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Newswire: April 23, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 16

BING. Two significant developments in the cause for equity and justice for kids happened over the past few days. First, a major report by the non-partisan University of Arkansas found that students in Washington, DC charter schools are treated to almost 44% less in funding than the traditional public school system receives. We’ve known this, of course, and have reported on it numerous times. Indeed the funding gap between charters and traditional public schools averages 30-40% nationwide, and that’s before you count the lack of facilities funds! With 43% of DC’s students in these innovative public schools, and overwhelmingly better academic achievement, you’d think the nation’s leaders would demand equity so that these students, whose families chose to find a better alternative to the traditional public schools, would not be penalized for seeking the American dream for their children.

BANG. Then comes the revelation (not to most of us toiling in the ed-reform vineyards for years) that African-American students benefit the most from school choice, as evidenced by their progress in college. The report by Harvard’s Paul Peterson says that African-American students in NYC who used the voucher to attend private schools are 24% more likely to go to college.

BOOM. Idaho Governor Butch Otter was not happy with the outcome of last fall’s ballot initiatives, which the union led to repeal his signature school improvement laws that would have paid teachers based on performance, phased out tenure, limited collective-bargaining, and expanded online learning opportunities. As a strong governor does, he worked with the legislature to revisit the issues and a new package was introduced and passed this week that requires a majority of teachers in support to open negotiations, limits teacher negotiations to one year and permits districts to address pay in emergency situations, two things not permitted under traditional collective bargaining contracts.

MUSIC TO OUR EARS. From the latest issue of Philanthropy Magazine comes tales of accomplishment from amidst the philanthropic community; a profile of the man who led Florida to bolster choices for tens of thousands of needy families; the story of where advocacy efforts first started (though some, like ours, were inadvertently left out of the narrative!); an introduction to a real users guide for Blended learning, insights into the thinking of major reform philanthropists and thoughts about what we are still missing from the funding spectrum. Engaging, thoughtful analysis, all of it, to be sure.

CORE-CONSPIRACY? A funny, tongue-in-cheek blog takes aim at those who believe that the Common Core State Standards are part of a vast government/corporate conspiracy to get into our children’s brains and dumb down America. Some of us have been doing this a long time and never ever seen an education conspiracy by left or right, other than the often unintentional but thoughtless conspiracy by the Education Blob to prevent school choice, accountability, and teacher quality measures to happen and bad schools to close. Those are conspiracies of long-seeded alliances, who think and act the same way because their power structure gave them the right to do so. One need not be a cynic to recognize how education has fallen apart under the “careful” hands of governments over the years. But that’s a side issue. The real important questions being raised in very intelligent and thoughtful circles are whether Common Core will have any effect on our schools, given that those who don’t like high standards to start — or consequences for failing to meet them — remain in charge of the very large education cartel that we have in this country. And if they result in everyone changing the materials they use but no one really rigorously following them, will we have wasted time and money that could have been spent on, let’s say, more flexibility for teachers in the classroom, teacher quality initiatives and school choice? Time will tell whether that — or infinitely low cut scores — will be the demise of the Common Core. It’s not a panacea, after all, and often the best-intentioned efforts are doomed in this system.

WE’RE HAVING A PARTY. Plan to join us for CER’s 20th Anniversary Conference and Gala Celebration in Washington, DC, October 9th. The conference theme, EDUCATION REFORM: BEFORE IT WAS COOL, will reintroduce to most and introduce to many the china-breakers and their efforts that paved the way for the cool kids of today. You won’t want to miss it. Details at https://edreform.com/about/20th-anniversary/.