- The state’s Department of Education is the place to start as you determine what type of charter school information is available to the public, which varies significantly from state to state. Further, the respective state’s charter school association or center will likely be a resource for charter news and data.
- Reading local newspapers and national education outlets like Chalkbeat and the74million can help provide a general knowledge of the charter market and identify the current issues and successes surrounding charter schools.
- Reaching out and speaking with individuals rooted in the education system (such as advocates, charter association employees, educators, etc.) provides a unique view of charter markets and an insider perspective that can be difficult to glean from other sources.
The recent midterm elections resulted in changes in state leadership that may impact charter school growth in our focus states.
- Education Commissioner Candice McQueen and Governor Bill Haslam, who had both been advocates for the Achievement School District, both stepped down at the end of 2018. Prior to McQueen’s departure, she recommended that the Achievement School District take over more low-performing schools in Memphis and Nashville unless the state sees dramatic changes this school year. A permanent Education Commissioner has not yet been selected by the incoming governor.
- Notes on incoming Governor Bill Lee:
- Lee is a Republican who supports parent choice and more school options. He is open to promoting a school voucher program and has appointed many strong voucher advocates to his new administration. Lee also intends to revisit the state’s Basic Education Program, which is a key funding formula for K-12 public schools.
- Lee strives to encourage further collaboration between the Achievement School District and innovation zone (iZone) schools. The iZone model aims to move schools from the bottom 5% to the top 25% in Tennessee through empowered, effective principals, high performing teachers, an extended learning day and a support team. He affirms the support of lower-performing schools as a priority.
- His campaign included investing in vocation, technical and agricultural education to increase the number of ready-to-work high school graduates in rural areas.
- Incoming California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, would like to put a halt on new charter schools to address what he describes as the schooling model’s overall transparency issues.
- The State Superintendent of Public Instruction, who is in charge of the Department of Education and can influence educational policy and bills, is a two-year position that is now held by union-backed Democrat state Assemblyman, Tony Thurmond. Thurmond won against Marshall Tuck, a leader of a charter network who had record-breaking campaign support from pro-charter philanthropists. Part of Thurmond’s plan is to ensure accountability for charter schools.
- Since January 2018, Governor Phil Murphy’s administration has called a ‘time out’ on charters and rejected 13 charter school applications submitted to the state for approval.
- In October, the Department of Education announced it would evaluate charter school law to figure out what is working and what is not, with a specific focus on performance and budget issues. It has been 20 years since New Jersey’s charter law was enacted and the Governor suggests that the landscape needs to be assessed. The education commissioner and staff have reached out to both pro- and anti-charter stakeholders including educators and families to hear all sides of the debate. This review process is now coming to a close and recommendations will be taken to the state board in 2019.
- Susana Cordova, former Deputy Superintendent of Denver Pubic Schools, was appointed to Superintendent of Denver Public Schools on December 17, 2018. Denver Public Schools is Colorado’s largest school district with nearly 93,000 students, the majority of whom are Latino and black and come from low-income families. It is the first time in 10 years that the district has had to choose a new superintendent. Cordova is not anti-charter school though it is important to note that her husband is an investment banker who helps charter schools get financing. It has been made public that his firm will not work with Denver Public or Denver Charter Schools since Cordova is now Superintendent.
- Notes on incoming Governor Jared Polis:
- Polis is a pro charter schools Democrat and does not support vouchers for private schools.
- His platform included full-day kindergarten and universal access to preschool for four-year olds.
- He has invested his own time and money in opening charter schools that serve disadvantaged students and he founded two charter school networks.
To learn more about the charter school markets in these states, you can review our state scans here.