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Newswire: August 13, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 31

WAIVERING ON PROGRESS. Last week eight school districts, including Los Angeles Unified, became the first districts in the country to receive waivers on NCLB provisions from the US Department of Education. Under NCLB, states were expected to ensure student proficiency across the board by 2014. California had the past thirteen years to improve yet today, only 24% of the Golden State’s 8th graders can read at proficiency. As one Alameda, CA teacher pointed out in his letter to the Wall Street Journal yesterday, “Just in time, too—the deadline for meeting NCLB goals is 2014. In the absence of real progress in public education, we are eager to mistake change for progress.” Meanwhile, Congress deliberates, five years overdue, on what the next generation of NCLB (or ESEA) will look like. It’s time for A Reformer’s Course of Action to ensure students can achieve. Our nation can no longer afford to procrastinate and waiver on real progress.

PESISTENCE PAYS. For you dedicated Newswire readers out there, you might recall the long fought battle reformer Tom Nuemark and his team waged to bring a classical education to Frederick, MD. “Words matter,” Nuemark told over 200 parents, students and community leaders at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Sunday officially opening the doors of the Frederick Classical Charter School. “After four years of struggle, our founding families gave the Frederick Classical Charter School a motto reflecting our founding—Nil Sine Magno Labore—nothing without great labor. Those words mean a lot to us.” And while the school celebrated, its leaders know there’s much more labor ahead. “Are you the kind of parents, elected officials, and community members, who will tirelessly advocate for our school and for school choice?… Are you willing to assure the survival and success of this school and of educational liberty?” We hope so. Maryland’s charter school law is very restrictive but rest assured, Frederick Classical will not stop fighting for substantive reform just because they have their school.

CITY OF NOT SO BROTHERLY LOVE. David Hardy, CEO of the prestigious Boys’ Latin Charter School hit the nail on the head when he said, “brinkmanship is the latest strategy” in Philadelphia. Superintendent of Philly schools William R. Hite says the district will require an additional $50 million to open schools on time, a statement Mayor Michael Nutter called, “one of the most chilling statements that I’ve ever heard a school leader…make.” Facing a budget deficit of $270 million, Philly schools are desperate to get money together just to get schools open and operational. As if this wasn’t enough, the school district is currently in contentious negotiations with the Philly Federation of Teachers, whose contract expires August 31. If schools are going to open on time, the BLOB will have to make some concessions while the district figures out how to best get money from the city and state governments. Mayor Nutter said a failure to obtain funds to open schools on time would be “irresponsible.” With all of these converging proposals out there on how best to raise the money, it seems no one has gotten the message.

ATLANTA DEFIANT. Erroll Davis, Superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools recently advised that the city stop approvals of charter school applications pending a court decision that may determine whether charter schools have to contribute to an old pension liability. The connection Davis makes is questionable, and the Atlanta school board realized this after approving the Atlanta Classical Academy’s application on Monday. Lauren Erste, Head of Georgia’s Charter School Division, said charter schools must be approved under state law if they meet necessary legal requirements and are in the public interest. It’s a good thing Atlanta’s School Board chose to follow the law rather than hinder Parent Power and opportunities for students and families.

THIS SUMMER AT CER. In case you missed it, be sure to check out our most recent Letter to Friends of the Center for Education Reform. as we recap on the past few months, prepare for the back to school buzz and look forward to celebrating our 20th Anniversary on October 9, 2013 in Washington, DC.