Public charter school held to stringent financial accountability while improving student achievement

Eileen B. Sigmund, Arizona Charter Schools Association President and CEO, released the following statement:

“Lost in the Grand Canyon Institute’s self-published 90-page diatribe against public charter schools is virtually any mention of what matters most: student performance. And that’s no coincidence, as students across all demographics see higher outcomes when enrolled in charter schools. For the last three years, public charter students in all racial and ethnic groups are outperforming their peers. The fact is that the finest public schools in Arizona are public charter schools, which have been lifting the quality of education in our state for more than a decade. The outstanding performance of Arizona’s charter sector compels better results in district schools — exactly what was intended when the charter law was enacted in 1994.

What we are seeing now is a desperate attempt to divert attention from that reality and a concerted attack from a number of organizations who care more about politics and preservation of a monopolistic system than they do about children, families and true educational achievement.

Contrary to the faulty assertions of the Grand Canyon Institute, public charter schools in Arizona are held to stringent financial accountability measures. These include annual, independent audits reviewed by the school authorizer – the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, in most cases. The Board has authority to close charter schools that exhibit improper financial practices. Additionally, charter schools are held to IRS reporting requirements.

The truth is, what the Grand Canyon would really prefer is for charter schools to be district clones – with massive bureaucracies and reams of red tape to match. This misses the fundamental point of the school choice movement. Arizona charter schools are, by design, independently operated and function more like a business than government.

This year, more than 185,000 Arizona students are attending charter schools; meanwhile, district enrollment has been stagnant or in decline since at least 2012. In the open marketplace of K-12 enrollment, these numbers illustrate something real about the job charter schools are doing responding to the needs of Arizona students and families.”

Charter Students Top State Performers

For three straight years, charter students outperform state averages

Public charter school students continue to outperform their peers, as AzMERIT results show charter students scored better than the state average in virtually every grade level and subject area for the third straight year.

The AzMERIT scores, released by the Arizona Department of Education on September 6, illustrate the hard work and dedication of Arizona’s charter students, teachers and leaders.

“These results are a strong testament to the great work happening at public charter schools across Arizona, and further validation of our efforts to expand high-quality education options for a rising number of students and families statewide,” said Eileen Sigmund, President and CEO of the Arizona Charter Schools Association. “Charter schools are raising the bar and improving public education in Arizona. We’re proud of all the wonderful educators, students and families who continue to drive that success.”

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Statement on DACA and resources for schools

Today the Arizona Charter Schools Association issued the follow statement in response to the rescission of the the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program:

We believe that every Arizona school should be a safe, inspiring place for all children, regardless of their immigration status. National policy is changing, but we remain steadfast in our commitment to ensuring supportive schools where all students feel safe to pursue their dreams and contribute to the evolving Arizona that we all call home. We stand with all students – every aspiring architect, lawyer, doctor, and teacher – and we remain unwavering in helping them realize their dreams. We understand that many of our school community members have questions and fears about the recent rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and its serious implications for the DREAMers in our state. As a support organization for Arizona’s 556 public charter schools, we’ve compiled resources to support for our schools.

Access the Resources

Association Commends Ducey, Legislature on pro-education budget

Eileen B. Sigmund, Arizona Charter Schools Association President and CEO, released the following statement today on the Fiscal Year 2018 state budget:

“On behalf of public charter schools across Arizona, we commend Governor Ducey for signing into law a pro-education spending plan that makes critical investments in K-12 students, teachers and schools.

“Infused with an additional $163 million, this spending plan builds on Proposition 123 dollars recently approved by Arizona voters and signals a renewed commitment to K-12 education.

“Public charter schools were created by the legislature to improve student achievement, and this budget supports schools that are delivering the best outcomes for Arizona students. This new emphasis on results-based funding rewards high-performing schools, especially those serving disadvantaged students.

“Additionally, legislators and the Governor have prioritized teachers with a commitment that doesn’t end with this budget. Our state is truly beginning to take the steps necessary to support our schools in their work to recruit and retain high quality teachers. Arizona public charter schools, who are delivering strong outcomes for students, will continue to elevate teachers at the local level.

