DFER's Blog - Public Charter Schools
Democrats for Education Reform teams up with UW students
April 12, 2013
By Jarett Fields, DFER Wisconsin
Today’s college students are crucial allies in the struggle to ensure children and families around the state of Wisconsin have quality schools. As the education reform movement grows in Wisconsin, it is imperative that we engage with these future leaders.
On Thursday evening, I had the opportunity to speak with students at the University of Wisconsin (UW) in a discussion about education reform at the local and state level. The event was hosted by UW’s Bipartisan Issues Group and Students for Education Reform.
I spoke on behalf of DFER’s mission to support the expansion of independent high-quality public charter schools in Wisconsin. I also discussed the importance of informing parents statewide about the benefits of expanding high-quality educational options.
While speaking with the students, I noted four important initiatives that are currently underway to help improve Wisconsin’s educational landscape through the recently introduced Assembly bill that proposes independent public charter school expansion (AB40). If passed, the bill would do the following: 1) expand independent public charter schools to cities like Madison and Green Bay; 2) provide for a per-pupil funding increase for students attending those schools; 3) expand the Charter School Oversight Board; and, 4) increase funding to ensure Teach for America continues to play a vital role in supporting our schools in the state.
When State Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) joined the discussion, students were able to hear her thoughts and unique plans for improving education throughout the state. She proposed focusing on developing parent centers to engage parents in their child’s education as well provide them with educational and professional training for employment.
Seeing the Federal Charter School Funding Fight Forest for the Obama FY 2014 Budget Trees
March 27, 2013
By Charles Barone, Director of Policy
I really like and respect Nina Rees, CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and former Assistant Secretary of Education under George W. Bush. And I don't care who knows it. But I was disappointed, to say the least, in her op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal questioning President Obama's support for public charter schools.
Nina does a good job summarizing the growing body of research, by independent experts, that shows high-quality public charter schools out-perform their traditional public school peers, especially when it comes to educating students who are most at-risk for academic failure. More and more parents of those children are being offered an alternative to the take-it or leave-it approach to school enrollment, which has forced millions of kids to attend failing schools for generations.
Parents need more such choices. And, increased funding is critical to achieving that goal. But choosing this point in time to put the onus of increasing public charter school funding on President Obama is like saying sensible gun control legislation is dead unless Obama redoubles his support for it. Both leave out a whole lot of context.
A better way to start the piece would have been to thank Obama for all the funding he provided for public charter schools in his first term. The fact is that President Obama has done more for public charter schools than any President since Bill Clinton, who pushed for and signed the first federal charter school bill into law.
Obama increased funding for public charter schools more in his first year than George W. Bush did in his entire eight years as President. In addition, for the first time ever, Obama set aside funding - twice - to subsidize the replication and expansion of the very high-quality public charter schools, such as KIPP and Uncommon, that Rees writes about. In its first year alone, Obama’s program enabled 76,000 more students to attend 127 new and 31 expanded high-quality public charter schools in a dozen charter school networks nationwide. Some public charter networks got even more funding from Obama's Investing in Innovation grants. Plus, Obama's Race to the Top Initiative pushed states to lift state caps on the number of public charter schools in their states and to use charter conversion as one method for turning around chronically low-performing schools.
Rees should have thanked Obama for increasing public support for charter schools, especially with Democrats who, in most states, are the leading force blocking their expansion and preventing charters from being funded at the same level as their traditional public school peers. A 2008 survey conducted by the Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG) at Harvard University and Education Next found that linking President Obama’s support to poll questions about public charter schools increased public support for them by 11 percentage points. This powerful research showed that large chunks of the population were more willing to support reforms if they were told that President Obama supported them too.
For reasons I do not completely understand, you won't see much of any of the above featured on NAPCS' website or on The Wall Street Journal op-ed page - which, besides being unfair is, I think, a serious strategic mistake.
DFER TN releases video in response to discussions regarding costs of public charters
March 13, 2013
DFER Tennessee released this video today in response to the recent discussions regarding the costs of public charter schools to the Metro Nashville Public Schools system. Please watch this powerful video and share it with as many parents, opinion leaders, and elected officials as possible.
