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!

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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.

Announcing the CharterFolk of the Year Award

Good morning, CharterFolk.

Today, we have fun news to share.

Over the past 10 months, CharterFolk has profiled the work of 30 CharterFolk X – extraordinary people making extraordinary contributions to the national charter school movement.

CharterFolk Extraordinaire 2020-21

Profiles of the 30 CharterFolk X leaders who have been recognized this year can be found on the CharterFolk X web page.

Our aim now is to cast even greater recognition upon their work by creating the CharterFolk of the Year Award.

The CharterFolk Board met last week to discuss how best to create a CharterFolk of the Year Award. As ever, their input proved invaluable:

  • First, remember what the purpose is here, which is to celebrate the extraordinary people who are working in our nation’s charter schools.
  • CharterFolk X aren’t the kinds of people who are motivated by financial reward, so keep prize levels modest.
  • Nearly every person who has been recognized as CharterFolk X has said, “But it’s not about me. It’s about the incredible team I am part of.” So think of making the award in a way that would allow teams of people to celebrate.
  • Remember that, while it’s probably necessary to identify a “grand prize” winner, we actually have entire mountain ranges of people to celebrate, as opposed to single peaks. So think of ways to identify several winners.
  • Make sure you do this in a sustainable way. We like that we’re doing this, but let’s be sure we can do it again next year.
  • Keep all content about CharterFolk X public, but reserve voting rights to those who have demonstrated some level of commitment to CharterFolk.
  • Remind people that online voting can be technically tricky. Assure folks that the Board will be monitoring how things are going and, if there’s any snafu, the Board will be available to make any necessary course corrections.

With that wise counsel received, we have decided the following:

  • We will identify a CharterFolk of the Year winner and three runners-up.
  • The winner will be awarded $2000 and the three runners-up will be awarded $1000 each.
  • The prize levels have been chosen to reflect a desire of the CharterFolk Board that teams of people have the opportunity to gather and celebrate their own progress.
  • We will have two rounds of balloting, one in April which will narrow the field to four finalists, and a second one in May which will identify the final winner and runners-up.
  • The awards will be announced on June 8th, the one year anniversary of the creation of CharterFolk.
  • All subscribers, paid and complimentary, will be able to vote once in each of the two rounds.
  • All material about the 30 people chosen as CharterFolk X will remain public for all to read, but only subscribers will be able to vote. Voters will have to visit the CharterFolk website in order to cast their ballot.
  • During April and May, we will pause our recognitions of new CharterFolk X people so as to minimize any confusion about who is eligible for consideration this year.
  • We will pick up again with recognitions in the middle of June, with a goal of identifying 25-30 again in 2021-22.

I thank CharterFolk Board Members again for the guidance they are providing as we aspire to roll out CharterFolk in a smart and tone-right way.

I also offer special thanks to all of our paid subscribers and match donors who have provided us the resources needed to go forward with the CharterFolk of the Year Award. If any readers would like to join your fellow CharterFolk in becoming a paid subscriber, you may do so here.

Finally, I would like to extend a last thanks to the CharterFolk Extraordinaire themselves. Many of you I have gotten to know personally over my decades working in charter schools, but others of you are completely new to me. In the crafting of the CharterFolk X posts each week, I confess to having been just completely and utterly blown away by your personal stories and by the amazing things you are achieving in support of kids and families across the United States. You are the people for whom CharterFolk has been made. You prove again that the most amazing asset that the charter school movement has grown during our first three decades of work is the extraordinary people who have gravitated toward it. You truly are the “heart of the movement” filling us all with even greater energy and conviction to help our movement achieve its transformational potential on behalf of millions of kids and families.

Voting for Round 1 starts on April 6th. Be on the lookout for directions about how to cast your ballot!