A peek at 2020: the year of making friends

Dan Quisenberry
Jan 15, 2020 8:16:28 PM

The MAPSA team was right in the middle of our annual end of year team meal when we caught word that the Governor had officially signed the supplemental bill restoring a $240/per-pupil funding increase she had cut for charter students in her October 1, 2019 veto. Laptops magically emerged, and we sprung to action, eager to share the news with the MI charter family. This was the news we'd been waiting all week to hear - the kind of news we really NEEDED heading into the holiday break. 

Weeks later, we're now in 2020. I can't help but think of my vision every time I write that year. "20/20." (Ok, well maybe not my vision.) Being able to see both what is close, and what's ahead, with sharpness and clarity - now that's a privilege. And it's one I believe we as a movement have right this moment. The question is simple - how will we use it? 

What's close: 

Right in our rearview mirror, we have a big win. We spent three full months fighting for a simple funding increase, speaking up in our communities to our local elected officials, sharing our outrage across social media, making calls to the Governor's office, and more. Together, our voices had big impact, and we spend the holidays celebrating a victory. 

Rewind a few more months to May 14, 2019, when the MI State Board of Education held up $47 million in federal grant funding that had been awarded to Michigan to expand quality charter schools. What should have been a routine meeting quickly turned into an attack on our movement as board members voted 4-3 against the spending criteria outlined in the grant, freezing that money in limbo and jeopardizing the plans for the people and schools who had received the grant. 

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Rewind just a bit more to April 10, 2019, as 8,000+ California charter school advocates gathered to oppose a series of bills aimed solely to hurt charter schools (bills which were later passed in September, and are having serious implications across CA). Similar battles erupted last year in Illinois and New York. Meanwhile, Presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren announced education plans that target charters at the federal level. 

Separate from one another, these things are frustrating. Maddening even. But together, they are dangerous. They are strategic. They signify the expansive divide that has emerged between those in decision-making positions, and the parents, educators and students who have to make choices about K-12 education every single day. 

What's ahead: 

On February 6, Governor Whitmer will unveil her new budget for the year. What will it hold for Michigan's charter students? Will the equity gap narrow, or widen, for our kids? Will we see increased resources for special needs, poverty and trauma? Only time will tell, but it's safe to say that following the October 1 issue, we should all be watching very closely. 

On March 10, the Democratic Presidential primary will commence in Michigan. As candidates vie for our votes, sharing positions on all kinds of issues, charter schools will no doubt find themselves again at the center of a negative narrative - and the myths we so tirelessly fight will once again hit the news cycles.

Fast forward to November 3, and Michiganders will vote to elect our State Representatives. 

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Each of these important moments to come have the potential to significantly influence our students, our educators and our movement - for better, or for worse. If 2019 proved anything, it was that we are vulnerable. Our kids are vulnerable. 

So as you embark on 2020, take it on with "20/20" in mind. Forge relationships with your community. Invite them into your school, and show them the incredible things happening in your classrooms. Ensure that they can think of real students, educators and parents who depend on their charter. 

Engage your local elected officials, and educate them on the facts - about all charters, and about the success you're driving for kids. Attend their coffee hours, and hold them accountable when they don't support you on the issues that matter. 

Tell your story, relentlessly. Pull together an incredible team of social media reporters in your building. Make a phone call to your local newspaper, or invite the evening TV crew for special events at your school. Document the passionate educators who live your mission.

Simply put, make 2020 the year of making friends. 

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