Of course, elected officials going far out of their way to assist public charter schools spans both decades and political parties. One of the earliest and most noteworthy deep relationships between an elected official and a highly successful charter school organization developed in the 1990s between the Academy for Academic Excellence (AAE) in Apple Valley, California and former US Congressman Jerry Lewis (R). During the school’s early years, Lewis helped AAE secure funding for an on-campus observatory. That led to a longer-term partnership where the Congressman introduced the school to leadership at NASA. Today, AAE operates a satellite dish on behalf of NASA and includes thousands of public school students from across the country in science projects that are completed in the context of operating the satellite. Over time, the organization that operates AAE renamed itself The Lewis Center, in appreciation for the support that the Congressman offered in helping to found a charter school that is having a widespread impact on public education in the United States.
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From the charter movement’s earliest days to our most recent, from urban settings to rural, from deeply Democrat contexts to deeply Republican, and to communities across the country, we have seen again and again policymakers demonstrate remarkable conviction to help push through policy breakthroughs in support of chartering. It shows yet again that the founding of a movement takes founders of many types. We in the charter movement express our gratitude to our founding policymakers who have stood with us over the first three decades of work together, and we look forward to founding even more breakthroughs in the decades to come.
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