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Newswire: April 30, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 17

SIN CITY. In 30 years, only two principals in Nevada’s Clark County School District have been fired. Could it be that the schools in Vegas are really so good that only two school leaders have ever been held accountable? Unfortunately, the answer is NO. Nevada ranks 24th on the Parent Power Index, with only 26 percent of its 4th and 8th graders reading at proficiency. And as the Nevada Public Policy Center points out, “During this same time period, CCSD has become one of the country’s worst districts.” Last week the CCSD school board announced a series of town meetings to get input from the public on selecting a new school superintendent. But before the search even started they stopped looking nationally because the education establishment has made it pretty clear they don’t want an “outsider” coming in to shake things up. But even if CCSD was able to attract a bold new reform-minded superintendent willing to take on the status quo, they most likely would not be successful in cleaning house. According to NPRI, “CCSD has a chicken-or-egg problem… The principals — management — have a union. And, therefore, dismissing a principal is a laborious process consisting of multiple hoops to jump through and a time- and paperwork-intensive appeals process.” Positively sinful.

PARENT POWER! Thank goodness we’ve got our PALs over in California working hard to combat similar issues. While a number of positive legislative efforts failed to pass earlier this year, these parents are hopeful one last modest proposal, SB 441, will secure the votes needed to bring slight changes to teacher evaluations in the Golden State. Teachers in California are evaluated every five years. Julie Collier, Executive Director and founder of PALs, points out, “If your child starts Kindergarten it is likely he/she may not have a teacher evaluated until 4th or 5th grade.” Even so, “Last year 98% of the teachers in California (that were evaluated) received the highest evaluation rating: Satisfactory.” TODAY is the deadline to weigh in, so help out our PALs and call members of the CA Senate Education Committee by 4:30pm PST.

RETREATING ON REFORM. Indiana is known as the “reformiest” state for good reason, but a measure awaiting Governor Pence’s signature is a major step back. Masked as a charter school accountability bill and supported by some of our Hoosier friends, HB 1338 threatens independence and accountability measures for Indiana’s charter school authorizers — measures that have earned the state’s charter law an A grade. The proposal, which has passed the Indiana legislature, empowers the Indiana Department of Education to have authority over the state’s authorizers that have been a model for the nation. Even if reformer Tony Bennett was still the ed chief, this is not a good precedent to set. The most reform-minded leaders can’t always control what happens under their watch when bureaucracy comes into play. Frankly, given the anti-charter and choice campaign she waged last fall, there’s no doubt that Glenda Ritz has her sights on dismantling the good reforms started by her predecessor. HB 1338 emboldens her administration to do just that.

KEEPING THE FAITH. With major efforts underway from New York to Louisiana and from North Carolina to Ohio, parents across the country are demanding the right to choose the best school for their children, including faith-based schools. On June 6, The American Center on School Choice is hosting, “Religious Schools in America: A Proud History and Perilous Future,” in Austin, TX. Click here for more information and to register for this important discussion.

THE NEW COOL. As The Center for Education Reform turns 20 and looks back at the history it has had a bird’s eye view of seeing and carrying, we invite you to join us for an intensive conversation about the original stories of reform, their founders, the lessons of the past, the battle lines, the missteps, and the victories. All the while helping us plan the next generation of reform efforts. Be sure to save October 9, 2013 on your calendar and join us to celebrate CER At 20. Click here for a sneak peek of the conference agenda, “Education Reform: Before It Was Cool.”