It’s Not What You Say: It’s What People Hear

According to National Charter Schools Conference presenter Frank Luntz (right), Political Consultant, Pollster and Communications Consultant, the most important result  Americans want from public education is:

“An effective education that prepares students for success in college, career and life.”

It’s not about “education reform” or “better schools.”  It is about Effective Education for all and true preparation for life:  the skills and experience to think critically, communicate effectively, and accomplish real-world achievements.  That’s what Americans want.

But that’s not what students are getting.  Did you know that:

·         70% of 8th graders are not proficient in reading and most of them willnever catch up.

·         1.1 million American high school students drop out every year.  That’s one every 29 seconds or 6,000 who drop out every school day.

Those are “Facts that Grab,” says Luntz.  They sure do.  In one of the most informative general session presentations at the conference, Luntz also helped attendees to build the case for charter public schools.  This description of charter schools resonates with about 80% of the public:

·         Freedom to Choose(for conservatives)

·         Equality for Every Child (for liberals)

·         Efficient, Accountable Use of Tax Dollars (for everyone)

The number one word for why Americans support Charter Schools?  Opportunities!  Americans believe that more opportunity  is most likely to improve public education.  Next are more “choices” or “options.”   Less than 1/5 of Americans believe that “Competition” improves public education.

Let’s talk about the Attack on Charter Schools.  According to Luntz (, school choice can’t be about “Public Schools v. Charter Schools.”  Choice has to be available to Everyone.   Charter leaders and supporters are best to emphasize “Every and All.”  And they can—because that describes public charter schools.

Luntz says that the greatest concern about charter schools by the American public is that “It would take funds away from public schools.”  He says the strongest argument against charter schools is this:  “Charter schools will end up taking only the best and brightest students.”  The best response?  Again, Every and All.

There are always questions about whether “charter schools are working.”  Luntz recommends the “common sense approach.”  Like this:

Does it make sense to continue pouring money into failing schools without making real changes?

Does it make sense to leave failing schools open year after year, and continue paying and promoting ineffective teachers?

If you watch just one presentation from the National Conference, I recommend this one.  Thirty minutes-that’s all.  Luntz is dead-on:   It’s not what you say—it’s what people hear.  As charter school leaders and advocates, we can change what people hear.  We have a great story to tell!