As the temperatures soared into the nineties in DC during the National Charter Schools Conference, the calls to action to ‘stand up’ and to ‘express your voice’ also intensified. Like much in our educational system that is provocative and perplexing, I walked away from the conference contemplating several questions and ideas:
- How is it that while 8 of the top ten America’s Most Challenging High Schools are charter schools, an increasing number of cities and states are considering moratoriums on charter schools?
- What an interesting time we find ourselves in when we are about to see the “largest expansion of public school choice in the history of the US” (Betsy Devos, June 13, NCSC) and yet, given the current controversial Republican administration, social justice-oriented charter school advocates and Democrats remain leery. Furthermore, while historically an expansion in choice funding might have been more favorably received among a group of charter sector supporters, reactions are mixed given the current administration’s pending cuts to critical programs that promote an equitable education for all, along with an increase in funding for vouchers.
- Speaking of vouchers, there was plenty of discussion about how charters and vouchers are merging in people’s minds when it comes to choice. And, while many studies have shown vouchers as ineffective, lacking in accountability, and pulling from public dollars, there was a case to be made that ‘choice means choice’ and we should focus less on school labels and focus on the needs of individual students, when in some cases, vouchers and independent schools may not only be the right answer, but the only answer.
- The charter movement is now 25 years old…well into adulthood. A movement that was once known for innovation is at risk of becoming a parallel bureaucratic establishment. The conference participants were reminded of that by several of the speakers. Charter supporters were asked to draw upon and re-energize their entrepreneurial, innovative roots. “We know too much to be silent,” Dr. Stephen Perry admonished. Betsy Devos called upon the entrepreneurial spirit of the charter movement to recommit to creativity vs becoming a new establishment. “Rather than drawing new lines, let’s get out our brushes and paint a new colorful collage…No one has the monopoly on education…Education is not a zero-sum game….”
I left the conference inspired by the dedication and intensity of the educators, the advocates, and the supporters that was palpable at the conference. I have been working with the charter sector for over 10 years and amidst the change, the growth, and some setbacks, the constants have been the incredible persistence, tenacity, high standards of excellence, energy, and most of all, the focus – the unrelenting focus on our nation’s children and our nation’s future.
Meet SchoolMint’s CMO, Lory Pilchik
Lory brings over 20 years of marketing, sales, and education sector experience to her role as Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for SchoolMint, which she joined in 2015. Prior to SchoolMint, Lory held the CMO role for Teachscape (now FrontLine), a leader in online teacher PD and evaluation. Lory began her work in the education sector as the U.S. education portfolio director for the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation (MSDF) where she was responsible for developing the grantmaking strategy, and for managing the educational investments in large urban school districts, charter organizations, and education reform organizations around the country.
INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT OUR EXPERIENCE INTERACTING WITH CHARTER SCHOOL LEADERS? Read our blog, 2017 National Charter Schools Conference Recap, to meet the rest of the conference team and hear about our takeaways from networking at our booth and attending an eclectic mix of keynotes and breakout sessions, with topics ranging from policy, leadership, governance, and operations.