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Newswire: November 29, 2011

Vol. 13, No. 46

TENURE AND BAD APPLES. It always helps to hear from the frontlines about the challenges faced by educators and administrators. So the comments of Perth Amboy Schools Superintendent Janine Walker Caffrey about the harmful effects of tenure on student achievement has all the more impact. Being careful to commend the “committed and talented teachers and administrators,” Caffrey is quick to point out that there are “certain teachers who just should not be working with children.” Too often these teachers – violent, outrageously inappropriate, drug addicted – are called out by administrators, including herself, only to end up back in a classroom somewhere. And we all know why. A tenure process that can take years to resolve and cost more than $100,000 in legal fees to remove someone who behaved in a way that is at odds with good teaching, or good behavior in general (yes, we are talking about the occasional sexual assault, or worse). Administrators tough enough to stand up to tenure rules typically are squashed by the time it takes to prove a case already proven and the many appeals a teacher and the union can make to re-instate a tenured teacher. So, why are tenure laws needed except to feed the pockets of union reps and lawyers? “We owe it to the majority of hardworking” teachers and “most important, we owe it to the children,” says Caffrey. Yes we do.

ONE WAY AROUND TENURE RULES. Support extended school choices for children so that anyone who can’t afford to wait for the politicos to make needed changes (hmmm… who can?) can get into a better school. How? By being given the choices that are most critical to those stuck in failing schools. New Jersey is just one state that has the potential and has come within literally a few votes of seeing an opportunity scholarship program enacted. On December 1, you can rally with the thousands who support this right, in Trenton. The group organizer is We Can Do Better, which puts the needs of all kids in poor-performing schools ahead of the needs of the system by advocating for the scholarship program that, once implemented, is a lifeline to a better school. In their own words: “By leveraging the support of schools and local communities, we hope to convince legislators of the value of this bill for the school children of New Jersey and for all New Jersey citizens fiscally, philosophically, and ethically.” So, put on your marching shoes and rally with our friends in the Garden State. For more information on the rally, email rally@wecandobetternewjersey.org.

MORE TO TEND IN GARDEN STATE. Four Jersey City charters just filed a petition seeking proper funding, as mandated by the state constitution and other statutes. The petition states that “the Jersey City Board of Education is required to pass along to Jersey City charter schools 90 percent per pupil enrolled in the charter school of the Adjustment Aid received by Jersey City district schools.” Current percent given to charters? Sometimes only half of the per-pupil allowance given to other public school students. Not surprisingly, parents kick started this petition back in January when they complained of the funding inequity to the Jersey City Council.

TEANECK TRUTH SQUAD. Feathers flying in Teaneck, New Jersey, over possible approval of the Garden State Virtual Charter School. Superintendent’s so ruffled she casts aside the facts to stir up the crowd to challenge the virtual school. She says dozens of teaching positions will be cut or the city’s budget will be slashed. Visit Edspresso to get the real facts.

OVER TO THE NEXT STATE…. Beat the drums for the Keystone state’s push for Opportunity Scholarships. Lawmakers in the House are debating the Senate passed Opportunity Scholarship bill (SB 1) this week, which could potentially not only create more choices for kids trapped in failing schools but expand the scope and quality of charter authorizing in the Keystone state. Take the time to give your representative a call, email, or visit to quickly pass the bill and do justice to those students serving time, and not much else, in failing schools.

…AND UP A FEW TO MAINE where proposed charter school enrollment rules will make opening new charters as slow as pouring molasses. Burdensome rules include: Parent must submit a declaration of intention to enroll by the third Tuesday in January before school begins (got that). They, then, must commit to enroll by February 15. All this before any charter may be approved by the State Charter Commission because a majority of the commission members will not be appointed until January. “It will be difficult to get written declaration of intent two months before we even know if our charter is approved,” says Justin Belanger, chairman of the Friends of Cornville Regional Charter School Board. He has requested a waiver of the enrollment window for the first year. CER’s Jeanne Allen told the Kennebec Journal that while 40 other states allow for charters, most do not set an enrollment period, a detail that should be up to the school. A final ruling should occur in late December.