The following themes are ones that we explore here at CharterFolk on an ongoing basis.
Understanding the Attack that has Come Against Us
In recent years, the charter school movement has been subject to an unprecedented attack coming from forces seeking to protect the public education establishment. Those of us working in charter schools can get so bogged down in the day-to-day, it can be hard to get the distance to see what our adversaries have done in recent years to sharpen their attack and to see how our initial responses have not always been helpful.
- The Work of Charter Schools – Harder than Issues of War and Peace – The work of charter schools is incredibly difficult. This column takes a quote from Tony Blair as a starting point for understanding what it is we are up against.
- Why It’s Gotten Even Harder – The Establishment’s Strategy to Destroy Charter Schools – As hard as things have always been, in recent years it’s gotten even tougher due to intensified efforts from our opponents to end our movement.
- Behold the Turtle – How Our Response to Attack Has Only Made Things Worse – Taking inspiration from a piece of art that used to hang in my father’s office where he was a school principal, the post points out that CharterFolk going into a defensive crouch on advocacy matters has not resulted in us building the advocacy strength we need.
- Cards on the Table – A New Article Shows Teacher Unions Plotting their Next Line of Attack – An article reveals how teacher unions are seeking to bring the strategies they used in Los Angeles and Chicago to many other parts of the country.
The Loss of Vision
Another topic we return to often is how our inability to articulate an updated vision for our movement is hampering our collective ability to overcome the new attacks that have come against us.
- No Vision, No Voice – How the charter school movement’s failure to update its vision has resulted in many in our movement going silent during a period when opponents are becoming even louder in their criticism of charter schools.
- Where Shmuckheads Dropped the Ball on Vision – Showing how a failure to update our vision to reflect charter schools’ growing impact has had adverse impact on the movement.
- Brode Not Broad – What Happens When We Lose Our Voice – A cautionary tale about how a loss of vision and voice can lead us to beginning to resemble what our adversaries say about us.
- Why It’s Imperative We Occupy the Moral High Ground – A recounting of how our inability to articulate the moral argument for charter schools hurt us at key moments over the past decade.
The Need for Greatly More Public Education
Perhaps the most oft-returned to theme here at CharterFolk is the need for Greatly More Public Education in our society and the unique contribution that the charter school movement can make to bring it about.
- A New Vision for Charter Schools – Greatly More Public Education For All – In this post, I lay out the beginnings for a new vision that I believe reflects the impact our movement should be trying to have on public education today.
- My Worst Mistake – The Missing Third Leg of a New Vision for Charter Schools – This post highlights how damaging it has been for our movement not to prioritize supporting existing public schools to voluntarily convert to charter status as a foundational part of our work.
- DC – Where Charter Schools Next Make Education Greatly More Public for All – This column takes the broad ideas for national vision for the charter school movement and tests their applicability in our nation’s capital.
The Great Disconnect of 2021
Another subject we return to regularly is the disconnect between what public education is offering and the bare minimum that parents and the general public will accept.
- The Great Disconnect of 2021 – Public Education’s Year of Reckoning – This post creates the Equity and Excellence matrix and lays out the stakes for public education if we cannot build a greater overlap between what public education offers and the bare minimum that parents and the broader public will accept.
- General Principles for Addressing the Great Disconnect of 2021 – In this column I lay out four general suggestions for helping charter schools navigate the challenges of the Great Disconnect.
- The Great Disconnect of 2021 Test Case, Part 1 – Sacramento Unified has Little Equity to Lose – The first principle for overcoming the Great Disconnect is recognizing how bad inequity problems are in many large urban school districts. Sadly, Sacramento is so broken it is fair to say that there is very little if any equity to lose.
- Concerns about Cindy Marten, and the Great Disconnect Test Case, Part 2 – Every School an Ally – This post contains a thought exercise for what we could be doing to help address the severe equity and excellence problems we see in problem school districts like Sacramento Unified.
