The Massachusetts Charter Public School Association began on November 17, 2000 in a small conference room at a non-distinct hotel in central Massachusetts when 26 charter leaders came together to discuss common advocacy efforts.
The state legislature had passed a cap raise the previous summer and the movement was poised to grow. These founding leaders were visionaries in the education reform movement to see the potential of collective action to increase the impact of charter schools while protecting new and fragile schools from political attacks.
The leaders involved created a board of directors and in March 2001 the MCPSA was incorporated and in July, 2001 Dr. Marc Kenen was hired as the association’s first Executive Director. Dr. Kenen came to the MCPSA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he directed numerous statewide grassroots education advocacy campaigns on issues such as tuition and fees, financial aid, and state funding for higher education.
In 2002 Dr. Kenen and the MCPSA board achieved their first milestone when they reached 100% dues paying membership, a tremendous achievement in such a short time and a testament to the collaborative spirit of the charter school movement.
In 2003 the MCPSA received a three year National Leadership Grant from the United States Department of Education’s Charter School Program to document best practices of 10 high performing charter schools and share those best practices through an online library. This grant launched the MCPSA’s dissemination of best practices work including workshops, online library and publications.
Between 2004-2009 the charter school movement faced a significant increase in anti-charter sentiment in the state legislature resulting in annual, and numerous bills filed to reduce charter school funding, decrease autonomy and put a moratorium on new charter schools. During this time the MCPSA built a powerful charter school parent advocacy network that provided an historic level of parent advocacy in protecting charter schools from these political attacks. Utilizing a combination of parent and business leader advocacy with creative public relations and effective government relations, the MCPSA became a powerful advocacy force protecting and supporting the sustained growth of high quality charter schools.
In 2006 the MCSPA received our second National Leadership Grant from the United States Department of Education which funded the creation and distribution of a feature length documentary, a book and in-school study tours of high performing Massachusetts charter schools.
In 2009-2010 the MCPSA helped lead a statewide coalition to pass the Act Relative to the Achievement Gap that, a comprehensive education reform package raised the district cap on charter schools in the state’s urban areas from 9%-18%. Through the mobilization of a 5,000 strong parent advocacy network the MCPSA led the advocacy efforts for the historic Race to the Top legislation.
Since 2010 the MCPSA has been building capacity to serve the rapidly expanding Massachusetts charter sector. In spring, 2012 we introduced our ground breaking Communities of Practice bringing together educators from charters across the state to share best practices. In fall 2012 we opened our new training center in Hudson, MA providing a venue for charters to share best practices among themselves and with their district school colleagues.
As we look to the future we see another cap raise and a further expansion of the movement. MCPSA is poised to continue our leadership role in the movement and support the creation of as many high-performing charter schools as possible as quickly as possible.