Charter Schools in Alabama: A Deliberate Foundation for Quality

Alabama has been a special interest of mine ever since I started working at NACSA. Coming from a life and career in a state with the 2nd oldest charter school law, California, (complete with the challenges of being an earlier adopter…), I was intrigued by this chance to start fresh and apply all the lessons we’ve learned about charter school policy to bring the best of the charter world to a new place.

And wow, Alabama, you’ve kept me working in the best possible way! In the last 14 months alone, I’ve worked with the coalition of charter school supporters to bring charter schools to the state, testified before the Legislature on the quality of Alabama’s charter school law, spoken with a room of more than 400 Alabama school board members about what it means to be an authorizer, and even sat down with the regional paper to talk about the pros and cons of authorizing charter schools. I’ve gotten so invested in the state that if generations of my in-laws hadn’t matriculated through LSU (Louisiana State University) I’d be rooting for Crimson Tide (University of Alabama).

That’s why I’m so excited to see all the recent activity by Alabama’s public education leadership.  In the last few months we’ve had four school districts start registration to be charter school authorizers, the Alabama Public Charter School Commission get up and running and release their RFP, and just this week see Montgomery Public Schools vote to register as the fifth authorizer.

Through all these conversations, and in all these activities, I’m heartened to see a common thread—stakeholders coming together to create a deliberate foundation for quality charter schools in their community. The deliberateness is what stands out most. These are elected officials, community leaders, educators, and parents all taking the time to get their state’s charter schools off on the right foot. You can see how much thought has gone in to just one of these decisions here, when NACSA sat down with two Montgomery County School Board members as they considered charter schools in their community.

So this week I’m going to pause and celebrate Alabama and their deliberate, eyes-wide-open approach to building a strong charter school foundation.