OpinionNational Charter Schools Week  

Wilkins & Ziebarth: 2019 Champions for Charters and Hall of Famers Show Support for Charter Schools Across the Aisle & the Country

By Amy Wilkins and Todd Ziebarth | May 14, 2019

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

As the school year comes to a close, it’s imperative to recognize the policymakers and charter school leaders who are giving the next generation of kids a more equitable shot at achieving the American Dream. Today, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools has named more than a dozen policymakers as Charter Champions and is inducting three education leaders into the Charter School Hall of Fame.

The new Hall of Fame inductees are trailblazing history by putting the needs of students and the school models that make them successful before the status quo agenda of the education bureaucracy. These educators work tirelessly to do the right thing by students and create schools that help children achieve at the highest levels.

2019 Hall of Fame Inductees

  • Margaret Fortune, president and CEO of Fortune School of Education, California
  • Joe Nathan, director of the Center for School Change, Minnesota
  • Fernando Zulueta, president of Academica, Florida

For the past 13 years, the annual Champions for Charters Award has also been given to local, state and federal policymakers who have taken real action to ensure that every student has access to a great public school.

This year, as in years past, these legislators and school leaders include Republicans and Democrats who demonstrate that supporting high-quality public charter schools remains a bipartisan priority.

The notion that a child’s destiny should not hinge on zip code, race/ethnicity or the size of a parent’s paycheck is something that leaders on both sides of the aisle agree on. We must continue to unite under our shared belief that each child deserves the opportunity to have a bright future.

Charter schools depend on lawmakers and other officials to grasp the critical role these schools play in the public education system. On the state level, we are recognizing two Utah policymakers who have shown this understanding over the course of their careers: former Speaker of the House Greg Hughes and former state Sen. Howard Stephenson. The two Republicans were instrumental in shepherding a bill to ensure equitable funding to charter schools through the legislature in 2016, and Stephenson is credited with leading the charge on nearly every significant piece of charter school legislation Utah has passed. Today, Hughes is chair of Utah Charter Families, a nascent 501(c)(4) organization mobilizing the state’s charter school parents into a fighting force.

On the federal front, we are recognizing Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), both of whom, throughout their long careers in Congress, have staunchly supported charter schools. This year’s Rising Stars Award goes to new members of Congress on the other side of the aisle: Reps. Joseph Morelle (D-NY) and Salud Carbajal (D-CA).

2019 Champions for Charters:

Federal Legislators

  • Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA) – Rising Star Award
  • Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) – Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
  • Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
  • Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
  • Rep. Joseph Morelle (D-NY) – Rising Star Award
  • Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC)

State Leaders

  • Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran (R-FL)
  • Gov. Bill Lee (R-TN)

State Legislators

  • Rep. Earl Jaques Jr. (D-DE)
  • State Sen. David Sokola (D-DE)
  • State Sen. Manny Diaz Jr. (R-FL)
  • Former State Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-MI)
  • Rep. Rebecca Roeber (R-MO)
  • Assemblyman Marcos Crespo (D-NY)
  • Rep. Harold Dutton Jr. (D-TX)
  • Former House Speaker Greg Hughes (R-UT)
  • Former state Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-UT)

Local School Board Member

  • Nick Melvoin, Los Angeles Unified School District

The futures of public school children deeply depend upon policymakers and passionate educators. When our public leaders carry a torch on behalf of America’s students, only then does the next generation of kids have a chance of achieving the American Dream.

Amy Wilkins is senior vice president of advocacy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Todd Ziebarth is the senior vice president for state advocacy and support for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

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