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Charter Schools Now Election Update

March 4, 2020

This guest content is provided by Charter Schools Now, a 501(c)(4) organization that builds the political and policy landscape needed for charter schools to thrive.

Charter school supporters in Texas have plenty of reason to celebrate the results of Tuesday's election. Our election strategy is to work in concert with the Charter Schools Now Political Action Committee to do two things:

1. Select a small number of competitive elections where CSN will be the difference maker in pushing the pro-charter candidate across the finish line; and

2. Protect our best champions who are already elected to office.

We had success in both categories. The CSN PAC made significant investments in 15 candidates, and 12 of them won their primaries. Of those 12, four will go into run-off elections to be held in May. We also made a few strategic decisions to wait to back a candidate until the run-off elections, and we have one Senate district and two House districts where we have the opportunity to make an impact in the run-off.

This was the first election where the Charter PAC was deeply engaged in campaigns, including developing direct mail and digital outreach programs on behalf of the candidates we were backing, in addition to direct contributions. While we made some smart, data-driven decisions and had some success, we also learned a lot. Here are some key takeaways:

1. We’re stronger than ever. Charter advocates are in stronger position than ever for electoral engagement.

  • Charter Schools Now PAC spent $654,954 in primaries—that’s nearly triple our high-water mark in 2018. We will spend more in the run-offs and general elections.
  • We collaborated with a coalition of aligned PACs to bring even more resources to the table for our chosen candidates, including a new PAC called Legacy 44 PAC that supports pro-ed reform Democrats.

2. We proved capable of protecting champions. All CSN-backed incumbents either won outright, or are in the lead heading into the runoffs – showing that charter school advocates will defend their champions.

3. Our level of engagement significantly strengthened relationships and our position with elected officials. We significantly strengthened relationships with all incumbents CSN backed. We also backed one current SBOE member running for another office, allowing us to strengthen our relationship with this individual. Additionally, our level of engagement in races has made us a key player for leadership in both parties.

4. CSN needs to staff up so we can engage early and be hands-on. CSN needs to engage earlier and more intensively in chosen races; and our need to hire a political director is urgent. Run-off planning starts today!  

5. CSN took a big swing for SBOE and missed, but learned a lot for the future. We are learning how to hedge bets and not just go big or go home in risky races. One thing learned: the State Board of Education districts are geographically so large that there wasn’t a clear path to victory at the level of spending CSN considered. We need to reassess how to win these races based on what we learned in this round. 

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