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Newswire: August 27, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 33

BACK TO SCHOOL FOR ED REFORM. As students and parents begin the new school year, we’re beginning The Campaign for Education Reform, a new effort to grow awareness and support of the need for real education reform among the 280 million Americans who still do not benefit from that reform’s promise and reality. The Campaign for Education Reform will reach those millions of people whose future successes depend on being directly engaged in throwing out the status quo and adopting solid education reform. The Campaign’s efforts will include a new Parent Power Index and Governor report card, the expansion of Ed Reform U, and a new national effort and survey to understand and address America’s attitudes toward reform. Additional program details and efforts are forthcoming.

CIVIL RIGHTS. This past weekend in Washington, it seemed that everyone knew about the commemoration of the March on Washington’s 50th anniversary, and the ongoing importance of protecting civil rights for all Americans. But apparently, no one bothered to tell the Department of Justice. Down in New Orleans, DOJ sued the state of Louisiana to block future issuances of school vouchers in districts still under desegregation orders, claiming students and parents who seek better options impede federal oversight of certain schools. In doing so, the opportunities of students who once were in failing schools but now aren’t might not be available for other students next year. The choices currently available to parents and students are overwhelmingly popular, reflected in the 93% of parents with children in the Louisiana scholarship program who are happy with their child’s school. The actions taken by DOJ represents a failure to recognize that education is the civil rights issue of our time, and Eric Holder now risks being on the wrong side of history.

MARCHING FOR PARENT POWER. We’re not the only ones who see educational choice as rooted in civil rights. The Rev. H.K. Matthews recently linked the time when he marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma almost 50 years ago, to when he marched with thousands of low-income Florida parents in search of school choice. In both cases, Rev. Matthews said, he was marching for empowerment. Those low-income parents in Florida were clearly marching for Parent Power so they like many others across the country could choose the best educational option for their children. The Florida tax credit scholarship program benefitted approximately 51,000 income-qualifying students last year, providing opportunities to students in need of a new alternative. 50 years ago, D.C. Archbishop and later Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle also realized the civil rights aspect of school choice, leading the integration of Catholic schools without the prompting of a government reform. Lawmakers nationwide can learn from Rev. Matthews and Archbishop O’Boyle, in applying the principle of equality among all children to reforming public education.

HELD BACK. In a recent report on the lagging charter school market in Virginia, Jeanne Allen attributed a “lack of leadership” to why there continues to be no legislative movement to create more and better schooling opportunities in the Old Dominion. Virginia’s charter school remains one of the weakest in the country, giving the ability to authorize charters only to local school boards. This ends up creating a hostile environment for those who want to set up charter schools in Virginia, but are deterred to the point where they go elsewhere. Ultimately, legislative power trumps education powers, and lawmakers need to realize their ability to unleash the potential of providing choices with meaningful legislation achieved through bipartisanship.

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL. On Monday in Washington, DC public traditional and charter school students headed back to school for another exciting year of learning. This year, there are four new charter schools in DC, with another four new campuses opened by existing charter operators allowing more students to attend the school of their choosing. Like many other charters around the District, the highly regarded Friendship Public Charter School began the school year, holding its 11th annual Convocation last week that celebrated 15 years of Friendship’s vision, commitment and service. Friendship PCS is a model for success, graduating on average over 90% of its senior class, and serving over 8,000 students throughout its network. Friendship’s charter contract was recently renewed for another 15 years, during which time it will no doubt open up new avenues for thousands of students and be an example for other schools to emulate.

Register TODAY for CER’s fabulous 20th Anniversary Celebration – Conference, Gala and Rat Pack EdReformies on October 9th in Washington, DC. Click here for more information.