“We thank Governor Ducey for his leadership, as well as legislators who worked hard to get this done for Arizona families.”

Arizona Celebrates Charter Schools Week: May 1-5

Gov. Ducey proclamation recognizes contributions of AZ charters to public education

Phoenix (May 2, 2017) – The Arizona Charter Schools Association is proud to join students, families, educators and advocates across the country in celebrating National Charter Schools Week.

In accordance with the national annual event, Gov. Doug Ducey has proclaimed the week of May 1-5 “Arizona Charter Schools Week” in honor of the significant role charters have played in Arizona’s public education system.

“For the past 20 years, Arizona’s charter schools have increasingly become the preferred choice for parents and families seeking an excellent public education that delivers quality options, serves a diverse population, and improves student outcomes across all demographics,” said Eileen Sigmund, President and CEO of the Arizona Charter Schools Association.

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Association commends Gov. Ducey, lawmakers for expanding pathways to higher education

HB 2078 supports innovation, excellence & opportunity in K-12

Phoenix (April 18, 2017) – Thanks to the continued support of excellence and innovation in K-12 education, lawmakers have secured an alternative path to higher education for Arizona’s students.

Signed by Governor Doug Ducey on April 17, House Bill 2078 clarifies the concurrent coursework programs presently offered in many high schools and defines best practices for the operations and funding of these programs.

“Concurrent coursework provides students an opportunity to graduate high school with not only their high school diploma, but also with an associate degree or credits toward a degree,” said Eileen B. Sigmund, Arizona Charter Schools Association President and CEO. “This legislation will ensure that public schools across the state can continue to offer innovative programs that challenge students and bring higher education within reach of more Arizonans.”

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Arizona Charter School Leaders, Advocates Visit Gov. Ducey and Legislators

Third Annual “Charters at the Capitol” celebrates school choice, empowers students and families

Today, public charter-school leaders and advocates from every corner of Arizona turned out for the third annual “Charters at the Capitol” – a day-long celebration of Arizona’s charter movement and its vital, growing role in strengthening public K-12 education.

Charter leaders representing students and families from every legislative district in Arizona participated in the event, meeting with Governor Ducey and dozens of legislators. Additionally, 2016 Charter Teacher of the Year Richelle Lewis, of American Leadership Academy-Queen Creek, made a presentation to the Senate Education Committee.

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Charter Association Statement on Senate Confirmation of Betsy DeVos

Eileen B. Sigmund, Arizona Charter Schools Association President and CEO, released a statement today in response to the Senate’s confirmation of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education:

“With the Senate’s confirmation of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education, we are sending to Washington a true champion for quality educational options available to every student and family.

“Ms. DeVos is a proven leader who will fight for education reform that works – just as she has done for nearly three decades. That means putting students over special interests, expanding access to high-performing schools, empowering parents and loosening the federal government’s grip on education policy decisions that are better left to local officials.

“The Arizona Charter Schools Association congratulates Betsy DeVos on her confirmation, and looks forward to working with her to ensure every child in this country has access to a quality education.”

What is a Charter School?

Charter schools are public schools that are innovative while still being held accountable for improved student achievement. Charter schools are funded by the state and free to all Arizona students. They vary in mission and model, serving a wide range of students. In the 2016-17 school year, a record 180,000 students attend 547 Arizona charter schools, an increase of nearly 10,000 students – or 5.8 percent – over the 2015-16 school year. That’s about 16 percent of students and 30 percent of public schools. By comparison, year-over-year enrollment in Arizona district schools grew by just 4,000 students – an uptick of less than half a percentage point.

Charter schools were authorized by the Arizona Legislature in 1994, and the first charters opened in 1995. Charter schools were established to give parents academic choices for their children and provide a learning environment to improve student achievement. Read our 20th Anniversary Report here.

The Arizona Republic produced a video explaining the differences between public charter schools and district schools. To view, click here or on the video below.