- The Great Disconnect of 2021 is Becoming a Massive Chasm – In many places across the country, we are seeing the Establishment attempting to force parents to accept educational options that they find simply intolerable, which is exacerbating Great Disconnect challenges.
- The Great Disconnect of 2021 Becomes Public Education’s Year of National Crack Up – As the Great Disconnect has played further out, we have begun to see a divergence in Red State and Blue State policy approaches which is setting huge swaths of the country on completely different pathways regarding the future of public education.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for Greatly More Public Education
Another topic we return to here again and again is how our existing needs hierarchy for public education today is mis-designed and risks collapse, necessitating that we bring forward a new needs hierarchy that would support the creation of greatly more public education for all.
- Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for Greatly More Public Education – This describes and contrasts the current dysfunctional needs hierarchy in public education and one that would lead to greatly more public education for all, a hierarchy based upon the way needs are prioritized within the charter school movement.
- At Its Heart, the Drive for Greater Agency in Public Education is a Quest for Simple Human Dignity – So few understand how little agency we afford parents and educators in the current system and how that fundamental disrespect of those within the system leads to intolerable dysfunction.
- When Cities Sue their Own Schools – Public Education’s Accountability Disaster – Charter school adversaries attempt to present charter schools as unaccountable, but a common sense definition of accountability shows how tragically unaccountable traditional public schools are. Those accountability problems are becoming more evident as the Covid crisis plays out.
- A Modest Proposal Advancing Parent and Educator Agency During the Great Disconnect of 2021 – This column proposes a few specific things that charter schools could be doing to restore to parents and teachers a greater sense of control over their own destinies amid all the challenge and heartbreak of the Covid crisis.
The Need for Improved Advocacy Infrastructure and Capacity
For decades we have struggled to make the long term advocacy infrastructure and capacity we need to support the movement. But now we are in the middle of a spreading recognition that membership associations focused on advocacy and creating all the structures they need to engage in policy and political work have great potential to increase charter schools’ collective advocacy strength.
- Thunderbolts and Mountaintops – How We Smash Through the 2×2 – This post explains the two great imperatives that charter school advocacy strengthening must embrace: getting smarter/better in all the various advocacy domains (casting thunderbolts) and building an aligned base of constituents taking collective action toward shared priorities (having a mountaintop from which to launch your thunderbolts).
- Membership Like Democracy – The Worst Except For All Others – Attempts to build advocacy strength for charter schools have been hampered for years, but a recognition is spreading that, while state associations have limitations, they are better than all other alternatives for building collective advocacy strength and long term advocacy infrastructure.
- Associations Associate – The Origins of Charter School Power – Collective strength requires that connective tissue link stakeholders together, something that membership associations are uniquely positioned to facilitate.
- Beyond Cellophane and DuBois – The Strength We Need to Survive – When I moved to Sacramento to take the CCSA job, people looked right through me because our organization did not have the ability to get involved in politics. It’s a circumstance we changed quickly by making a new 501c4 organization that could take on political work. Now we see many other state associations developing their own C4 organizations and greatly building our collective advocacy strength in the process.
- No Rocket Science – The National Advocacy Infrastructure We Need – Charter opponents have linked advocacy organizations at a national, state and local level. If we are going to succeed for the long term, we will need something similar.
- Cards on the Table – The Quest for Better Vision Now – This post lays out a “full deck” of 52 suggestions for the movement to protect itself and build advocacy strength as quickly as possible and for the long term.
While having the right membership organizations in place to drive our advocacy efforts is key, it is also essential that those organizations have membership dues at rates allowing them to build capacity and sophistication over time. Fortunately, we are going through a period where many are recognizing that, with the scale that the charter school movement has at this time, increased membership dues can go a long way toward making our advocacy efforts self-sustaining. A key priority at CharterFolk is to help a transition to higher membership dues happen as quickly as possible across the nation. A goal I have established is trying to have 25 states where members are willing to contribute $25/student in membership dues by 2025.
