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Newswire: July 9, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 27

ALWAYS ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT. The Education Committee of the DC City Council deliberated today about Mayor Gray’s “Increasing Access to High Quality Educational Opportunities Act of 2013.” The proposal seeks to reinstate charter authorizing for DC Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson. In her testimony, CER founder and president Jeanne Allen said, “The real issue shouldn’t be whether the Chancellor or the district would be a great authorizer but whether the environment for chartering here needs to be more expansive. And we think the answer to that is yes. In fact, we think the authorizing in DC actually needs a little bit more competition, not less.” With nearly 45% of all public school students enrolled in charters across the nation’s capital and thousands more on waiting lists, the Council need not amend the DC School Reform Act, but designate, as the law currently permits, additional entities like universities to become authorizers. And while DC continues to hold the top seat on CER’s Charter Law Rankings, Allen continued, “the reality is that we’re starting to see a regulatory creep that’s affecting even the best people. Bureaucracy has this pernicious way of getting to even the best people in the best circumstances.”

IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT. Last night, the NC House passed a charter school bill that strips the University of North Carolina (UNC) of its chartering authority. Although UNC has not stepped up to the plate in 18 years to be a leader in chartering like its counterparts in NY, MI, IN, MO and MN have, closing the door to that option now – as the strike-out provisions in SB 337 do – sends the message that North Carolina doesn’t even want the opportunity to join these states as national reform leaders. Simply leaving the provisions currently in law that allows UNC contingent institutions to be charter school authorizers, if they so choose, allows the Tar Heel State to remain among the leaders of creating as many pathways as possible for the creation good schools. Its up to leadership in NC’s Senate to do so.

IT CREEPS, IT SEAPS, IT GLIDES AND SLIDES… News of a lawsuit filed by the BLOB in Washington State challenging the constitutionality of its charter school law comes as no surprise this week. Last November when voters made it clear they wanted to bring these innovative public schools to the Evergreen State, opponents vowed to take action. But what the opposition does not realize is that their claim that charters divert public funds to private organizations is inaccurate and will not hold up in court. While interpretations may vary, courts have consistently ruled that wherever a state legislature is tasked with the authority to establish and fund public education, it may create systems for the establishment of other public schools without violating the Constitution. Charter schools’ constitutionality has been upheld by courts in more than a dozen states, including California, Colorado, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio.

While Washington’s charter school law is modest at best, allowing only 40 schools to open, it is constitutional. In addition to the newly formed Charter Commission, local school districts can apply to become authorizers. Earlier this year thirteen districts in Washington expressed interest in becoming authorizers. Seattle chose not to and Tacoma voted to delay its application. Spokane is the only district that stepped up to the plate. Spokane Superintendent Shelley Redinger said, “When I first started in Spokane, we did a parent and community survey. It came out loud and clear — before charters passed — that they wanted more options.” November’s election is proof that voters in Washington demand better. More leaders should be listening to their electorate.

REAL LEADERSHIP. At the NEA Conference last week, BLOB delegates honored Gov. Jerry Brown of California as “America’s Greatest Education Governor.” In addition to raising the amount for individual union dues next year (which they did) the NEA reps clearly need to raise their standards for who they consider as the greatest education governor. In recent years, more and more state executives have responded to the growing consensus behind parent empowerment and access to quality educational choices. Not surprisingly, in states such as Indiana, Florida and Louisiana where there is high Parent Power, teacher accountability and choice programs, there is almost always a governor interested in creating more and better opportunities for students. The NEA can increase membership fees all they want, but should really consider changing what they recognize as real leadership in education.