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Newswire: July 2, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 26
Special Charter Conference Edition

While the NEA is having its annual conference in Atlanta, charter school leaders, teachers, and advocates (and even a few celebrities!) are coming together discussing how to keep the ball rolling on these innovative schools that have already helped move America forward.

From the social media airwaves, we can tell that the same old drones about needing more money are a main focal point of the union’s conference. There’s talk of storming castles, reclaiming professions and public education. Someone forgot to tell the NEA that charter schools are public schools. And, as Pitbull noted in the opening session, “Charter schools are here to stay.” (Yes, he may or may not have said “Dale” after that quote).

Here are a few quick highlights from the 2013 National Charter Schools Conference:

“Charter schools are energizing education in America,” says Pitbull. They respect teachers and give them freedom. To all the teachers in the room – “thank you, thank you, thank you.”

“People need to understand how important it is for all of our kids to get a world class education,” says Michael Lomax of UNCF. “It’s not just low-income kids that aren’t doing well.” He goes on to say that charter schools just need to keep “doing what they are doing” — weed out the bad ones; demand will build.

Howard Fuller energizing the crowd as always, urging the charter school movement not to become the bureaucracy it has been trying to get away from.

Joel Klein emphasizes poverty is not destiny, and education is the solution. “We will not fix poverty until we fix education.” His advice to politicians is courage, which means putting kids first and special interests last.

CER’s EdReform University – the nation’s first and only initiative to inform, educate, and activate those who don’t know much about the history of the edreform movement – was a hit at the charter conference thanks to fantastic edreform pioneer panelists such as: former Ohio state Representative Sally Perz, standards and charter policy expert Theodore Rebarber, former Florida state Representative Ralph Arza, California charter leader Mary Bixby, and CER’s own Kara Kerwin and Founder & President Jeanne Allen.

EdReform U contains hundreds of seminal documents from the founding of the charter school movement, so those unable to attend the EdReform U panel at the conference can enroll online as well as check out some of the highlights below!

Ralph Arza tells listeners to imagine scenes from “Saving Private Ryan” when you think of what pioneers of edreform have done, and calls upon reformers to arm themselves with data.

“I know charter school teachers and officials put kids first,” says Mary Bixby, who wants to see charter school policy that allows charter schools to be innovative, autonomous, and market-driven.

Sally Perz agrees when she was told “Ain’t nothing gonna happen in public education until we get some competition,” which is why she traveled far and wide to see how charter schools were working in other states so Ohio could model its law based on what works. She was told to “bring choice to education in Ohio, but don’t make any trouble.”

“Most policy people aren’t visiting schools in other states these days!” says CER President and Founder Jeanne Allen who recalls how she used to run into edreform pioneers in states that weren’t their home state all the time. She speculates that compromise, lack of diligence, and impatience are all reasons why this isn’t happening anymore. She also strongly encourages people to look at data on charter school closures which are not a new issue for the movement.

“Accountability needs to be primarily parent driven (outrageous situations aside),” Theodore Rebarber says, also noting how charter schools have opened doors for parent power. “We’ve still got a long way to go, but the value of looking back at history is that it helps us think about how we can move forward.” And to that we say Amen!