Protected Public School Choice
ERN co-led an effort to protect $440 million in federal funding for public charter schools serving 3.4 million students nationwide. Specifically, when anti-charter forces proposed a $40 million cut to CSP during the Appropriations process, ERN met with and mobilized key Members to restore funding to the full $440 million including influential Members on both the House Appropriations Committee, and the House and Senate Education Committees. Similarly, during the regulatory fight over proposed rules that would restrict charter access to federal funds, we met and appealed to multiple senior Biden Administration officials directly. This group effort convinced the USDOE to roll back the most harmful rules and to respond in a way that, while not optimal, is workable to ensure that high-quality charters continue to access federal funds. Furthermore, we’ve laid the groundwork to protect an additional $440 million in federal funds for next year’s (FY23) budget. ERN partner chapters in Colorado, Washington, D.C., and Connecticut all secured wins to make funding for public charter more equitable, and our teams in Massachusetts, and Louisiana defeated anti-charter legislation.
ARP Advocacy: Reports & Resources
Leveraging a report focused on understanding how states are allocating educational funds earmarked by the American Rescue Plan (ARP), ERN’s national team worked with representatives in five states to strengthen their ARP plans to better serve students. In the analysis, states were assigned a “traffic light” rating in five categories along with a composite rating. Only seven states earned the highest “green” rating, and a whopping 19 state plans were designated a concerning “red light.”
To help navigate important federal COVID relief funds—designated by ARP—ERN put together a curated toolkit, to highlight and streamline a selection of resources from a host of organizations, including ERN, that help state-level officials, families, communities, schools, and district leaders better understand how ARP education funds are being allocated. You can download the ARP Resource Document, or explore the toolkit for more information on ERN’s involvement and more.
Addressed Literacy Gaps
Following on ERN Connecticut‘s landmark “Right to Read” legislation last year, the team worked to ensure a strong ally was appointed as Director of the state’s new Center for Literacy Research and Reading Success, the hub of this statewide literacy effort. Implementation has now begun in earnest, with the release of a state-approved list of early literacy curricula, from which every public school district must choose next year. Earlier this month, Director Amy Dowell appeared on a panel on the Science of Reading with Emily Hanford, Dr. Kymyona Burk, and other leading experts.
Earlier this year, ERN D.C. successfully advocated for the passage of the “Structured Literacy Training Action Plan” into law. This legislation requires structured literacy training for D.C. Public School teachers, provides a $2,000 stipend for those who complete the training, and creates a task force to expand training and support to public charter schools. ERN D.C. also partnered with Decoding Dyslexia D.C. to hold a two-day Right to Read Literacy Conference with 17 speakers, including D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, State Superintendent Dr. Christina Grant, and Ward 2 Representative Allister Chang. As a result of the literacy conference, ERN D.C. and partners proposed several recommendations for improving literacy in the District of Columbia.
Maintained Statewide, Annual Assessments
ERN’s federal policy team led a coalition of civil rights and reform advocates that successfully lobbied the US Department of Education to prevent the issuance of blanket assessment waivers to states. In our states, ERN Colorado worked to ensure schools and districts could access necessary supports and interventions based on post-pandemic summative assessments; ERN Massachusetts successfully lobbied the state’s Education Committee to reject all anti-accountability bills; and ERN Louisiana fought to prevent a potential waiving of statewide graduation requirements.
To combat the misinformation that abounds when it comes to annual, summative assessments, ERN also created the Essential Assessment Toolkit: a go-to guide for families, advocates, district and school leaders, and State Education Agencies. The resources created were intended to support critical conversations on why students take an annual, summative assessment, why this assessment matters, and how districts and states can improve their assessment systems to better support student achievement.
Fought for Fairer College Admissions
In March, ERN National and our New York chapter joined New York State Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assemblywoman Latrice Walker to introduce The Fair College Admissions Act (Senate Bill S8498), which is aimed at banning legacy preference and the binding early college admission policies that discriminate against racial minority, working class, and low-income students. ERN and Leaders of Color co-hosted a press conference with Senator Gounardes and Assemblywoman Walker to discuss the bill and its impact on improving access and equity in higher education, during which several Leaders of Color fellow and alumni spoke.
