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National Charter School Advocacy Exec’s Lackluster State Advocacy Results

July 25, 2019

On July 19, 2019, West Virginia Public Broadcasting published a piece entitled, “Q&A: National Charter School Proponent Weighs in on W.Va.’s Education Bill.” The piece opens as follows:

Emily Schultz is the director for state advocacy and policy with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools [NAPCS]. Lawmakers consulted her as they shaped the education reform bill recently signed into law that allows for the establishment of charter schools in West Virginia for the first time in the state’s history.

WV legislators consulted with national-level charter school advocacy director, Emily Schultz, for a bill on charter schools in WV.

The question is, what charter school notches does Schultz have in her corporate-modeled, school choice belt as evidence that her advice is based upon actual success in establishing charter schools?

WV Public Broadcasting includes this brief bio for Schultz, which links to her NAPCS bio:

Emily Schultz is the director for state advocacy and policy for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Prior to joining the National Alliance, she served as the executive director of the Alabama Coalition for Public Charter Schools. 

Emily started her career in education as a second-grade teacher at Cascade Elementary in Atlanta through Teach for America. She is an Alabama native and has an undergraduate degree in Political Science and Educational Studies from Carleton College, and a Master in Education Policy from Stanford University.

Let’s expand upon Schultz’s bio a bit.

According to her Linkedin bio, Schultz has a lot of experience promoting corporate education reform. She was a “program manager” in DC from 2008 to 2011, mostly under then-DC chancellor, Michelle Rhee. Rhee, a Teach for America (TFA) alum, became DC chancellor in 2007 under then-DC mayor, Adrian Fenty, and resigned in 2010 when Fenty was defeated.

Schultz is also a TFA alum, who spent the customary two years in a classroom (at Cascade Elementary in Atlanta, teaching second grade) following the usual, TFA-makeshift stint-training. In 2011, mentions Schultz’s TFA time, which is not included in Schultz’s Linkedin bio. Following her 2005 graduation from Carlteton College (in political science), Schultz spent two years as a TFAer (2002-07), then she received a masters in education from Stanford University (emphasis in public policy and organizational theory, 2007-08) and ended up with Rhee in DC as a “program manager.”

Schulz’s Linkedin bio includes no information about Schultz having experience in establishing charter schools under Rhee, nor does her 2013 Carleton convocation speech bio. However the 2013 Carleton convocation speech bio does have some info about Schultz’s “school turn-around” desires, which is markedly reformy:

Emily Schultz ’05 has worked under some controversial regimes in high-profile efforts to turn around failing schools.  In the fall of 2011 she was appointed the education policy director for the State of Alabama, a new position created by Governor Robert Bentley who said he needed an education expert on his staff to guide him and to be a liaison to K-12, post-secondary and higher education.  Previously, Schultz worked under Michelle Rhee, who became chancellor of Washington D.C. public schools after the mayor took control of the district – a situation in which nearly two dozen schools were closed, the teacher pay scale was changed and hundreds of teachers, principals and administrators were fired.  After the Washington job, Schultz worked as a consultant in Central Falls, Rhode Island, which made headlines in February 2010 when it fired all the teachers at a failing high school.  The consulting group Schultz worked for, Mass Insight School Turnaround Group, went in after the mass firings to restructure the district.  Governor Bentley said that Schultz’s experience in turning around failing schools and her “outside the box” mentality is exactly why he hired her.

Too, the 2011 article notes that Schultz’s “‘outside the box’ mentality” alluded to above appears to be the inside-the-corporate-reform-box push for charter school expansion:

Schultz was raised in Birmingham and attended Carleton College in Minnesota, where she received a bachelor’s degree in political science. She then became a teacher through Teach for America in Atlanta public schools, where she taught second grade for two years. …

After her stint in the classroom, Schultz said she knew she wanted to make a career out of education and went back to school.

She received her master’s degree in education with an emphasis in public policy and organizational theory from Stanford University in June 2008. …

Schultz’s first order of business under the governor is getting legislation passed during the next legislative session that will allow for charter schools in Alabama. …

“We are really committed to charter schools,” Schultz said. “Alabama is at a unique point right now because we have the benefit of using what other states have learned about charter schools.”

