Home » Newswire Weekly » Newswire: March 26, 2013

Newswire: March 26, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 12

MARCH MADNESS. Across the country March Madness is in full swing; but in Chicago, it’s not just their brackets being busted – it’s their schools. As Chicago officials announced that they will close 54 under-enrolled schools this year, in the country’s third largest district to help close a $1 billion budget deficit, it probably didn’t help that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was nowhere to be found. He should have realized it wasn’t the ideal time to head out of town on a family ski vacation in Utah – this is, after all, the largest mass district closing of schools ever in the United States, and fiercely opposed by many teachers, parents and education activists. And the madness continued when Chicago Teacher’s Union leader Karen Lewis, when talking about the closings, compared Chicago to Iraq in saying unions feel attacked. When asked about whether she feels teachers unions are being attacked Lewis said she feels like she’s in “Chiraq.” It’s hard to believe that the union president would compare Chicago to Iraq, but clearly the CPS is experiencing it’s own version of March Madness in these school reform games. In the end, unfortunately, it’s the students and parents who lose among all this madness.

PENNSYLVANIA PRIDE? Is it finally going to happen? Will the state’s leadership finally embrace the importance of having independent, multiple authorizers that state and local education bureaucracies don’t get to control? From our view on the ground the environment has never been more conducive. First, the districts have not demonstrated they know how or want to actually support the development of successful charters. Second, the state is mired in so many clean up issues that adding another layer of oversight to their desks is hardly good policy. Finally, lawmakers are realizing these facts and moving to consider how states like New York, Michigan, Indiana and DC foster exceptional charters that surpass measures of conventional public school achievement. Like many states, universities are plentiful in the keystone state and permitting them to be part of the solution after being exposed to the problem for so long is good practice, and evidence shows it works for kids.

For more on what’s happening in Pennsylvania, the public should also know that the reform bill Pennsylvania State Rep. James Roebuck is backing for charter schools is about destroying, not reforming; about raising up the status quo, not real reform of our schools. See today’s Edspresso post “Posing as Reform in Pennsylvania,” for more.

TAKEOVERS, TURN-AROUNDS & SYSTEM FAILURES. All across the U.S., districts are in disarray. Not a day goes by that we don’t read or hear about another “intervention,” as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie calls his state’s takeover of Camden this week. Philadelphia’s school closures are also joined by turn-overs of failing schools to charter management groups. In Detroit, a new emergency manager must grapple with basic city and school issues. And in the least reformiest of all, Maryland, a sense of urgency is finally being felt in Prince George’s County, where the County executive Rushern Baker III is pushing for a bill in the state house that would give him control over the superintendent and school board which has been as dysfunctional over the past two decades as DC once was before reform. Massachusetts state chief Mitchell Chester remarked at an AEI forum yesterday that he’s been moving to have high performing charter groups get into the turn-around business, as well. These examples might give hope for a future for kids in these areas, but the big ugly issues of contracts and consequences must be dealt with in each takeover or turn-around if kids are to succeed.

DIGITAL REPORT CARDS. Digital Learning Now has released its second annual report card with six states earning high marks and lots still lagging. States were graded on 39 metrics that correlate to the organization’s “10 elements of high quality digital learning.” And the good news is that legislative actions in 2012 reportedly fall into three basic trends including an increase in online learning for K-12 students, more blended-learning opportunities, and expansion of choice.

SETTING THEM STRAIGHT IN MAINE. Maine Governor Paul LePage’s education summit last week drew a crowd of more than 200 legislators, school officials, advocates, and media, but it seems some weren’t listening. After hours of discussion on how public charter schools work for kids, The Kennebec Journal reported something completely different! “School choice advocates from across the country urged Mainers to transform the state’s public education system by allowing taxpayer funds to be used to pay private and charter school tuition.” Of course, they clearly didn’t listen, as charters are public schools and money that is allocated for education is supposed to go where the kids go. Maine already has the oldest school choice program in the country. Thankfully there’s a tool to keep them honest.

And thanks to technology, if you want to see what was discussed at the summit, you can still access the discussions here.

OVERHEARD AT #CCmeetsRA. At AEI’s “Common Core Meets the Reform Agenda” event yesterday, a variety of views and papers addressed the varying events and activities circling the Common Core. CER President Jeanne Allen, a featured speaker, was also on hand and introduced the “new three Rs” that fit the condition charters are finding themselves in regarding their fate with the Common Core. Those sentiments – Rejection, Resignation and Relief typify most charters today, and the challenge, she said, will be for state policymakers not to impose things on charters that are contrary to their approaches and the way they choose to teach content. Allen’s cautions were widely shared, and are available here.

Here’s are a few other quotables heard from the event:

“When proficiency rates drop (possibly by as much as 40%), Governors [will] need to stand together.” — Richard Laine, National Governors Association

“Who will fund this effort? No one wants the federal government to do it, but they do have the deepest pockets.” — Patrick McGuinn, Drew University

“We have a lot more work to do to explain to people what the common core standards are.” — Dane Linn, Business Roundtable

“Some charters do not embrace common core standards because of their natural inclination to reject authority” — Russell Armstrong, Office of the Louisiana Governor

“The urge to have a common curriculum is as American as apple pie.” — Peter Meyer, Thomas B. Fordham Institute

It’s folly to think that anything dealing with education is above politics.” — Michael Q. McShane, AEI

BREAKING NEWS. Out of Indiana today, the state Supreme Court, in a 5-0 decision, unanimously declared the state’s school voucher program constitutional. See today’s press release for more.