National Leaders Headline the OAPCS 9th Annual Ohio Charter Schools Conference

More than 566 people attended the OAPCS 9th Annual Ohio Charter Schools Conference November 12-13, 2015 to hear national leaders and presenters discuss policy trends, legislation, oversight and the future of charter schools.

At the opening General Session Thursday, November 12, at the Ohio Union on the Ohio State University campus, a “Fireside Chat” panel featured OAPCS CEO Dr. Darlene Chambers, Nina Rees, President of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), Greg Richmond, President of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), and Ken Campbell, founding Board Member of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO). It was the first time the leaders of the three national charter organizations appeared together on a panel. 

Dr. Chambers, as panel moderator, guided the discussion through topics including the impact of House Bill 2, parental choice in education and the challenges facing chartering. Rees and Richmond both spoke to the positives of the recent Ohio legislation as being an opportunity to increase the focus on student needs and bring the conversation about chartering back to students instead of adults.

Richmond noted that HB 2 will be one of the strongest laws in the country regarding charter school accountability. Richmond predicted that the legislation will ultimately provide Ohio charters with higher ratings from NACSA as a result of the comprehensive reforms. “Take pride that Ohio’s charter community can pass quality legislation,” Richmond told the audience.

Of the charter reform legislation, Campbell said, “be positive about it and create great schools for kids and move forward.” He also said that expectations are high for parents in overseeing school choice for their children, and it is a myth that poor parents cannot choose schools wisely.

Rees noted that NAPCS is now focused on funding inequities for schools. She said NAPCS has made Ohio one of its eight states forming the newly created Communities of Practice to provide support for Ohio’s charter sector in the next two years in efforts to address funding equity. “If you take care of that gap, quality also goes up and there is a direct correlation,” she said. 

The Friday conference keynote was presented by policy expert and charter pioneer Ember Reichgott Junge, a former Democratic State Senator in Minnesota who wrote the first charter school law in the nation in 1991. She recounted the compromises that had to be negotiated to enact her state’s charter school law and the bipartisan efforts that were required to ultimately open the doors of the nation’s first charter school.

In mentioning the conference theme “Coming of Age,” Reichgott Junge noted that HB 2 could be the symbolic beginning of Ohio’s next stage in chartering. “I learned the hard way that compromise is not defeat,” she said. She also walked the audience through several charter school myths and gave advice on telling the story of chartering in a unified voice to champion the movement. To view her presentation, click here.

The 2015 conference featured 73 exhibitors, 20 sponsors and more than 40 breakout sessions. To view the full program and list of sessions and presenters, download our Conference Guide here.

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