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As the frigid rain poured down over us on May 7, refusing to lighten up even for a moment, I distinctly remember sighing a breath of frustration - it seemed that everything that could put a damper on our success this year, surely tried. But just as the MAPSA team was beginning to accept the worst, one by one, bus by bus, carload by carload, friendly familiar faces arrived at the Capitol - a little wet, but entirely ready to drive home another successful Charter Day at the Capitol. Over 600 people stood together on the Capitol steps that day in solidarity as charter advocates.
That is success.
This year was marked with numerous challenges - many of which tested our strength as an organization, and as a movement. From attacks on charters at the national level from high-profile political candidates and organizations, to attacks right here in the Mitten from our MI State Board of Education, and the MI Civil Rights Commission, we were up to our neck in defensive strategy. But we weathered each and every storm, and created some noise along the way. Not to mention, we never lost focus of our regular day-to-day work: the critical time we spend elevating charter stories in digital spaces, highlighting our best and brightest educators, throwing a kick-ass conference and celebrating our 25th year as a movement.
Looking back on the late nights, the headaches, the headlines and the meetings, I'm inspired not only by what we've achieved this year (and believe me, I'm proud of that), but also by the passion and grit this team and these stakeholders have demonstrated in the face of adversity. I am invigorated by the work we do as educators every day. I am proud to have represented MI students for another year. It was tough, but we wouldn't have it any other way - here's to another year!
This year, we celebrated 25 years of charter schools here in Michigan. In that time, we've impacted an estimated 1 million students, many of whom represent the students in our communities with the greatest need, whether they are English Language Learners, minorities, urban students in poverty, those with special needs or even those who just needed something different than they were getting. We marked the occasion with two fundraising events in Grand Rapids and Detroit, and spent four months sharing the stories of four MI charter movement trailblazers, who laid the foundation for our success today.
The annual MI Charter School Symposium is a place not only to share success and grow as professionals - but for us to engage as a movement about the 'bigger picture.' This year, we were joined by national partners like Director for CREDO at Stanford University, Macke Raymond, and Peri Lynn Turnbull, Chief of External Relations and Strategy for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools - each who helped us bring together core MI charter stakeholders to drive collaboration and understanding of shared priorities.
Despite an increase in MAPSA membership dues, we surpassed our financial goals - demonstrating a clear demand for our insight and work. This year, we worked diligently to not only enhance the value of our annual programming and events, but also to lead new projects that create impact for members.
Every year, the Charter School Awards give us a platform to highlight outstanding educators in Michigan's charter schools. We rely entirely on anonymous nominations from parents, fellow teachers, school leaders and community members to shed light on those who are going above and beyond
We know the work our schools do is life changing for so many families, but often those great stories are lost amidst a negative narrative. Our long term success does not just depend on academics, but also our ability to showcase our impact and build relationships with influential audiences. MAPSA isn't just telling key stories - we're also teaching others how to do it effectively.
Teachers regularly poll as a critical voice of change on issues of education reform. We harnessed the innovation and passion of our 2019 Awards teacher and admin finalists to tell 10 unique stories about educators who make impact, every day. These stories gained significant traction on social media, and with local media outlets around the state.
MAPSA is committed to establishing consistent, positive messaging for MI charter storytelling. We ran three strategic digital brand campaigns outside of regular communications, elevating eight unique voices who demonstrate the true value of our movement, and the real needs we're meeting in our MI communities.
Building relationships with decision makers has never been more imperative for our movement. We engaged 100% of new lawmakers to ensure each newly elected official received key information about MI Charters, as well as coached school leaders and movement partners on strengthening their own legislator relationships with regular activities.
When it comes to issues of school funding, resources and more, MAPSA is an on-the-ground source of information for our charter stakeholders, keeping them informed on the issues, the decision-makers and how to get involved. We facilitated 3,800 email activations to MI lawmakers from charter parents, teachers, leaders and advocates alike during the 2019 School Aid Budget cycle and more.
One of our biggest challenges as a movement is the disconnect that exists between policymakers and charter stakeholders. To drive this personal engagement, we held a series of small-scale events in Lansing, where small groups went with MAPSA representatives to the Capitol to meet their local lawmakers and share their charter story. 70+ attendees participated in the 2019 Charters Make a Different Project.
644 charter advocates met at the Capitol for our 2019 Charter Day at the Capitol, with a 54% distribution of adults. We facilitated numerous school groups to set up engagement stations, where 17 lawmakers engaged constituents from their district. This lawmaker engagement carried over during National School Choice Week, where we returned to the Capitol to showcase the important work happening in MI charters.