School Choice & Charters

Policy Expert Hired for Charter Council

By Caroline Hendrie — October 12, 2004 1 min read

The Charter School Leadership Council has lined up multiyear funding and has hired policy expert Nelson Smith to head the retooled national advocacy group.

Mr. Smith comes to the council from New American Schools, an Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit organization that promotes the redesign of public schools, where he serves as the vice president of policy and governance. He is slated to start his new job Dec. 1.

Nelson Smith

The product of a complete makeover of a loose coalition of pro-charter groups, the Washington-based council aims to become a unified voice for the country’s diverse collection of independently run but publicly financed charter schools. (“New Group to Push for Charter Schools,” July 28, 2004.)

Major funding to get the restructured council off the ground is coming from two foundations that have given liberally to charter schools in recent years, said Howard L. Fuller, the chairman of the council’s board of directors. The San Francisco-based Pisces Foundation has pledged $2 million over two years, he said, and the Bentonville, Ark.-based Walton Family Foundation is providing $1.47 million over 18 months.

A two-year grant of $100,000 is also coming from the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, Mr. Fuller said. And the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, based in Washington, has contributed $10,000.

Mr. Smith, whose resume includes a three-year stint as the first executive director of the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board and more than six years in the U.S. Department of Education’s research division, said the council’s mission will be to support the state and local players that provide the “energy and innovation” propelling the charter school movement.

Top priorities, he said, will be to disseminate research and shape unified policies on such issues as the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the reauthorization of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, and federal aid for charter schools.

“People don’t know what to make of charter schools,” Mr. Smith said. “Getting a handle on that is something we have to do fairly quickly.”

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