A new poll out this week reveals strong and growing support for public charter schools. Pollsters queried 600 N.C. voters between January 22-23, 2023, asking a range of questions about K-12 education and political views. The John Locke Foundation commissioned the poll and released it Thursday, coinciding with National School Choice Week 2023.
Charter support up 10% over last year
Poll findings show nearly 69% of N.C. voters support public charter schools. That’s a 10% increase in charter support in just one year. Now, just 21.5% of voters oppose charter schools. Here’s the screenshot from the poll.
The poll also found real bipartisan support for charter schools. Among Democrats, for instance, 55% support charter schools while nearly 80% of Republicans do. Over 70% of independent voters also support charters.
Strong dissatisfaction with K-12 education
Despite strong charter support, however, most North Carolina voters are unhappy with the quality of K-12 education. The John Locke Foundation’s poll analysis notes:
Support for school choice programs is high in spite of – or perhaps because of – North Carolinians’ displeasure with the current state of K-12 education in the state. When asked about the quality of elementary through high school education, two-thirds of respondents said they are “dissatisfied.” Of those with at least one child currently enrolled in K-12, an even higher percentage (68%) said they were dissatisfied.
In addition, more than 8 in 10 voters believe parents, not administrators, should be the ones to choose a child’s school. Here’s another screenshot from the poll.
Lindalyn Kakadelis, the Coalition’s executive director, released this statement about the poll findings:
Public charter schools are part of the public school family. Parents want and deserve a choice in deciding the best educational environment for their children. That’s glaringly apparent from charter school enrollment – which increased three-fold in just the past decade – and from poll after poll.
National School Choice Week 2023 will set records as the largest celebration of opportunity in education in American history. Held January 22-28, the week will raise awareness of the different types of schools or education options that parents can choose for their children.
Coalition marks NSCW
Charter educators may also find the following resources to be useful:
Be sure to participate in the conversation about #SchoolChoiceWeek!
Congratulations to T.J. Worrell, the principal at Northeast Academy for Advanced and Aerospace Technologies (NEAAAT), a Coalition member school. T.J. is the new 2023 Charter School Principal of the Year. T.J. now goes on to compete with eight other finalists from around the state for the overall Principal of the Year award. That award will be announced in May.
We celebrate T.J.’s achievement! Read more about him in The Daily Advance.
Learn more about the Principal of the Year Program from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
Olivia and Tinesha Williams:
The Impact of Early Aspirations
Early aspirations matter. With the right mix of dedication and training, such aspirations can chart a bright and attainable course for the future. That’s the story in the making for Olivia Williams, a 7th grader at RISE Southeast Raleigh Charter School. A standout scholar, trombone player, and cheerleader, Olivia was just selected as a recipient of the Victor E. Bell Jr. Scholarship, one of only 15 students in North Carolina to earn the award. She’ll receive $2,000 this year, deposited into a college savings account, and can renew that amount for up to nine years, for a maximum of $20,000.
Charter teachers and leaders served as early vision-casters for Olivia. “They gave us access to stuff that was out of our reach at that time,” Tinesha, Olivia’s mother, says. “We could dream about going to college.”
RISE is an acronym for resilience, integrity, scholarship, and excellence. The school instills these core values in students, equipping them with powerful, practical skills to succeed. Academics are rigorous. Students are scholars. College hopes? They’re conceived at the outset of education.
In fact, aspirational messages about educational attainment were embedded throughout Olivia’s early elementary experience at the school, known then as PAVE Charter. “I really liked that the school had a value system built into the curriculum,” Tinesha says. “They were forward-thinking about preparing kids to work toward higher education. Even when Olivia was in kindergarten, their classrooms were named after universities. They had self-affirming chants that they would do, and things that built students up.”
Now, it’s paying off. “It makes me feel very happy that I’m getting the help that I could possibly need in the future—to do what I want to do in life through college,” Olivia says of the scholarship.
‘Charter school was not on our radar’
Like many parents, however, Tinesha didn’t initially see charter schools as an option. “Charter school was not on our radar,” she affirms. “I thought charter schools were for the people who were able to pay for school.”
But when Olivia was in Pre-K, representatives from several charter schools came to her class, changing Tinesha’s view about what was possible. “It was eye-opening. My thought was that it was going to be [traditional] public school for us, and we didn’t have any other choice,” Tinesha says.
Since then, Olivia’s brother, Jason, age 9, has joined her at RISE. A cousin, ZaRyan, age 11, is also a RISE scholar. ZaRyan’s little sister is set to enroll next year.
Tinesha notes, “We’re pretty much a RISE family now!”
Strong communication builds security; school ethos shapes mindsets
Excellent communication with teachers and school leaders built Tinesha’s confidence in RISE. “I have access to everybody at that school. It makes me feel secure. For me to be able to use the TalkingPoints app with them and have them communicate back at their leisure—it’s important to me.”
The school’s approach to learning has also shaped mindsets for the Williams family. “RISE is helping our kids realize that education does not stop at high school. It goes way beyond,” Tinesha says. This mindset of learning as a lifelong pursuit has carried over to Tinesha’s career. “I try to learn something new every day. I’ve gone back to school to learn new courses for work,” she affirms.
Ultimately, her family’s charter experience has underscored Tinesha’s belief in the value of educational options. “More kids would fall through the cracks if we didn’t have charter schools,” she says. “It’s important to have choices when it comes to educating our kids because not everyone can learn the same way.”
