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Published in Print: November 13, 2002, as Alliance Hopes to Serve As Voice for Charter Schools

Alliance Hopes to Serve As Voice for Charter Schools

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Organizers are putting the finishing touches on their plans to start a new national association of state-level charter school groups in early 2003.

Based in Washington, the new membership organization will aim to become the leading national voice of the growing charter school sector.

Known as the National Charter School Alliance, the nonprofit group is expected to replace and expand on the work of the Charter Friends National Network, which has been run for the past six years as a project of the nonprofit Center for Policy Studies in St. Paul, Minn.

"This alliance has been a long time coming," said Sarah Tantillo, the executive director of the New Jersey Charter Public Schools Association and the chairwoman of the new alliance's 15-member steering committee. "Because the charter school movement is such a grassroots organization, people have resisted the idea of forming a national organization for a long time.

"People have been really leery about creating organizations similar to the ones that they have been critical of."

But as the decade-old charter movement has matured to include 2,700 of the independent public schools in 36 states and the District of Columbia, the state-based leaders who have been collaborating through the Charter Friends National Network have reached "consensus that we really need to do this," said Ms. Tantillo, whose Newark, N.J.-based association represents her state's 50 charter schools.

Aims to 'Legitimize' Voice

The existing national network has identified 32 state-level associations or networks of charter schools, as well as about two dozen nonprofit charter school resource centers. Organizers plan to draw the alliance's voting members from those two types of groups.

That membership base, and the organization's exclusive focus on charter schools, will distinguish the new alliance from other national groups that promote charter schools, according to Ms. Tantillo. The idea, she added, "is to solicit and respond to the input of members and represent the interests of members based on that input."

"One of the primary goals is to legitimize the voice for charter schools nationally," said Jon Schroeder, the director of the Charter Friends National Network, adding that the alliance is expected to work closely with other national groups that support such schools.

Alliance organizers expect individual charter schools to remain members of their state associations, but plan to make available nonvoting memberships to certain individuals and groups. Those groups might include for-profit education management organizations, networks promoting a specific school model, and other organizations that support charters, Mr. Schroeder said.

The alliance's steering committee is nearing the end of its efforts to recruit a board of directors and to find an executive to head the new group.

Vol. 22, Issue 11, Page 11

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