Keeping On. You’ll Look Sweet Upon the Seat …

Good morning, CharterFolk.

We’re mixing things up a bit here at CharterFolk this morning.

This week, of all people in Charterland we could have invited to scribe a Contributor Column, who did we pick?



Talk about being completely insufferable. 

Here I go throwing a few thousand words a week at you in my regular columns. 

And now I’m throwing a few thousand more at you in a contributor piece?

I know, I know.


But at least I have something of an excuse.

Because this one’s coming via Education Next, which published a piece from me this week.

The story of CharterFolk …

keeping on.

Showing amazing resiliency in the past five years such that, contrary to many doomsayers’ predictions, we’ve gone on to serve hundreds of thousands of more kids in our country.

And we look poised to serve even more in the years ahead.

In the process, becoming a reform effort of public education unlike any other in our lifetimes.

One that spans generations, and keeps on keeping on.

Many thanks to Education Next for giving me the opportunity.

And, just as importantly, many thanks to all of you.

Because anyone reading the keeping on piece and dusting for CharterFolk fingerprints will certainly find all sorts of incriminating evidence.

Just look at some of the main themes in the article that the dust picks up.

Massachusetts leading the way toward unlocking greater resources for advocacy, which we heard from Tim about in June.

A stronger coalition at work in New Mexico that Amanda brought us up to speed about a couple years ago.

New philanthropy entering the space that Hanna described while I was on the Camino. 

Howard adding authoritativeness as only he can.

Andy calling turkey on me as only he can.

Derrell making some of the most astute observations about advocacy trends.

And, finally, of course, Nina, having one more chance to describe the momentum that she has helped generate during her remarkable eleven years of service to the movement.

Not to mention essentially every other aspect of the article.

We’re it not for the fact that I have been working on CharterFolk for the last three and a half years, first of all, Education Next would never have invited me to write the piece in the first place.

But never mind that. 

Were it not for CharterFolk I wouldn’t have known what to say.

Because I wouldn’t have had the perspective needed to see what’s actually happening in this marvelous, massive, motley movement of ours …

… which absolutely, without doubt …

… just keeps on keeping on.

So to all of you.

For having kept on.

And for having provided me the vantage point from which to witness your keeping on.

I say, thank you.

On we go.

You’ll Look Sweet Upon the Seat …

Which leads me to the one part of the keeping on piece that I’d like to highlight above all others.

It relates to one of my personal obsessions. 

The part of the article that talks about how many of our charter school associations across the country have evolved into or have invested even more in becoming 501c3/501c4 tandem organizations over the past five years.

Because, in my view, while I don’t believe in cookie-cutters and doing our advocacy in exactly the same way in every state, I do believe in big broad themes. 

Shared base imperatives.

And if there is any shared base imperative that I know exists across states, it’s our need to evolve our advocacy infrastructure such that our state associations become c3/c4 tandems able to do both the great nonpartisan policy work that our schools need to thrive and grow, as well as the great partisan electoral work we need to ensure that enlightened policy makers are in place to support that policy work.

I’m so convinced of the importance of improved advocacy infrastructure, I don’t think our movement can succeed without it.

It’s why I’m so obsessed with the importance of making tandems.

How obsessed?


Obsessed enough that near the end of one of the very longest days on the Camino, when we happened across an establishment whose name reflects my obsession, Amy took a picture for posterity.


Tandem organizations.

Effective ones, of course.

Like the one in Texas I profiled at the top of the story.

Led by new CharterFolk Board Member Starlee Coleman …

… the Texas Charter School Association’s C4 partner, Charter Schools Now, has made all the difference, allowing the association to pass long-sought policy wins and elect state board members who are supportive of high quality charter school growth.

And the TX experience tells the story from the optimal point of view, one demonstrating that we don’t just need tandems in places where things are perceived to be politically threatening. 

In fact, we need better advocacy infrastructure everywhere.

Even in states that are perceived to be with us, like red state Texas.

Because the truth is that establishment protection comes from across the political spectrum.

And if Texas hadn’t built its political infrastructure, we would not be seeing the charter schools now moment that is spreading across the entire Lone Star state now.

It’s why I hope the charter school movement remembers the lyrics of ones of the oldest and catchiest tunes out there …

… one sung by some of our most beloved musicians …

… extolling the virtue of tandems.

“Daisy, Daisy …”

… the old song goes.

“Give me your answer do.”

The CharterFolk version goes something like this:

“CharterFolk, CharterFolk, give me your answer do.”

I’m half crazy …

… (or, as some would call me, “completely insufferable”) …

… all for the love of you.

It won’t be a stylish marriage.

I can’t afford a carriage.

And this is true.

We’re not seeking to build lavishly funded carriages of political showmanship rivaling the gilded electoral machines of those who oppose us.

Because gildedness is not what we need.

What we need is conveyance.

Something able to get us from here to there.

Infrastructure with enough resources to do our advocacy work as effectively as is within our potential to do, such that we’re able to prevail on advocacy challenges.

A vehicle!

With one wheel being our nonpartisan policy work and the other being our partisan electoral work.

All held together by a frame, which, of course, is our field of incredible education organizations achieving amazing things with kids and communities.

And when brought together in the form of an effective tandem, the component parts propel us across the landscape such that we arrive at the shared destination we aspire to.

Better education for every student in our county.

So I end this piece just like the old song ends:

CharterFolk, remember!

You’ll look sweet

… upon the seat …

… of a bicycle built for two.