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Newswire: July 3, 2012

Vol. 14, No. 27

NEVER GIVE UP. Perseverance fuels Washington state’s latest ballot drive to approve charter schools. So far, charters have failed at the ballot box in 1996, 2000 and 2004. But the landscape nationwide has changed; 41 states now permit charter schools and the concept has won fans from both sides of the aisle. Washington’s Initiative 1240 calls for 40 charter schools to open over a five-year period. Students would be selected via a lottery and only non-profits approved by the state would manage the charters. The local union cries foul because high donors are financing the signature drive. As if the NEA has never before heavily funded a campaign promoting its interests. A call out to Washington voters. You have until Friday to sign the petitions!

NEA’S DRAMATIC DROP IN MEMBERS. Nationwide, union membership is plummeting – down 100,000 since 2010 reports NEA President Dennis Van, who optimistically says they may be smaller, but stronger. Unlikely. USA Today observes that the decline goes hand-in-hand with the rise of choice and charters. Intriguing, too, that President Obama is sending his V.P. to address the diminishing throngs. Schedule conflict…or snub.

THAT WAS EASY. Long, drawn out contract negotiations are a thing of the past in Detroit, it appears. Roy Roberts, state-appointed emergency financial manager recently slammed down a contract, described as an “act of tyranny,” by the Detroit union leader. The terms have not yet been revealed, but the goal is to provide stability for the workforce while paying heed to the enormous debt incurred by the school system, factoring in shrinking enrollment, by 100,000 students, in the past 10 years. Tyranny also could be used to define the abysmal state of affairs far too many students are forced to endure in a system that couldn’t pick itself up out of failure.

NO DECLINE IN CHARTER ENROLLMENT. Wait lists at Washington, D.C., charter schools surge at over 17,000, although the figure reflects students who apply to multiple charters. All told, quality educational options count with D.C. families. One preschool-to second grade school has nearly 3,000 students on its wait list, while two other charters have wait lists with over 1,000 names, clearly a “powerful indicator of D.C. families’ demand for more quality school options,” according to Scott Pearson, executive director of the Charter School Board. Pearson adds that the charter movement remains “committed to …transforming public education so that more D.C. children can attend the school of their choice.”

TRANSFORMERS IN OHIO, TOO. On the topic of transforming education, soaring in as super heroes are Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Governor John Kasich, several lawmakers and private-sector friends of school reform who banded together to give Cleveland hope for quality education for all. Jackson’s laser-beam focus on the goal of sweeping change, rather than incremental reforms, is credited with creating the Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools that gives tenure and seniority a backseat when it comes to layoffs and permits districts to share property tax dollars with charter schools, among other provisions. School district CEO Eric (Flash?) Gordon on the passage of the bill and the collaborative effort it took for success: “This is just the beginning.”