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DFER TN released this video today in response to discussions regarding costs of public charter schools to the Metro Nashville Public Schools system. Please watch and share with as many parents, opinion leaders, and elected officials as possible. http://ow.ly/iRGex
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@DFER_News TN releases video in response to recent discussions regarding costs of public #charters in @MetroSchools http://ow.ly/iRGex
DFER TN State Director
‘I’m an advocate for what works’
March 12, 2013
By Sherri Ackerman
(Orignally Posted on redefinED, March 12th, 2013)
Robin Gibson counts one legendary Democratic governor as a close friend, and helped run the U.S. Senate campaign of another. So it may be surprising to some, given the misperceptions about school choice, that the prominent Democrat is a leading figure behind the creation of a city-wide charter school system in Central Florida.
When Gibson, an attorney, led the charge back in 2002 to turn around struggling schools in Lake Wales, he knew it would be a labor of love. Public education is at the heart of what the former Florida Board of Regents chairman believes makes communities successful.
“If there are great schools, the rest of it will take care of itself,” he told redefinED in a recent interview.
It was that belief that guided Gibson to search for a way to improve education in Lake Wales, long after his children had moved away, and to convince others to support the cause. The effort resulted in a new system, Lake Wales Charter Schools, with six schools and nearly 4,000 students.
None of it would have happened, say many in the community, without the drive and dedication of their adopted native son.
“He is kind of seen as our local statesman,’’ said Betty Wojcik, executive director of the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and a trustee for the Lake Wales charter system.
The Miami native and University of Florida graduate came to this picturesque stretch of Polk County in 1966, ready to work for a new law firm and start a family with his wife, Jean. “I’d had enough saltwater and palm trees,’’ he told a reporter in 2006. “I was looking for a small town, rolling hills, lakes and oak trees.’’
Gibson’s four children attended Lake Wales public schools - but not for long. Dissatisfied with their quality, he and Jean sent their kids to private schools outside of town. But it didn’t sit well with Gibson that his beloved city’s schools weren’t up to snuff.
As a member of the now-defunct Board of Regents, which oversaw Florida’s public universities, Gibson helped then Gov. Graham try to elevate public education. He served six years on the board, eventually becoming chairman. Graham would go on to become a U.S. senator.
March 7, 2013
By Lisa Macfarlane, DFER WA State Director
Drum roll .Nine Washington Charter School Commissioners have just been appointed by Governor Jay Inslee, Speaker of the House, Frank Chopp, and Lieutenant Governor, Brad Owen. The mission of the Washington State Charter School Commission is to authorize high-quality public charter schools throughout the state, particularly those designed to serve at-risk students. The nine newly appointed commissioners are a strong group of leaders who have all said they are committed to advancing high-quality public charter schooling in Washington State.
Our new charter school law specifies that the Commission can consist of no more than five members of the same political party. Competition to serve on the commission was stiff. Many qualified applicants did not make the final cut. The appointers were all Democrats, and they appear to have done a good job in choosing a well-rounded, diverse, and experienced group of thought leaders.
The list includes a superintendent of a small, rural school district; a founder of a school serving homeless children; a university professor; and a former urban district school board member. There are also three current public school parents, several educators, and non-profit leaders in the mix.
DFER-WA helped lead the coalition supporting the charter school ballot measure and we applaud these appointments. Launching the commission is an important milestone on the road to opening a few great charter schools in 2014.
Now, without future ado, please meet the founding members of Washington’s Charter School Commission:
- Doreen Cato - E.D. of United Way of Grays County, Founder of First Place School
- Trish Millines Dziko - Co-founder of TAF Academy
- Kevin Jacka - Superintendent of the Mary Walker School District
- Chris Martin - Spokane Gifted Education Advocate
- Margit McGuire - Director of Teacher Education at Seattle University
- Dave Quall - Retired Democratic state legislator
- Steve Sundquist - Former Seattle School Board Member and Retired Business Executive
- Cindi Williams - Federal and State Education Policy Expert
- Larry Wright - Non-profit Business Leader with Extensive Background in Mentoring
Lisa Macfarlane is the Washington State Director for Democrats for Education Reform, a co-founder of the League of Education Voters, a past President of Schools First (Seattle's levy and bond committee), the sponsor of two statewide education funding initiatives, and a PCO in the 46th District. Read Lisa's full bio here.