Schultz worked under Bentley for two years, until 2013. Then she became (and, according to her Linkedin bio, continues to be) executive director of the Alabama Coalition for Public Charter Schools (October 2013 – present).

In March 2015, the Alabama legislature passed a bill allowing charter schools to operate in the state. So, it sounds like Schultz was successful.

Since that time, four years have elapsed. It’s now 2019.

What about Schultz’s AL charter-school-establishing accomplishment?

Googling “alabama coalition for public charter schools” leads one to the home page for New Schools for Alabama (NSFA).

The “about us –> who we are” link indicates that the current NSFA executive director is Tyler Barnett (who also hails from TFA), and that Schultz sits on the NSFA board.

But here’s a question:

Where is that proliferation of Alabama charter schools?


There has been no proliferation of charter schools in Alabama. On its “find a school” link, NSFA lists only two charter schools.

Two. In four years.

Meanwhile, Schultz moves onward and upward.

Seven months after Alabama passed its charter school legislation, in October 2015, Schultz became the “senior manager of policy and state advocacy” for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS).

So, yes, Schultz has experience advocating for charter schools.

Both of them.

Regarding the newly-passed charter school legislation in WV in which only districts can authorize charter schools, Schultz comments,

One of the provisions that we (“we” presumably being NAPCS) have seen as really important to supporting the growth of a high-quality public charter school sector is to have multiple authorizers. … Authorizing structures look different across states, but we usually recommend having at least two pathways or two authorizers in place so that applicants can make their case for opening a school to a couple of different entities.

Alabama’s charter school law allows for multiple authorizers, as NSFA notes on its “start a school –> process” page:

Groups applying to open a charter school in a district that has registered as an authorizer must first apply to the district. Should the district deny the application, applicants can appeal to the Alabama Public Charter School Commission (APCSC). The decision of the APCSC is final. Groups applying to open in a district that has not registered as an authorizer must apply directly to the APCSC.

So then, why only two charter schools in four years? Isn’t market-based reform about quantifiable results?

Why would WV pro-school-choice legislators seek advice from someone whose AL charter school policy advocacy resulted in a scant two schools in four years?

Why, indeed.

Schultz has an impressive title: director for state advocacy and policy for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

No reason to check for the substance behind it.

car on blocks


Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

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From → Charters, TFA

  1. pwtx23 permalink

    Teach for America sounds so noble, so idealistic.  Yet so often when that’s on a resume….  Is TFA code for indoctrinated in charters?

    Thank you, and thank you for looking into this —


  2. Linda permalink

    A couple of years ago, Mercedes posted about Media Matters’ biased reporting – David Brock’s MM criticized the right wing for school privatization but omitted Bill Gates, Waltons, etc.
    CAP’s July 22, 2019, “Corruption Consultants”, article fires off at privatization but, the reader can’t find any mention of charter schools.

    CAP-same duplicity with an added layer of hypocrisy

  3. Filbert permalink

    A little late to the party here, but this is an absurd post. You have based all of your “research” on looking at someone’s LinkedIn profile and doing a few simple Google searches. What about primary source interviews or research? Have you tried speaking with Emily? What about any of her previous employers or stakeholders throughout the education space in Alabama that have worked with or against her previously? What about anyone who has any knowledge whatsoever about just how difficult it is to get ANY legislation passed in Alabama, let alone legislation that comes with all of the political controversy and baggage of an education bill? Have you ever tried to create a school from the ground up? Do you think that is something that can be done in just a couple of short months? It takes YEARS to create something like that from the ground up, and do it the RIGHT way. Would you prefer if she had tried to create as many charter schools as possible, without any consideration of the quality, durability, and sustainability of those schools? Have you compared her track record to what other people have accomplished in other states similar to Alabama? Do you realize that people have been trying to get statewide legislation passed in Alabama to allow charter schools for decades, and it was only when Emily got involved that it was actually passed? Perhaps getting statewide legislation passed to allow charter schools, then helping create two charter schools in four years is actually a lot compared with other states.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mercedes Schneider: The Meteoric Rise of a TFA Alum in Charter World | Diane Ravitch's blog

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