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Newswire: March 5, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 9

OK PINOCCHIO. Last week, Newswire sparked a mini-debate on what the sequester really means for education. But as CER president Jeanne Allen points out in today’s National Journal, “… that among all of these thousands of entities that spend and receive federal money, no one seems to know or to be even talking about how the almighty federal dollar flows.” The reality that CER continues to point out, is that most of the money has already been collected by states and districts. Thankfully we’re not alone in holding the Administration accountable for irresponsible rhetoric about a frenzy of “pink slips.” In fact, the US Department of Education has yet to produce any district-level evidence of lay-offs, according to the Wall Street Journal.

COVER UP. The Worcester County Teachers Association in Maryland has been making headlines as news broke of their botched attempt to cover-up the fact that Denise Inez Owens, the union’s former treasurer embezzled over $430,000 of teacher dues to fund her gambling addiction. In 2009 when the MSEA (state affiliate of the NEA) learned of the crime, they merely forced Owens to resign. We know these union contracts are ironclad, but come on, they sent a known-criminal back to teaching in a middle school classroom! Finally justice has been served, but where’s the accountability and “common good” that the union leadership supposedly values?

EXPANDING CHOICE. In a press conference last week Alabama Governor Robert Bentley applauded the legislature for sending an individual and corporate tax credit bill to his desk, “I truly believe this is historic education reform and it will benefit students and families across Alabama regardless of their income and regardless of where they live. I’m so proud we have done this for the children of this state and especially the children who are in failing school systems and had no way out. Now, they have a way out.” We couldn’t agree more Governor Bentley; now get back to the drawing board to finally bring charters to your state. There must be something in the water because in his 2013 Budget Address last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie proposed a $2 million pilot opportunity scholarship program for low-income students in failing schools. A small plan, but at least it’s a start.

ON CHARTERS. Charter schools will be all the buzz in Tennessee and Mississippi state houses today. The Volunteer state’s House Education Committee will take up HB 702, a very modest proposal that would allow the state board of education to authorize charter schools on an appeal. Currently only local school boards and the Achievement School District can authorize charter schools. Charter school leaders and parents are rallying in Nashville in support of the proposal.

Today, Mississippi lawmakers are poised to act on legislation expanding charter schools in the state, trying to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of bills. Some issues include: whether school boards in districts with “C’’ ratings will be able to veto charter schools, whether students will be able to cross district lines to attend charter schools elsewhere, whether schools will be able to join the state pension system, and whether for-profit companies will be allowed to run charter schools.

VIRTUAL VINDICATION. Yesterday, the lead plaintiff in a class action securities lawsuit against K12 Inc. voluntarily and permanently dismissed their claims made about K12-managed schools, helping to drown out the often-unsubstantiated charges similarly made by critics and echoed repeatedly by the media. With a bit of luck, the dismissal of these claims will help put to rest these charges and serve as a sort of virtual vindication.