Why I Teach: Charter Teachers Share their Experiences with Legislators

For the second year in a row, state lawmakers have sought to highlight the positive happenings in Arizona’s schools by inviting teachers to speak at the capitol.

Charter teachers have played a prominent role in these presentations, with Rep. Paul Boyer, chairman of the House Committee on Education, working with the Association to bring some of the best charter educators to the legislature.

So far, two charter teachers have shared their love of teaching with legislators, with two more slated to speak within the next month.

Mary Ellen Lee, a math teacher at Leading Edge Gilbert Early College, was the first teacher to appear before the committee late last month.

Lee is an expert on charter schools and school choice, as she was raised by the co-founder of a charter school, and attended charters as a student from elementary through high school before her current job as a charter teacher.

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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.”

Arizona Celebrates School Choice with Statewide Events

National School Choice Week is a time to celebrate Arizona schools – public, private, home or online – and let our schools take center stage. About 1,000 schools throughout the state signed up last week to host events commemorating school choice. Here are highlights from some of the bigger celebrations throughout the state.
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Mary Ellen’s Story

How A Charter School Education Expanded Opportunities for an Arizona Student-turned-Teacher

Mary Ellen Lee knows firsthand about the flexibility and innovation that have become a hallmark of charter schools.

Lee is the daughter of a charter school principal, a product of choice as a charter school student, and now is an innovative charter teacher who provides her students with the same high quality education she had as a child.

“I think the exciting thing about growing up in a charter school is that I experienced so much diversity. Instead of going to a school that was bound by location, I went to a school that was bound by interest,” she said.

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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.

 

Why 2017 is a Critical Year for School Choice

Association President and CEO Eileen Sigmund Highlights Successes, Upcoming Challenges Facing Charter Schools in Arizona Capitol Times Op-ed

This was originally published in the Arizona Capitol Times:

The coming year will be a critical time for the school choice movement in Arizona and nationally.

Rapid enrollment growth over the past 20 years has demonstrated the popularity of public charter schools when parents are given an option in their children’s education. In Arizona, 180,000 students now attend one of 547 charter schools across the state. Since 2007-08, charter enrollment nationally has more than doubled and now stands at nearly 3 million.

Even more impressive: Consider that another 1 million students are on waiting lists nationwide to attend a public charter school. Clearly, these schools are meeting a critical demand of American families.

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Charter Association Commends Governor for his Support of K-12 Education 

Governor’s Executive Budget Prioritizes Teachers, High Performing Schools  

“In Monday’s State of the State address, Governor Ducey introduced an ambitious, comprehensive education agenda built upon a simple but vital premise: ‘focus on what really works.’ Today, the Governor affirmed his message with an Executive Budget that puts K-12 public schools, students and teachers first.

eileen“In tight budget times, State dollars must be directed where they are needed most – rewarding our best teachers, supporting our best schools, especially those serving low-income students, and expanding educational options and opportunities for all Arizona students and families. We commend the Governor for a spending plan that provides real, meaningful resources to our high-performing schools, prioritizes teacher recruitment and retention, and ensures our quality charter school movement continues to thrive.

“This proposal is a positive and powerful step in the right direction, but our work is far from over. As budget discussions move forward, we’re hopeful the legislature will follow the Governor’s lead to fund what works, give teachers a much needed pay raise and support schools that get results.”

-Eileen B. Sigmund, President and CEO of Arizona Charter Schools Association

Arizona Charter Schools Association Endorses DeVos Nomination

Arizona Charter Schools Association, as unanimously resolved by its Board of Directors, submitted a letter of support for President-elect Donald J. Trump’s nomination for United States Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

Dear Sen. Alexander,

As you and your committee colleagues undertake the many important tasks before you in Congress, we write on behalf of the Arizona Charter Schools Association, as unanimously resolved by its Board of Directors, to enthusiastically endorse President-elect Donald J. Trump’s nomination for United States Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

Betsy DeVos has dedicated her considerable intellect, determined energies and material resources for long years in the effort to renew and advance American education. We believe that Betsy DeVos is well-chosen by President-elect Trump as America’s next Secretary of Education. She has a demonstrated a commitment to school choice and public charter schools. She brings passion, energy and a skill set to the process which gives those working so hard to raise the level of education for all students across America the hope that our schools will once again lead the world, and our children will grow to be lifelong learners, with a sustaining sense of both their heritage and their future.

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Arizona Charter Schools Association Celebrates a Decade of Service

As Arizona Charter Schools Association nears its tenth anniversary of having a full-time team supporting Arizona’s growing, quality charter movement, we reflect back.

Charters have been “the hottest new concept in the world of education reform,” since the Arizona Republic first wrote about the fledgling charter movement in 1995. Rapid enrollment growth over the past 20 years has demonstrated the popularity of public charter schools when parents are given a choice in their children’s education.  In Arizona, 180,000 students now attend one of 547 charter schools across the state.

The Association, which had existed since the opening of the first charter schools, reached a turning point when it hired Eileen Sigmund as president and CEO. The former journalist, litigator and lobbyist began to position the Association to expand its advocacy efforts and eventually provide a comprehensive array of services.

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Charter Association Applauds Governor on Education Proposals

Focus on Teacher Pay, High-Performing Schools Highlights of Governor’s State of the State

The Arizona Charter Schools Association released a statement today expressing support for the proposals outlined in Gov. Doug Ducey’s State of the State address.

eileen“The Arizona Charter Schools Association applauds Governor Ducey for his strong focus on K-12 education during today’s State of the State. While we look forward to further policy and fiscal details, the Governor made it clear today K-12 education is a top priority,” said Eileen B. Sigmund, President and CEO of the Arizona Charter Schools Association. “Specifically, we are encouraged by Governor Ducey’s emphasis on the beating heart of every school: its teachers. Legislators should support the Governor’s call to boost teacher pay, attract teachers to low-income schools, and incentivize good teachers to study, work and stay in Arizona. Governor Ducey also signaled his commitment to assist high-performing public schools, including those doing good work in challenged communities.”

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