Exclusive: 20 Bipartisan ‘Charter Champions’ Honored by National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Sen. Orrin Hatch Receives ‘Lifetime Achievement’ Award

As the longest-serving U.S. Republican senator heads to retirement at the end of this year, he’s receiving a tip of the hat for his support of charter schools.

On Wednesday, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools — a nonprofit that supports charters — announced that it is honoring Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah with an inaugural Lifetime Achievement Champion for Charters award for supporting funding of the federal Charter Schools Program and advising his legislative colleagues on how to best address financing and facilities issues for charters.

Hatch’s honor is one of 20 the alliance is celebrating this week as part of its annual Champions for Charters awards. State, local, and federal politicians on both sides of the aisle are being recognized for advancing the cause of charter schools, which have now grown to serve 3.2 million students in 44 states and Washington, D.C.

“For 12 years, we have been honoring lawmakers at all levels of government who are making a difference for students by supporting high-quality charter schools,” Nina Rees, president and CEO of the alliance, said in a press release. “Each year, I am grateful for the ways these elected officials have been responsive to the students and families they serve by promoting more public school options. Without their support, the charter school movement would not be where it is today. This year’s honorees have fought for our students and deserve our gratitude and praise.”

Among this year’s federal honorees are Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, both Democrats, and two Republicans — Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.

“I am honored to be recognized by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools as this year’s Charter School Champion,” said Coons in a statement. “I have been a steadfast supporter of promoting high-quality charter schools in Delaware and increasing funding for all public schools so that our children and teachers have the tools they need to succeed.”

The awards this year also include an inaugural recognition for an emerging leader, dubbed a Rising Champion for Charters. U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat of New York is this year’s designee, spotlighted for his work supporting additional funding for charter schools in the 2018 federal budget. His district includes Harlem, East Harlem, northern Manhattan, and the northwest Bronx.

“It remains critical that we continue to lend our support as well as federal resources to ensure that successful public charter schools are able to thrive and help enrolled students succeed,” Espaillat said in a statement. “Public charter schools are responsible for educating more than 3.2 million students in nearly 7,000 schools around the nation.”

Policymakers from California received the most nods from the alliance. The Golden State is home to the largest number of charter schools in the nation, with 630,000 students enrolled in 1,275 schools. Gov. Jerry Brown is being honored for his school finance reform that helped create equitable funding for charters and traditional public schools. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is being recognized for his advocacy for charter schools at local school board meetings and in written letters of support.

The 2018 awardees:

Lifetime Achievement Champion for Charters

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R), Utah

Rising Champion for Charters

Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D), New York

Federal Charter Champions

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D), Arizona

Sen. Chris Coons (D), Delaware

Rep. Luke Messer (R), Indiana

Sen. John Cornyn (R), Texas

State and Local Champions

Gov. Jerry Brown (D), California

State Sen. Steve Glazer (D), California

Mayor Sam Liccardo (D), San Jose, California

Assemblymember Blanca Rubio (D), California

Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D), California

State Sen. Owen Hill (R), Colorado

State Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D), Colorado

State Rep. Lang Sias (R), Colorado

State Sen. Angela Williams (D), Colorado

Gov. Dannel Malloy (D), Connecticut

State Rep. Judy Boyle (R), Idaho

State Sen. Lori Den Hartog (R), Idaho

State Sen. Bob Nonini (R), Idaho

Gov. Susana Martinez (R), New Mexico

Disclosure: Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, The Walton Family Foundation, and the William E. Simon Foundation provide financial support to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and The 74.

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