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Newswire: February 14, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 7
February 14, 2012

HOLDING UP CHARTERS IN HARRISBURG. The capitol of the Keystone State is notorious for denying charter school applications. Time and again the district’s school board just says no to charter applications, striking down options for families who want to take their children out of forever failing schools. In Pennsylvania, the crux of the problem is the lack of multiple authorizers. School boards, many of whom wrongly see charters as the enemy, turn down applications, regardless of the strength of the application. CER’s Jeanne Allen says it’s like requiring Burger King to seek approval from McDonald’s before opening another restaurant.” Read more about Harrisburg’s harassment of charters and what Pennsylvania should do about it here.

MUCH ADO OVER IRS PROPOSAL…that seemed to target charter school teachers and deny them access to state retirement plans is really about nothing. CER spoke with the IRS and was told that nothing in the proposed regulations is directly aimed at charters and nothing is becoming final this summer. Whew. For a full re-cap of what is really happening, click here.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH WAIVERS. Eleven states applied for, and ten states won, NCLB waivers. Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee are waived, while New Mexico is denied, but can still work on their application. The waiver gives a free pass on some of NCLB’s requirements, which includes mandating that every student be proficient in math and reading by 2014. It also allows for creating a “super group” of students who struggle to learn for different reasons – English language learners, minorities and students with disabilities. Under NCLB, schools were judged by how they fared with each sub-group separately. The problem with combining groups, though, is that schools now need not focus on the very different ways of teaching to help kids in each group meet their potential. “For decades, the actual state of student achievement was masked behind a school or district’s averaged results…NCLB’s data-demands unearthed a different reality and have allowed us to remove the comfortable excuses that helped prolong a damaging achievement gap,” explains Jeanne Allen. Some children are going to be left behind with this waiver, making the U.S. a nation at risk all over again.

TAKING ON TENURE. Virginia has taken its first step to improve teacher quality. The House of Delegates voted just yesterday to extend the probationary period for teachers from three to five years. Currently, teachers receive continuing contracts that mandate due process hearings before any teacher is dismissed. But, the new law would replace continuing contracts with three-year contracts. At the end of every three years, a teacher could be let go for any reason, not just poor performance, a point that does not sit well with the union. Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox (R), chided those who think public education in the state is tops. “We’re kidding ourselves if we don’t think there aren’t mediocre teachers and bad teachers,” he said. “We are naïve if we think public education is perfect.” Yes, we all would be residing in Lake Wobegan if we think that. Calling on all Virginians to contact your Senators to vote in favor of teacher quality, as the bill moves into the Senate.

NO VALENTINE FOR D.C. SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM. President Obama’s budget zero-funds the highly touted D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Whether or not it is a bow to special interest groups, ending this model for the nation jeopardizes the future of D.C. school children and bursts the bubble of hope for their families. Not only Presidents should have the opportunity for Hope.