter schools exist because there are problems in public education we want to solve” and we have to be clear about what those problems are as we look to future advocacy efforts.
  • At 36:30, Andy surfaces that charter progress depends on assessment data being available in the landscape, and he calls proposals to get rid of testing the educational equivalent of “defunding the police.”
  • At 41:00, Hanna talks about the importance of state chiefs and state boards of education on testing and assessment matters, and she laments how many state leaders are “waiting to see” how politics shake out rather than forcefully advocating for policies that are clearly in students’ interest.
  • At 43:40, Derrell talks about how states that have charter schools serving all communities and demographic groups are better positioned to elect senators and other officials who are supportive of charter schools.
  • At the 45 minute mark, Hanna talks about the long term nature of the work and how important it is to be doing the right policy work that sets the stage for electoral success.
  • At the 47 minute point, Andy laments how after Obama’s election we collectively pulled back working on context and conditions thinking that we had won, and that translated into lost opportunity and eventual loss of momentum.
  • At the 51 minute mark, each of the panelists offer final advice about what would be smart advocacy that would help in the early months of the Biden Administration, especially if the Administration chooses to pursue an appointment for Education Secretary that would be highly threatening to our schools.

I thank Andy, Hanna and Derrell once again for agreeing to be part of this CharterFolk Chat.