ERN Connecticut supported the introduction of a bill that would put an end to the practice of using legacy preferences during the college admissions process in their state. ERN CT also advanced a bill to end the withholding of college transcripts from students with debts. Last year, ERN Colorado helped make its state the first in the nation to ban legacy preference in higher education.
In addition, ERN released a series of three issue briefs identifying areas (Early Decision, Legacy Admissions, Transparency & Accountability) of the admissions process at selective colleges and universities that demand reform. Admissions reform to expand access and opportunity for underrepresented students and to increase diversity on campuses is long overdue, but it has become imperative in light of the likelihood that United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) will strike down the use of race-conscious admissions policies in its current term. The reports received coverage in USA Today, Forbes, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, NPR and Education Dive, among others.
Following the SCOTUS hearings on affirmative action, ERN hosted a debrief on the hearing, with record-setting attendance. The conversation was moderated by The Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Eric Hoover, and featured:
- Marie Bigham, Founder and Executive Director, ACCEPT,
- Art Coleman, Managing Partner and Co-Founder, EducationCounsel,
- Genzie Bonadies Torres, Associate Director for the Educational Opportunities Project, Lawyers, Committee for Human Rights under Civil Law,
- Michaele Turnage Young, Senior Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and
- James Murphy, Senior Policy Analyst, Education Reform Now.
Advocated for Resource Equity
One big highlight of ERN’s work to address resource equity comes from ERN D.C. who successfully advocated for the passage of three pivotal bills:
- D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson included two new concentration at-risk weights in the per student funding formula for a total of $10.4 million in recurring funding for D.C. Public Schools and public charter schools that serve high populations of students furthest from opportunity.
- ERN D.C. successfully advocated for the passage of the “Uniform Per Student Funding Formula Adequacy Study” into law, which studies the costs and expenses associated with operating D.C. Public Schools, and public charter schools, included and excluded from the per student funding formula.
- ERN D.C. advocated for ways to retain educators in the District. This work culminated in the passage of the Educators Housing Incentive Amendment Act of 2022, which expands a current homeowner financial assistance program to educators.
Hosted 7th Philos Conference
Last month, over 180 policymakers, advocates, donors, and reporters attended ERN’s seventh Philos Conference in Washington, D.C. This year’s theme, “Leading Forward: From Crisis to Opportunity,” challenged attendees to take action to turn the crisis of the pandemic and the longtime crisis of inequity in our education system into opportunity for students.
- Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser
- National Urban League President Marc Morial
- National Parents Union Founder and President Keri Rodrigues
- U.S. Representative Ritchie Torres, and
- Massachusetts Representative Chynah Tyler.
Panelists included U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, CNN Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein, DGA Executive Director Noam Lee, New York City Public Schools Chancellor David Banks, D.C. Superintendent Dr. Christina Grant, and CT Senator Patricia Billie Miller.
Leaders of Color
To date, Education Reform Now’s Leaders of Color program has grown to include:
- 210 alumni of the program
- 82 leaders in non-elected positions of influence
- 26 Fellows appointed to community / non-profit boards
- 34 Fellows involved in active advocacy campaigns
- 6 Fellows who have founded own non-profits
Leaders of Color 2022 Advocacy Highlights:
- Leaders of Color D.C.: Charter parent and Leaders of Color D.C. alumna LaJoy Johnson-Law worked in collaboration with Vice President Harris to expand broadband access to over 11.5 million low-income households.
- Leaders of Color Louisiana: Alumni led a successful initiative for a new property tax measure that will fund pre-K at $20 million over the next five years and create more than 1,000 early childhood seats for children from low-income families.
- Leaders of Color New York: Alumna Natasha Cherry-Perez led a project to inform, train, and support over 400 parents who are a part of the New York State Charter Parent Council to meet with and promote charters to elected officials across the state; testify at City Council and State hearings; and send close to 30 letters to NYS Regents (and counting) in support of charters. Additionally, Cherry-Perez’s group registered 140 voters.
- Leaders of Color Memphis: Among many achievements, alums Sheleah Harris and Frank Johnson both fought for public school choice by voting against the closure of four charter schools in Memphis, keeping the schools open.