This Too Passes. A Noble Pursuit: Charter School Pre-Check Now!

Weekend greetings, CharterFolk.

I start thanking Jackie Elliot for her great Contributor Column this week which had an exceedingly high open rate.

CharterFolk always love hearing from Jackie.

I can’t tell you how many times Jackie has issued the rallying cry for more charter school progress in Los Angeles. She’s been doing it since she founded the first charter school in the San Fernando Valley late last century,

Thank you again, Jackie.

This week, Los Angeles will serve as the host city for the Diverse Charter School Coalition Annual Convening.

10 years of DCSC. Quite a moment. Congrats to Sonia and the whole team at DCSC.

I’ll be hosting a Coffee Talk on Thursday afternoon. Hope to see many of you there.

Meanwhile, later in February, I’m also looking forward to being on a panel focused on charter school developments at The HJ Sims Conference in San Diego.

It would be great to see you there, too.

Sandwiched in between, I’ll be at a convening of the Charter School Growth Fund where Andy and I will be doing our first live recording of a WonkyFolk podcast in front of a plenary session there. Should be a lot of fun.

Let’s get on to today’s post.

This Too Passes

Some of the biggest news in Charterland this week was Chicago Public Schools approving all charter renewals.

This occurs after all sorts of bluster about CPS supposedly preparing to come down hard on charter schools.

A couple weeks back, Chalkbeat’s headline in Denver was nearly identical.

A large number of charter renewals were approved.

In Philadelphia, meanwhile, the board reversed itself this week by renewing a school it had previously voted to close. In this case, Chalkbeat cited “the shifting political climate.”

By that it meant the new dynamics that have set in since the election of a new mayor who has made it clear she wants the attacks on charter schools to stop.

And since taking office, she has appointed a team of education advisors that includes many from the charter school community, much to the consternation of the education Establishment.

In Denver, the shift was ushered in by a slate of charter-supportive school board members and a supportive new mayor who were all elected last year in response to the abject dysfunction the district had fallen into.

Now in Chicago we see new polling from Stand For Children showing that few Chicagoans support the new policies that Mayor Johnson has attempted to advance since his election last spring.

In March, I wrote about how a Rube Goldberg machine of Establishment influence over Los Angeles Unified has led to its tragic state, but as the song goes, “this too will pass.”

Since then, two Establishment-protecting board members have announced their retirement, and a third is up against a highly formidable challenger.

And as Jackie’s contributor column reminds us all, charter schools have grown in the San Fernando Valley to be a force large enough to decide this election if we turn out in numbers that are within our potential.

It’s developments such as these happening in cities across the nation right now that require me to update my language.

CharterFolk, “this too will pass” no longer suffices.

The deeper truth is that “it’s already passing.”

The question is whether we’re ready for the level of opportunity that awaits us on the other side.

A Noble Pursuit

All this focus on the positive is not to say that charter schools aren’t still having to pay a high tax due to all the absurd blowback that keeps coming our way. Though all 49 charters were renewed in Chicago this week, none were provided the length of renewal that their performance merited. It led to Constance Jones, the CEO at Noble Schools

… doing the very thing that Jackie has asked all CharterFolk to do.

Speaking up.

Writing a great op-ed in the Chicago Tribune about the unfair treatment that the district is imposing on charter schools and how that equates to an effort to limit the options of families who need better public education most.

It’s a great piece. I hope you have a chance to read it in its entirety. Let me quote one section in particular.

This system demands even more time and energy from our families, staff, students and alumni, who must plead with the city to keep open the school they believe in. We have to fight for the longest renewal possible so our students can feel confident they are in a school they know will be open by the time they graduate. We can tell our teachers they have a secure career. We can tell our families they can plan to send their youngest to follow in their sibling’s footsteps. Imagine how much more we could achieve if the thousands of collective hours we spend pleading to remain open were redirected toward the teaching of our students.

It cuts to the heart of the advocacy challenge before much of the charter school movement right now: the need to create oversight and regulation that allows successful charter schools to do even more without having precious CharterFolk mindshare wasted on completely unnecessary renewal and other compliance matters.

I consider it a rallying cry not just for Chicago, but for us all.

Call it “The Noble Pursuit:”

Oversight of charter schools that, rather than needlessly, ridiculously, infuriatingly stifling our potential to generate more positive impact, unleashes it instead.

Charter School Pre-Check Now!

Developments coming out of red states right now make plain the critical need to create authorizing that unleashes CharterFolk potential.

In Louisiana, they’re talking about the new governor taking a run at a universal voucher proposal.

Meanwhile, in Baton Rouge, the local school board won’t even approve new charters, not even ones coming from operators who have demonstrated a strong track record of success.

In Georgia, Secretary Cardona is railing against the idea of the state seeking to expand its voucher program.

Meanwhile, in Atlanta, proven providers can’t get new charter schools approved …

… because, like in Baton Rouge, the only thing the school district is concerned about is its own bottom line.

A review committee evaluated the petition before the meeting and cited the school’s innovative design, academic strength, community support and fiscal sustainability as strengths. However, the committee ultimately denied the petition based on the administration’s concerns around demographics, a special education teacher shortage, and how Tapestry could potentially impact enrollment at current APS schools.

What can advocates say but that the situation is “disheartening.”

Ditto in Oklahoma.

A state rolling out a new voucher program …

… while charter schools can’t even get charters approved in Oklahoma City.

It creates a situation where voucher programs are supporting private schools that are able to set up shop wherever they want without constraint, while charter schools are essentially throttled.

CharterFolk, the need for entirely new thinking is abundantly clear.

Our advocacy must create improved regulatory environments for charter schools such that our successful operators can expand impact as straight-forwardly as successful private schools can.

Perhaps this bill on the cusp of passage in Idaho paves the way:

It would create the equivalent of a “TSA Pre-Check” process for successful charter schools wanting to grow.

“What we tried to accomplish…was (to) balance accountability with earned autonomy,” he said. “A lot of what I tried to do in this bill is separate the high performers from the not-so-high performers.” 

For high-performing charters, that means extended renewal periods, less “red tape” required to replicate a charter school and shorter performance reviews, which Adams likened to TSA PreCheck. 

Imagine that!

A simple process providing clearance for successful charter schools to grow wherever they want.

Charter School Pre-Check Now!

A noble advocacy pursuit indeed.