Ben Lindquist, whose charter school experience ranges from working in philanthropy to founding a school network and funding expansion of successful models, has been named the next president of the Colorado League of Charter Schools.
Lindquist, 42, will start June 1, the league announced Monday. He is leaving a job as a program director with the Waukesha, Wisconsin-based Kern Family Foundation.
Lindquist previously worked for nine years in Colorado, including as a program officer for the Walton Family Foundation. (The foundation provides financial support for Chalkbeat). He also worked on the founding team of the Charter School Growth Fund, a nonprofit venture philanthropy fund that supports the expansion of high-performing charter schools.
In 2010, Lindquist left Colorado to launch and lead Exalt Education, a Little Rock, Ark.-based network of charter schools with four campuses in Arkansas and Oregon.
Jay Cerny, principal and CEO of Cherry Creek Academy and chairman of the league’s board, in an email announcing the hire credited Lindquist’s experience “driving systemic improvement with a focus on transforming education for underserved populations and communities.”
In an interview with Chalkbeat, Lindquist cited a number of priorities he intends to focus on, including encouraging members to “set a high bar for excellence” to serve a growing population of students with diverse needs in different settings.
Lindquist said during the era of No Child Left Behind — the federal education law ushered in during the President George W. Bush administration — the definition of quality narrowed. With so much focus on boosting scores on standardized tests, schools emphasized proficiency in math and English so much that in many cases schools eliminated civics, social studies, science, music and art, he said.
“We have to continue to have the basics of literacy and numeracy be a priority for students,” Lindquist said. “It remains a bedrock. But I think our view of quality has really broadened.”
The league advocates for charter school causes at the statehouse, and pushing for more equitable funding will continue to be a top priority, Lindquist said.
With just three days remaining in the session, lawmakers this year have yet to resolve the question of whether school districts should be required to share revenue from local taxes increases with charters.
Lindquist said he also hopes the league can play a stronger role in lifting the quality of charter schools that reside in “the great middle” between the high and low performers. He said charter authorizers have been more aggressive in closing failing schools, so policing low-quality operators is not as much of a concern.
“What the league can do is help good schools become excellent,” he said. “That is where our attention needs to be.”
Lindquist will replace Nora Flood, who left the league last year to launch a new program of the Walton Family Foundation.