April 2013 Message to Members from Jed Wallace

April 17, 2013

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JedWallaceSmall.jpg One of the greatest things about gathering for our annual conference each year is the chance to reconnect to the sense of momentum that our movement continues to build. On a day to day basis, dealing with the myriad challenges that charter schools face - facilities, funding or trying to find a fair authorizer - it is sometimes easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. And then conference comes around and we have a chance to see the progress that we have made and what is within our potential if we stretch our own collective imagination to envision even more.

If there is any one area where we are seeing charter school leaders stretching our collective imagination, it is happening in the areas of advocacy and politics. I know that most of us got into charter schools to serve kids, not get involved in advocacy and politics. I know I certainly did. But over the two decades of California's charter school movement, we have seen up close and personal what so many in our society have not yet: that our political system is not set up with the needs of students first. And we realize that, with the parents of nearly a half million students and other supporters of charter schools at our back, we have the potential to be game changers in terms of advocacy and politics.

And so we are seeing charter school leaders step up to new levels of commitment:

  • People like Penny Schwinn, Founder of Capitol Collegiate charter school stepping up to run for and win a seat on the Sacramento County Board of Education.
  • People like Cameron Curry, Executive Director of Classical Academies coming to Sacramento this month to testify in the legislature on behalf of Independent Study schools.
  • People like Anita Zepeda, Director of Vaughn Next Century Learning Center partnering with Families that Can to host a candidates forum at her school where more than 250 community members were in attendance.

We are also seeing people respond to many other opportunities to get involved in activities related to advocacy and politics. In May, for example, the month when we celebrate National Charter Schools Week, we have two very important events occurring. On May 8, charter parents, teachers and leaders from across the state will join CCSA in Sacramento for our 20th Anniversary Advocacy Day to meet with legislators, sharing with them the critical issues such as funding and facilities inequity that charter schools students face in California. If you are not already signed up to participate, I cannot stress enough the importance of having a strong showing and delivering our messages to decision makers at the Capitol that day.

Only a few weeks later, on May 21, all eyes will be on LA when voters in the east San Fernando Valley will decide who will represent their community on the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) board in a run-off election. But this election has far wider implications well beyond the valley. This election may very well determine the future of charters in LA depending upon which candidate is elected. We will either see a school board focused on education reform and meeting the needs of all students or one that is entrenched with the status quo. We need all charters in LA to rally their communities to be involved in order to ensure that the LAUSD board will put students first.

As many charter school people are stretching their imaginations to take on new levels of responsibility in opportunities like Advocacy Day and the LAUSD Board elections, we are seeing a recognition settle in among California's elected officials that the charter school movement is rapidly becoming a game changer. That is only further accelerating our momentum, hastening the arrival of the day when all California's public school students will have access to quality school options.

I thank you yet again for the remarkable efforts that you are making to support the hundreds of thousands of students who are served by California's charter schools.

Jed Wallace
President and CEO
California Charter Schools Association

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