The N.C. Department of Public Instruction this week announced nine finalists for the statewide 2023 Teacher of the Year. Included in that list is Ryan Henderson of Sugar Creek Charter School, a Coalition member school in Charlotte. Ryan is the “2023 Charter School Teacher of the Year,” earning the top designation among the state’s 200-plus charter schools. (North Carolina’s charter schools count as the state’s ninth region for the overall award.) Ryan now goes on to compete for North Carolina’s 2023 Teacher of the Year award. That winner will be announced on April 14, 2023. See DPI’s press release here.
From stand-in substitute to master teacher
Ryan came to Sugar Creek as a substitute teacher six years ago. Previously, he worked as a teacher in New Jersey. Now, he teaches TV broadcasting and journalism at Sugar Creek. In addition, he runs Sugar Creek’s morning announcement program, Wildcat Daily News.
Last week, the Charlotte Observer highlighted Ryan’s achievement. You can learn more about Ryan in that article here.
Join an upcoming seminar for charter teachers from the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT)! The seminar takes place the week of February 13 in Ocracoke, and is led by Deborah Brown, an experienced and award-winning charter leader. A former Charter School Teacher of the Year, Deborah is the current middle school director at The Exploris School.
Here’s NCCAT’s write-up for the Charter School Connections Seminar:
How can charter school teachers build networks of support for schools, staff, and students? With each charter school operating as an independent LEA, how do we form communities with other charter school educators to share best practices and increase community support? Explore how teachers can better advocate for their specific school and charters in general and how to develop your own leadership style to help support school initiatives. Learn best practices in connecting students to digital learning and student leadership development through exploring personalized, project-based and flipped learning. Discuss ways to model these practices in your schools. Using a “make and take” model, participants will have time to develop a communication or networking plan, digital lessons, and project-based modules to share with your school.
- WHO: North Carolina charter school teachers
- WHAT: Charter School Connections Seminar
- WHEN: February 13-17, 2023
- WHERE: 2 Irvin Garrish Highway, Ocracoke, NC 27960
Registration closes at midnight on February 6, 2023. Interested in applying? Click here.
Questions? Call NCCAT Teacher Services at 828.292.5202 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about Deborah by watching the video below.
Lt. Governor Mark Robinson has appointed Stephen Gay, the executive director of Bradford Preparatory School in Charlotte, to the Charter Schools Advisory Board (CSAB). Stephen will replace Terry Stoops, and will be seated at CSAB’s meeting on Monday, January 9. A veteran educator, Stephen has more than 30 years’ experience in public education. He began his career in Hickory Public Schools, working as a teacher and administrator. In 1999, he became the principal of American Renaissance School, later leading East Wake Academy for nine years before coming to Bradford Prep.
The Coalition is delighted that Stephen is joining CSAB. We caught up with him this week to hear his perspective on the state’s charter movement. Below, we share our conversation.
Tell us what drew you to work in charter schools.
What really drew me to charter schools is the way you can impact students very quickly. I also enjoy the challenge of taking an educational vision and making that happen. I’ve been with Bradford Prep since July. I love what Bradford stands for and its focus on the whole child.
As you step into this new role at CSAB, what do you hope to accomplish on behalf of North Carolina’s charter movement?
I’m a very big proponent of choice. We also need to protect ourselves from legislative creep. I think we also need to look at growth: Where are we growing? Why are we growing? Are there too many charter schools in certain areas? Are we opening quality charter schools? My big thing is quality over quantity.
What are key hurdles ahead for the state’s charter movement?
Our biggest issue is legislative creep. In addition, more EMOs are coming into the state. Is that good or bad? I don’t know. As long as they’re quality, that’s what we need.
Could you share your vision for what North Carolina’s charter schools could and should be?
We need to ensure we’re providing a quality education. Focus on the mission that’s best for our kids. What do the kids in the community—where a charter school is located—need in order to be successful?
What’s your favorite charter school moment?
I’ve done building programs at American Renaissance, at East Wake, and now, at Bradford—so, seeing those facilities come to life. At American Renaissance, we were in a warehouse our first year. What you learn from that is it isn’t about the building. It’s about the people you put in the building.
In addition, I love the partnership we have with families. At charter schools, especially young charter schools, parents are very involved in their kids’ education. They feel like they’re on the same journey with us.
Is there anything we didn’t ask that you’d want other charter leaders to know?
A lot of charter leaders feel isolated. They’re trying to survive day to day. But if you get isolated, it isn’t good for your school, and it isn’t good for you as a person. You have a vision, but you need to go out and interact with other leaders. Go where good things happen!
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
- 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM, Tuesday, February 21st, 2023: Evening Reception with Leaders of the N.C. General Assembly, N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences
- 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM, Wednesday, February 22nd, 2023: Charter Advocacy Summit, Raleigh Marriott Crabtree Valley Hotel
FEATURED SPEAKERS AT THE SUMMIT
- State Superintendent Catherine Truitt
- Rep. Jason Saine
- Rep. Cecil Brockman
- Sen. Michael Lee
- Rep. Jeffrey Elmore
- Rep. John Torbett
- Other speakers include Dave Machado, State Superintendent-North Carolina for Charter Schools USA; Ashley Baquero, Director, Office of Charter Schools; top education, industry, and grassroots leaders; and the Coalition’s Government Relations Team.
Access the full Summit agenda with speaker bios here.