CharterFolk Chat #8 – Castrejón, Coleman and Broy, Forging the Yellow Brick Road Toward the Emerald City of True Charter School Advocacy Strength and Influence

Good morning CharterFolk.

I’m super excited to roll out our 8th CharterFolk Chat, this one focusing on fun and creative ways to talk about the critical need to build charter school advocacy and political strength at a state level. I mean, where else but CharterFolk can you get a chance to hear Myrna Castrejón crack up her peers doing a rendition of Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” in order to explain the political imperative before our movement? I kid you not. Check out the link below!


Our three guests for today’s chat are some of the smartest, most capable and most passionate builders of charter school advocacy strength you will find anywhere in our movement.

  • Myrna Castrejón is the CEO of the California Charter Schools Association and Board Member of CCSA Advocates, the association’s tandem C4 organization.
  • Starlee Coleman is the CEO of the Texas Charter Public Schools Association and of Charter Schools Now, the association’s tandem C4 organization.
  • Andrew Broy is the President of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools and of INCS Action, the network’s C4 organization.

(Did you all get that? All three of these organizations have partner C4 organizations enabling them to build new levels of advocacy strength and influence. Does your state’s association have a C4?)

At the end of the conversation, I sum up their contributions by saying that, if the national charter movement is Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road, our three guests represent the Scarecrow, the Tin Man (or Woman) and the Cowardly Lion – critically important partners helping forge the way to the Emerald City of true advocacy strength and influence.

I hope you all will have a chance to view the entire chat from the beginning. For those of you who would like to be able to jump around to highlights, I provide some clues below:

  • For the first four and a half minutes, I do that Wallace thing, mixing introductions with an opportunity to rave about each of our guests as incredible CharterFolk making groundbreaking progress on behalf of the movements in their respective states.
  • At 4:45, Starlee dives into the latest developments in Texas, highlighting how, amid a broader landscape where most traditional public schools and charter schools have returned to in-person instruction, the Covid crisis has reminded legislators and the broader public why it is so important to have educational options like charter schools.
  • At 6:50, Myrna explains how, in a very different landscape in California, the charter school community going “open source” in support of all public schools and pivoting more successfully to remote learning has helped the movement lay down a new groove with policy makers and the broader public.
  • At 10:55, Andrew builds on Myrna’s “new groove” comment, explaining how charter schools’ nonprofit governance structure gave them the agility needed to pivot quickly during the Covid crisis. The crisis also allowed many Illinois charter school organizations that had previously developed hybrid and remote learning expertise to showcase and share their knowledge with the entire charter school community and indeed with all public schools.
  • At 16:35, Myrna underscores the importance of not oversimplifying our characterization of the Covid landscape. She encourages us, rather, to recognize that there is wide variation in communities’ readiness to embrace reopening given the different experiences families have had during the pandemic and given the different levels of trust parents have in their public schools.
  • At 20:45, Andrew recounts how many Chicago charter schools were able to offer parents a range of different options, from full remote to many hybrid approaches, while traditional public schools were only able to offer one approach to parents.
  • At 21:55, Starlee shares a comment she heard from a Texas legislator about how a “silver lining” for charter schools is that charter opponents who often huddle in closed-door settings in state capitols to plan strategy are literally unable to do so during Covid, and that is preventing them from being as effective as they might otherwise be in their ongoing attacks against our schools. She also shares an anecdote about how legislators are recognizing that charter schools’ advocacy priorities are about kids, whereas the Establishment’s efforts are almost exclusively focused on money.
  • At 24:10, Starlee goes on to describe how recent political activity by Charter Schools Now has built new levels of advocacy partnership with Texas policy makers, and that is already resulting in new momentum for charter schools in the capitol.
  • At 28:40 Andrew shares how, over a several electoral cycle period, INCS Action has been able to turn out charter school parents and other supporters to the ballot box which has significantly increased the amount of support that charter schools enjoy from Democrats in the Illinois legislature.
  • At 33:00, Myrna shares how having political capacity during a period when charter schools have been “marked for death” has proven stabilizing as the 2020 elections brought a mild course correction which has proven beneficial to charter schools. Political infrastructure will also serve the movement as changes in the authorizing landscape are making county board of education races even more important for charter schools.
  • At the 41:20 mark, the three guests share their latest rationale for why it is important for all state associations across the country to redouble their efforts to build C3/C4 tandems and political infrastructure generally.
  • At 50:20, the guests share their ideas for a new policy agenda which may help charter school advocates drive a new public narrative for the movement.
  • Finally, at the one hour mark, the guests respond to my suggestion that we should be making it a top priority to convince charter schools to significantly increase their dues contributions to state associations over the next five years in order to grow the resources available for charter school advocacy.

Again, a deep thank you to Starlee, Andrew and Myrna for being part of our CharterFolk Chat today.