Mr. Trump, Don't boost our budgets while cutting education: Charter school CEOs

Dacia Toll is co-CEO of Achievement First, Richard Barth is CEO of KIPP Foundation, and Brett Peiser is CEO of Uncommon Schools.

In the “skinny budget” that the White House released this month, President Trump offered $168 million in new funds for charter schools. As public charter school operators, we appreciate the proposed investment in new schools like ours.

But we cannot support the president’s budget as proposed, and we are determined to do everything in our power to work with Congress and the administration to protect the programs that are essential to the broader needs of our students, families and communities.

Budgets are statements of priorities, and this one sends a clear message that public education is not a top priority.

Together, we serve more than 220,000 children across 24 states. The children and families in our schools are not simply students and parents who are working hard to attain a great education; they are complete people with a range of human needs.

For our students, a fair shot at the American dream also needs to extend beyond the classroom to the factors that affect whether all students have what they need to learn and achieve.

Every day, our community of students, families and educators are working together and proving together the power of a great public education. We believe in an America where all young people have a fair shot at succeeding — where a great education, all the way from prekindergarten to college, is not only accessible but affordable.

Instead, we are seeing drastic cuts to programs that are critical.

For example, Pell Grants are a foundational vehicle for low-income students to afford college. Pell Grants need to be protected, not redirectedWork study, so crucial to making college affordable for so many, should be enhanced, not reduced.

AmeriCorps, which creates opportunities for tens of thousands of young Americans to serve their communities, has proved vital to our nation’s efforts to inspire a new generation of teachers. AmeriCorps, and other teacher recruitment, training and preparation programs, should be invested in, not abandoned.

We see charters as an important part of a much broader effort to revitalize public education in America. Already, in cities such as New York, Denver, St. Louis and Houston, we see ourselves as partners, not competitors, with traditional school districts. These partnerships, we hope, will only grow in the future.

But to make that broader vision work, we need federal support for all schools, for all kids, not just kids in “choice” schools.

We are charter school organizations from all across the country, including: Achievement First, Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, Aspire Public Schools, Breakthrough Schools, Brooke Charter Schools, Blackstone Valley Prep, Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, DC Prep, DSST, Equitas Academy, Green Dot Public Schools, IDEA Public Schools, KIPP, Republic Schools, Rocketship Education, STEM Preparatory Schools, STRIVE Prep, Summit Public Schools, Uncommon Schools, Uplift Education, and YES Prep Public Schools.

We realize that expressing concerns about a budget that benefits our schools might seem counterintuitive. But we want to join with all those who are fighting to defend public education as an essential pillar of our democracy. We will ask Republicans and Democrats alike to reject these proposed cuts. And we will double down in our commitment to teaching our students to value hard work, compassion and caring for the greater good, as they develop into the future leaders our country needs.

This article originally appeared in USA Today

The Teacher's Guide to Getting Ready for Spring

Ahhhh winter. We love you. We really do. Hot chocolate, snow days, crisp morning walks, nights by the fire.

But really, March? Enough is enough.

You may not have noticed (because we had a blizzard last week and there're mountains of snow everywhere) but spring officially sprung on Monday. Believe it or not, you’ll soon be opening the windows, busting out the sunglasses and heading to brunch al fresco.

So here’s what you need to know about shaking off the winter blues and prepping for brighter, warmer days.

1. After 6 months of big bulky sweaters and fleece-lined pants as your teacher uniform, you’re ready to feel the sun. 

But let’s face it - some upkeep might be needed. Head to the gym or add a workout to your routine for a little tune up. Maybe dancing on the way to school in the morning?

2. And don't forget some other areas that might need attention before you bust out the tank top and shorts...

Just sayin'.

3. Since we’re educators, we know that spring is the best time to head out to the park with a good book. Here’s a list of what some say are the top 50 greatest literary works of all time to add to your TBR pile. 

Others prefer a different type of reading material (and that's cool, too). 

4. Spring is also the perfect time for a bike ride - let’s get those wheels turning! invite your co-teacher or grade-level team - it will help you defrost the limbs that haven't seen the light of day since October. 

5. Finally, summer break will be here before you know it. When you're packing up your parkas, make sure your bathing suit is out of storage so you can hit the beach when the time comes. 

Bring it, spring. We are beyond ready.

And then, soon enough...

Meet the Residency Program 2016-17 Cohort

The Residency Program for School Leadership is designed for principals, assistant principals, coaches and teacher leaders committed to re-imagining the educational experience for students and staff in the highest-need public schools in our communities. The Residency Program works from the belief that truly transformational leadership changes in schools can impact our national crisis. Our program focuses on the vital technical skills of school leadership: observation and feedback, data-driven instruction, leading professional development, designing school-wide systems, and personal organization and time management. The other half of our program focuses on people leadership: communicating with emotional intelligence in order to motivate and inspire, creating the conditions for adults to learn and grow, managing difficult conversations, and more. 

This year, our residents range from a “classic resident” who was a teacher last year and is transitioning into leadership, to an assistant principal and current principals. We work with leaders in other charter networks and traditional public school districts in Connecticut and Springfield, MA. Our residents have chosen to tackle a broad range of priorities based on their specific school needs. For example, one resident has worked to transform his team’s thinking around the purpose of student work and their ability to use student work to drive instruction by implementing a Looking at Student Work protocol. This principal has reformed teacher mindsets around the use of rigorous, grade-level materials and teachers are now using grade level standards to plan and execute lessons. Another leader is doing great work to improve literacy instruction in grades K, 1 and 2 at her district school. She has revamped the literacy block to include guided reading and is providing training and support to teachers on implementing guided reading. We are so thrilled to partner with and learn from these leaders! 

Meet our 2016-2017 Cohort:

Click here to learn more about our leaders. For more information about the Residency Program, visit our website