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Newswire: March 6, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 10

THINKING SUPER TUESDAY. “Super Tuesday is upon us, and voters are likely nearing the selection of a GOP candidate to oppose President Obama in November. As people go to the polls in ten states on Tuesday, what should they be looking at in choosing their candidates. We hear that the voters of 2012 care only about things like ‘jobs and unemployment,’ ‘retirement security,’ ‘housing’ and ‘debt’— those things that make up the ‘Big E,’ what we commonly refer to as ‘the economy.’ But there’s another ‘E’ missing from the equation that actually feeds — or starves — even the best economy. It’s called Education, and its reform is the imperative for a nation that continues to lag in achievement and finances….” The Huffington Post hosts Jeanne Allen on this topic today.

COURT WARS. Pennsylvania’s Scranton and Abington Heights school districts are waging a court battle over opening a charter. Typical of districts’ unfounded jealousy toward charters, both districts, just last year, voted no on the private school’s, the Howard Gardner School for Discovery, charter application. However, the state’s Charter Appeals Board reversed the decision. The districts’ reaction: Go to court AND request a stay to halt the charter from opening until a decision is made. Desperate measures for school districts that feel it’s appropriate to write big checks for lawyer fees all the while moaning over budget cuts for classroom education. Go figure.

SCHOOL CHOICE WORKS. It should come as no surprise but the proof is in the data. The latest five-year study of Milwaukee’s voucher program, conducted by the University of Arkansas, finds that students with vouchers were four to seven percentage points more likely to enroll in a four-year college. Even more significant, these students were more likely than their public school counterparts to persist through the first year of college. "Since educational attainment is linked to positive life outcomes such as higher lifetime earnings and lower rates of incarceration, this is a very encouraging result of the program," noted John Witte, professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The study also finds that voucher students out-performed their public school peers on standardized reading tests and were about the same on math exams. But, the real kicker is this: The Milwaukee school district spends more than $14,000 per student, while a voucher provides only $6,422. Besides running a tighter ship academically, schools that take vouchers in Milwaukee also appear to offer the intangibles – a more disciplined yet nurturing environment that teaches respect and discipline to persevere — qualities that lead to success at college and on the job.

A BIG WEEK FOR REFORM. Last week saw gatherings of digital learning fans and policy idea seekers, as well as members of the growing, forceful Black Alliance for Education Options focused not only on successful advocacy for broadening school options, but determining what’s next for theirs and other education reform organizations. The most compelling discussions at both confabs placed focus not on lawmakers, teachers, or parents, but on those who matter most – the students. At an iNACOL’s leadership forum on Capitol Hill, several students learning in a virtual environment – one a musician, one an ESL learner, one whose traditional school couldn’t offer her the courses she wanted, etc. – shared their stories and showed the crowd just how diverse are online students. At BAEO’s symposium, Pennsylvania State Senator Tony Williams (D-Philly) said lawmakers who politicize education have all the wrong interests in mind as he demonstrated how the right school changed the trajectory of his life. Inspiring.

In Other News… Many of us watched Morning Joe’s New Jersey Town Hall on Friday and were thrilled to see great coverage of important reform issues. That said, many of the tough questions were missing. Next time you learn about a media pundit doing an interview, you might consider sharing these questions to get them to focus a bit more on what really is important.

TEACHED. The East Coast premier of TEACHED is happening in Washington, D.C., this Friday (March 9) from 6:30 to 9:30, with CER as one of the event’s sponsors. A compilation of short films and interviews on urgent issues facing American education is the theme. Stay on top of the issues and plan to attend.