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Newswire: October 1, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 37

INTERNAL DIFFERENCES. It’s always essential to call out misleading information with potentially negative effects on more and better opportunities for students, even when they come from friends and supporters. In two separate instances, Jeanne Allen has responded to Whitney Tilson’s criticisms of both Allen’s integrity as well as K12 Inc., a reputable online education provider and CER at 20 participant. The criticism of K12 and by extension online learning is propped up by anecdotes from state officials and studies from the “Coalition of the Status Quo”. The fact is that there are a plethora of testimonials and data showing a visible connection between online learning and student achievement, including a Jan. 2012 study conducted by the US Department of Education. Like anything else, the benefits of online learning deserve proper scrutiny, but it’s equally critical that we study the data before making broad statements about innovations in education reform.

MIXED SIGNALS IN PA. A misguided effort to reform the Commonwealth’s weak charter school law is currently underway in Harrisburg. With strong endorsements by the PA School Boards Association, PA League of Urban Schools and Association of School Business Officials and other card-carrying members of the BLOB, the proposal passed the state house and awaits senate action. Problematic to the core, the legislation does not address what is necessary to ensure a healthy charter school sector in PA. In fact, it defers two of the most important issues facing the state to a study commission – fiscal equity for charters that receive on average 30% less per pupil than their traditional public school peers, and the creation of multiple authorizers that have proven to be the most successful models in other states like NY, MI and IN. The legislation proposes significant cuts in funding by revamping the distribution of pension funds and prohibits charters from fully managing their own finances. In our analysis, there is no greater solution to PA’s problems than addressing charter authorizing, which currently is school-board only, and fiscal equity for all students.

However, this is not to condemn all reforms under consideration in the Keystone State. State Representative Tim Kreiger is introduced today the Great Teachers Better Schools Protecting Excellent Teachers Act aimed at emphasizing performance over seniority in determining suspension and reinstatement of teachers. Thanks to our friends over at PennCAN, real teacher reform may soon be a reality.

HOUSTON, WE HAVE A WINNER. Kudos to the Houston Independent School District (HISD) on being the 2013 recipient of the Broad Prize for Urban Education, an annual grant given by The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. In his acceptance remarks, Houston Superintendent Terry Grier touted the success of allowing school administrators to develop learning programs and spend education funds as they see fit. At the same time, district teachers undergo training sessions on meeting accountability standards, and strategies on teaching unconventional coursework such as technical education and ESL. Truly, the “ripple effect” has had an impact in Houston, and will hopefully make some waves to ensure more Parent Power in the Lone Star State.

CORE PRINCIPLES. Former Florida Gov. and reform pioneer Jeb Bush has been taking a lot of heat recently over his support for Common Core, leading to those in the pundit class to question his motives. Regardless of what one thinks about Common Core and the issues, the fact remains that Bush believes and knows, that high standards foster student achievement, not because he is some corporate stooge as his political opponents would like to have you believe. His Florida A-Plus Program brought standards and accountability to all of Florida’s schools. It’s unfortunate that some are incapable of thinking that those with differing views can speak their minds without having an ulterior motive. To be sure, defenders of the status quo are the exception, but it’s safe to say that the vast majority of Americans genuinely want the best for our students, and Jeb Bush is certainly one of them.

JUST ONE WEEK until CER’s 20th Anniversary Conference, Gala and Ratpack EdReformies! Thank you to all who have already RSVP’d – we look forward to seeing you on the red carpet. For those who still need to register, click here and secure your spot for the can’t-miss ed reform event of the year.