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Newswire: August 20, 2013

Volume 15, No. 32

PARENT POWER DEFICIENCY. The recently released Associated Press-NORC poll produced some troubling results concerning the role of parents in education. Just over half (54 percent) of Hispanic parents believe they have “a great deal or a lot of influence over their child’s education.” That figure only goes lower when applied to black parents (50) and white parents (34). These numbers reveal that Parent Power – regardless of race or socioeconomic status – is sorely lacking. It’s truly a sad commentary when so many parents feel they don’t have a say in the schools where their children attend. Lawmakers and school officials need to be making sure they are promoting the types of policies and transparency that engages parents directly in their children’s education. Be sure to check out the Parent Power Index to see how much power you really have in your state.

CHOICE FOR ALL. If AP-NORC only polled parents in Louisiana, there’s a good chance those percentages would’ve been higher. With its pilot Course Choice scholarship program, Louisiana continues to lead in providing more Parent Power than most states. John White announced last week that nearly 3,500 students in the Course Choice program would be able to receive a voucher. The program is designed for students in failing schools to take online and in-person courses with public and private providers. This innovative program does not siphon money from school budgets, but has nonetheless attracted opposition. Despite the critics, program advocates remain hopeful the funding will not dry up next year, and will be available for future students in need of better options.

DIVORCING PHILLY. On second thought, it’s possible many of those powerless parents can be found in Pennsylvania. Brian Hackford is one such parent, claiming he is ‘divorcing’ his hometown of Philadelphia mainly due to the state of public education. Hackford has decided to move his family out of the city in search of better educational opportunities for his three children. Local realtor Christopher Plant tries to create an image of Parent Power for prospective home buyers. But try as he might, seats in Philly’s charter schools are hard to come by with 30,000 students currently on waiting lists and not enough of other options to woo parents who want what’s best for their kids. Currently, the Philadelphia school district is experiencing a financial crisis, uncertain of where requested funds will come from, all the while negotiating a union contract that expires at the end of August. This is a chance for Keystone lawmakers to reflect on and examine the Philly situation, and realize these families are in need of more options. It may be too late for Brian Hackford, but not too late for parents who still call Philadelphia home to do something about it.

DON’T “WAIVER” ON PUSH FOR STANDARDS. Last week, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers given to Washington State, Kansas and Oregon were placed on “high risk” status after the three state governments failed to develop teacher evaluation standards tied with student growth. By designating the waivers of all three states as “high risk,” the Department of Education revealed the glaring need for federal accountability standards. In a National Journal commentary piece, Center for Education Reform President Jeanne Allen points out how local school districts have embraced the lack of federal oversight with open arms, nostalgically enjoying the structure and authority they had prior to the NCLB era. Thanks to the recent missteps by Washington, Kansas and Oregon, it’s now abundantly clear that state and local entities need more oversight if they are going to spend federal funds.

15 YEARS OF FRIENDSHIP. Jeanne Allen is speaking today at the Friendship Public Charter School Convocation in Washington, DC to help commemorate Friendship’s 15 years of providing vision, commitment and service to its students. CER board member Donald Hense founded Friendship and over the last 15 years, the schools have grown to serve nearly 8,000 students and on average have boasted over 90% graduation rates since its first graduating class in 2003. In the spirit of looking back on past achievements and successes, Allen will discuss the launch of EdReform University, an exciting new resource that seeks to address the importance of understanding the history of past efforts, so reformers and policymakers can be successful for the future.

LESS THAN TWO MONTHS! There’s still time to RSVP for “CER at 20” Conference and Gala on October 9th, now less than two months away. Help CER celebrate 20 years of facilitating lasting, substantive and structural education reform in the US, honor the ed reform “pioneers” and see what lies ahead. There are also opportunities to become a sponsor for CER at 20, which promises a whole host of benefits. You can RSVP for “CER at 20’ here.