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Newswire: December 20, 2011

CER Holiday Newswire
Of Gifts and Grinches


As we joyfully prepare for our holiday feasts and fanfare, it’s time to take stock of the many Gifts — and Grinches — that have made their way into America’s education reform landscape.


Hope did shine brightly in 2011 on those fortunate enough to live in states that passed significant and meaningful education reform. Take Indiana for example, with the most comprehensive school reform – from expansion of charters to a school voucher program. Then there’s Maine, which finally passed a charter school law, and Michigan, whose lawmakers just sent their children an early Christmas present by lifting the cap on charters and creating new powers for teacher evaluation. Oh, and we can’t forget how Congress reinstated the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program rescuing students trapped in failing schools. And, of course, to the valiant efforts of Eva Moskowitz and her Success Charter Network who beat the odds on co-location so her new schools have a roof over their heads. These are but a few gifts to remember this season, that are born out of hard work and diligence of advocates willing to truly live up to their promises.

Then there’s the gift of accountability, which is alive and well in charter schools despite an abundance of views within and outside of ed reform to the contrary. How is that possible, you say? Wednesday at the National Press Club CER will release The State of Charter Schools: What We Know — and What We Do Not — about Performance and Accountability.

The impact of filmmakers and writers this year continues to give the public much needed insights into the problems we face, from Steve Brill’s Class Warfare to the award winning film TEACHED due out soon, to the constant and noble missives from Whitney Tilson, Tom VanderArk and others engaged in publicizing the struggles, the hopes and the half-truths, we offer thanks for the many gifts your efforts bring.

Then there are the Grinches. Those cranky curmudgeons that we know have a heart, but somehow they’re “two sizes too small” this year.

Let’s start with Pennsylvania’s lawmakers who reneged on their promise to help students stuck in failing schools by failing to enact a package of educational choice programs that enjoyed majority support across the legislature but which was distorted and botched at the nth hour. Over to New Jersey, where the state’s leadership failed to muster the political courage to enact Opportunity Scholarships (yet — there are still two weeks to go…), failed to act on a strong multiple authorizer bill for charter schools, and are being cow-towed by suburban NIMBYs who have time and money to show up and complain while poor parents are busy trying to just get by. Next up are all those Los Angeles officials who turned their backs on the Public Choice program to shut out charters for three years from taking over failing schools, giving the union a head start to “reform” schools, whatever that means. There also is the Save Our Schools group, which advocates against choice and accountability and puts more stock in the choices of the elite and organized labor as the solution. The list is long, and though we are in the spirit of giving and counting our blessings, we also are counting — and tracking — our disappointments.

Naming the Grinches. Jeanne Allen explores the true meaning of Christmas for education reformers, which starts with being willing to do what it takes to provide the best possible opportunities we can make available, no matter what the procedural, bureaucratic or political costs.

Blessings for advent, your chosen Holiday, Christmas and New Year! As we face 2012, we must resolve to do better for our nation, its children and its economic well-being. We can no longer be complacent about “okay” or flawed laws that merely tamper around the edges of the change needed to boost student learning. We can no longer allow the Grinches to steal policy debates. We can no longer let the media get away with biased, too simplistic, or just-wrong reporting on education reform issues.

Instead, 2012 must be a year we resolve to unite as a movement to advance opportunities for effective student achievement across the states, work together for sound charter and choice policies, form partnerships for greater accountability and adopt teacher quality efforts that ensure every child has access to highly energized, qualified educators. We’ve done it before…we all can do it again.  Happy Holidays!