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Newswire: April 3, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 14

U.S. EARNS A “C” FOR CHARTER LAWS. CER’s 13th annual “The Essential Guide to Charter School Law” finds that only five of the 42 states with charter laws deserve an A for the quality of their laws. Jeanne Allen explains the importance of CER’s particular scoring of charter school laws: “The issue is not whether a state has a law, and has some schools. The issue is whether the law has strong permanent authorizing structures and can withstand political elections or partisan whims with regard to funding, operations and accountability.” To see how your state fared, visit CER.

FAIL. A good example in favor of multiple authorizers, by the way, is found in Frederick, MD, where the board nixed plans for the Classical Charter to build a facility, making it nearly impossible for the school to open in the fall. Charter supporters seem to think that fear of change and marching to the drumbeat of the local union are reasons the board rejected the plan. “They’ve consistently shown a pattern of politically making decisions and showing that they’re rubber stamping anything that the teacher’s union wants them to do," said Jim Voss, school supporter and former treasurer of the Monocacy Valley Montessori Charter School in Frederick, Maryland’s first charter school. "They seem to be making decisions based on fear of change. They don’t understand charter schools. They don’t understand what that brings to the community and the choice that it offers." A sad commentary on promoting a solid education for all children.

EXPELLED. If the Frederick board failed, the Desert Trails officials were kicked out of school. Adelanto (California) school board members unanimously voted to reject a parent trigger petition from Desert Trails failing elementary school, despite allegations that the rescission campaign, led by the status quo, to undo the original petition was fraudulent. In a phone call, the Desert Trails parent trigger folks said they plan to appeal in court. Ben Austin, head of California’s Parent Revolution, encouraged all to “take this back to what it is all about – kids trapped in failing school.” Desert Trails falls in the bottom 10 percent of schools in California and is the worst school in the district. He summed up the parents’ frustration during the parent trigger campaign: “Instead of respect, we got fraud and forgery.”

OPPORTUNITY LOST. If Gordon MacInnes, former assistant commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Education as well as past Legislative member, has his way, the New Jersey Opportunity Act would not see the light of day. He chides supporters in an editorial for not truly wanting to help “the poorest kids in the poorest schools escape to private education” with the two pieces of legislation that address the Opportunity Scholarship Act. His out-of-touch criticism lit a fire under Christy Davis Jackson, president of E3. She ripped out a rebuttal that attacks ManInnes for “mischaracterize[ing] both the intent of the Opportunity Scholarship Act and the urgency of the need for OSA.” Read Jackson’s on-the-mark counter here.

FINISH LINE IN SIGHT. Lawmakers in Louisiana and South Carolina are coming to closure on voucher and charter bills. The Louisiana Senate cleared the way for a vote tomorrow before the full Senate on legislation creating a statewide voucher program and the possibility of numerous new charters. In South Carolina, after eight years of battling the status quo, lawmakers in the House voted to allow parents to take a $4,000 tax deduction per child for tuition paid, $2,000 for homeschool expenses and $1,000 for children attending a public school outside their district.

ELECTION UPDATE. Polls are open in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Wisconsin today and some of us will be voting on school board members, Congressional candidates, state lawmakers and even a Presidential candidate. One thing all those office have in common is every one of them touches education and could help — or hurt — efforts to reform it. Look for the basics now and keep them in mind for November. Will they endorse and encourage reforms that put kids first and give families choices? Will accountability for real results — consequences along with evaluations — guide their actions? Don’t forget to vote!!

And, to all who celebrate, a Happy Easter and Passover!