- 25x25x25 – A North Star for Charter Schools in the Biden Era – An article laying out that the concern that many CharterFolk feel about advocacy conditions for charter schools is leading to awareness that we have to invest in advocacy more, affording us the opportunity to build our advocacy organizations over the next five years.
- Unprecedented Money; The Onslaught That’s Coming; What Should Freak You Out About Your Association – A reminder to school operators that, if their advocacy organizations aren’t approaching them with urgency about the critical need to build advocacy strength by raising membership dues, there must be something critically wrong with your association.
- CharterFolk’s Reason For Being? Unleashing Advocacy Colossi on the Landscape – A quick note describing the potential CharterFolk has to help nudge the broader movement to amass advocacy resources and build advocacy strength.
Getting in the Game
A part of advocacy strengthening is simply encouraging more CharterFolk to get involved in politics and giving them meaningful opportunities to participate.
- Election Takeaways? CharterFolk, We Got to Get in the Game! – Election results nationally show that charter advocates who are getting involved in elections are generating impressive wins.
- Want to Know Why We Gotta Get in the Game? Look at New Mexico! – Many people think we can’t begin building political strength until we have access to large amounts of funding, but resourceful advocates in New Mexico pulled off major wins on shoestring budgets.
- How One School Getting in the Game Kept a Nightmare Out of Congress – A charter school with a lot of moxie in California got their community involved such that a policy maker who has done great harm to charter schools was prevented from winning a race for Congress.
- Sometimes Getting in the Game is More Courtship than Combat – How a school in Colorado scored a breakthrough accessing local resources to build the school facility it has long sought.
Nuts and Bolts
I have gotten comments from readers requesting that I get more specific in my suggestions for people regarding how to take on various advocacy related challenges.
- Responding to CharterFolk on Parent Organizing – Show Me the Money – In this one, I lay down specifics related to involving parents and youth in our advocacy efforts.
- Five Things We Can All Do to Build Advocacy Strength Quickly – Breaking it down for school leaders and others how they can take actions that would serve the moment’s broader advocacy needs.
- Want to Growth Strength Overnight? Join Your Association Now! – Another obvious one, but so needed at this key moment.
- Nuts & Bolts – Getting Ready for Nina’s Call, Should it Come – This one contains some specific ideas about how advocates should make requests for collective action from CharterFolk, and what CharterFolk should think through in advance if they are really committed to helping unleash large amounts of collective action at a federal level.
- Nuts and Bolts – Breaking Down Step-by-Step What to Do When Someone Attacks You Because of Your Support for Charter Schools – This is one of our most read columns here at CharterFolk, giving people very specific suggestions about how to navigate challenging conversations with people who profess themselves to be opposed to charter schools.
Personal Connection to the Work
People report liking different things about CharterFolk. While they don’t always have the highest open rates, posts that feature my own personal connection to the work tend to be the ones that people email me the most about.
- Welcome to CharterFolk – Recounting a promise I made to a special friend which has motivated my work in charter schools ever since.
- Why We Give a Damn About Charter Schools – Joining Big Brothers was one of the best decisions I ever made for so many reasons, but also because it has helped me get better bearings on the grave injustices we attempt to address in the charter school movement.
- Education Inequity Shown in the Lives of One Soccer Team – Sometimes something grows organically out of your life that reminds you why we do this work. So it is with my son’s soccer team.
- What Derrell and Spain Teach Us About Charter School Advocacy – A theme of CharterFolk is my insufferability in terms of my excitement about charter schools. My family has to put up with it more than anyone. One time my love for charter schools actually got in the way of our kids being able to see Santa.
- Groundhog Generation – Public Education’s Recurring Dysfunction Across the Ages – A column about how frustrations my parents experienced in public education led them to retire early, and now those same frustrations are being encountered by close friends a generation later, underscoring how important it is that we change public education so educators working within it feel like they have enough control over their destinies to make a difference in young people’s lives.
- Lessons From Colombia – A Better Strategy for Finding the Lost – How a personal challenge I faced in Colombia was resolved in a way that teaches me how better to take on the work of supporting charter schools.