Dr. CharterFolk All Call|CharterFolk Birth a New Advocacy Organization Where One’s Needed Most

Good day, CharterFolk.

I start off today extending my appreciation to several of you for your outreach about Sunday’s post. I appreciate also the several new subscriptions that we have received in recent days. You keep spring in my step.

Thank you.

Dr. CharterFolk All-Call

I would next like to extend an additional thanks to John Eick for his post kicking off our “Dr. CharterFolk” series.

First I confess my conflicts. I am on the Board of Westlake Charter School where John serves as ED, and I’m a huge fan of John’s leadership. He brings an infectious enthusiasm and a deep knowledge about instructional practice and school culture-building to everything he does at Westlake. I find myself constantly learning whenever I am in the presence of John Eick.

I know that mine is a feeling that is shared by many others in the Westlake community. So none of us were surprised to see John, on top of managing all his regular responsibilities at school, take on a PhD program, which he completed right in the middle of the Covid crisis, no less!

In the process, he has made an important contribution to a field of inquiry – how effective leadership can create the healthy school cultures needed to thrive through periods of immense change – that couldn’t be more topical in the current environment. So if you haven’t had a chance to check out John’s Five School Climate Systems that are the key to success for schools successfully navigating moments of disruptive change, I encourage you to do so today.

My discussions with John about his studies remind me of many other conversations I have had with dozens of other CharterFolk over the years who have completed PhD programs. I invariably learn a great deal from those conversations and come away thinking that it would be great if more people could benefit from the thought leadership that people working in charter schools are creating. And now, chipping away at this CharterFolk obsession of mine, I realize that I’ve happened across a context through which we could help spread around knowledge.

So consider this an all-call to all our Dr. CharterFolk’s out there who have conducted research that would be of benefit to anyone trying to improve educational opportunity. If you might have interest in getting your work out in front of the CharterFolk readership, ping either Kerry or me at kerry@charterfolk.org or jed@charterfolk.org. Nothing would please us more than to help raise even more awareness about the great thought leadership that you are generating within our nation’s charter schools.

CharterFolk Birth a New Charter School Advocacy Organization in Puerto Rico

Meanwhile, I also would like to let the CharterFolk community know that your support of our efforts is resulting in the formation of a new advocacy organization that will provide critically needed support to charter schools doing particularly important work.

Nearly five years ago, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.

Schools were particularly hard hit.

In order to help public education get back on its feet, an education reform package was approved that included a new charter school law. It generated, not surprisingly, immense pushback from Establishment interests. A leader who drove the early reform efforts saw her career destroyed. Almost certainly unfairly.

Education politics in Puerto Rico is as rough and tumble as you will find anywhere in the United States, contributing to learning problems that are immense. In 2017, literally zero 8th grade students scored at or above the NAEP proficient level. In 2019, 4th grade NAEP scores showed Puerto Rico at the bottom of all states by a wide margin.

Just last month a new study was released documenting the level of dysfunction within the system.

Against this broader backdrop of educational brokenness and political dysfunction, seven charter schools …

… have been able to open in Puerto Rico in recent years.

…and now five more are slated to open next year …

It’s still too early to have much student achievement data, but evidence certainly suggests …

… that many kids are finding better places to go to school …

… with more engaged parents …

… and united staffs …

… coming together to build strong new school cultures …

… not to mention whole new school campuses.

In sum: exactly what the charter school movement is all about.

The primary problem, as it often is for charter school movements at all stages of development, but especially so in the early going, is one of advocacy.

Puerto Rico’s funding formula for all schools is inscrutable, and it is even worse for charter schools. We now have a situation where the charter schools of Puerto Rico are many months late receiving the operating revenue they are entitled to. Schools are having to establish lines of credit just to keep paying their teachers, and no one from the Department of Education will provide a straight answer about when the schools’ funding will be released. Meanwhile, bills are being run in the legislature designed to give charter schools a direct route by which to receive funding from the governor, but the proposals hang in the balance. And desperation is building at the school level.

What is needed is advocacy.

The National Alliance is engaged at the national level seeing if federal levers can be pulled to make sure that funding, almost all of which is federal, can get through to the schools.

At the local level, though, there is really no advocacy capacity, except for some dedicated individuals who are going above and beyond until some lasting effort can be made.

That’s where CharterFolk comes in, providing the seed funding needed to establish a membership association for the charter schools of Puerto Rico so that the community can build the long term advocacy strength it will need to survive and thrive. As is always the case here at CharterFolk, we want to support sustainable advocacy initiatives, ones supported by ongoing membership dues from the charter school community itself. So the $15,000 that will be provided as a grant from the CharterFolk nonprofit will be matched by equal revenues coming from the schools themselves, once they receive the funds that are currently being withheld.

It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to get things going. And as we are seeing in other places across the United States right now, when charter school communities come together in a united way, even small charter school communities, they can amass the resources that are needed to become a formidable force for kids and families in search of improved public education options.

So, to the readers of CharterFolk who have provided the resources to make this grant a possibility, we say thank you. And to our new CharterFolk in Puerto Rico, we welcome you to our movement, we say keep going, and we remind you that we’re always at your back.