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NEWSWIRE: October 22, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 39

TERRIBLY OFF-TRACK. Over 130,000 students are enrolled with at least 40,000 more on charter school waiting lists across Pennsylvania. Despite the demand from parents to bring more high quality choices to the state, lawmakers in Harrisburg are doing the bidding of special interest groups. In fact, what was once billed as an effort to improve PA’s weak charter law has gone terribly off-track. There was a growing consensus that PA’s charter law needed a boost. Borrowing from other exemplary states, lawmakers and school leaders alike worked to shore up the existence of strong quality authorizers and seek practical solutions to ensure fiscal equity and accountability. But rather than make sure university authorizers could thrive in the Keystone State and address the fact that charters are funded, on average, 30% less per pupil than their traditional public school peers, SB1085 is chock full of regulation, arbitrary funding cuts and residue from the BLOB creeping in. How did these good intentions go awry one might ask…

LACK OF LEADERSHIP. Last week, Jeanne Allen took to task the exceedingly high amount of governors who have proven to be disappointing in their hesitation to embrace meaningful education reform. Worse still, many of these governors who have come up short have had no problem paying lip service to improving the school systems of their constituencies, only to accept the status quo once in office. Last week, we learned from the pioneers of charter school lawmaking.They shared how strong leadership and a willingness to reach across the aisle and build the coalitions necessary to introduce laws could have an impact for students. It’s time for governors who promised reform to galvanize their administrations, and work collaboratively with legislators to empower families to access the educational opportunities that’s best for them.

MISPLACED HEADLINES. Another day, another misdirected indictment against the concept of charter schools and the innovative benefits many of them contribute to urban school districts. In its report on charter school expansion in cities such as Detroit, New Orleans and St. Louis, Moody’s cites funding shortfalls in cities due to a lagging housing market, financial mismanagement and lack of state-level funding, which in turn affects how money is distributed amongst public schools. Notice how all of those things have nothing to do with the introduction of charter schools as a viable way to improve student achievement. But that didn’t stop the editorial staff at Reuters to write the headline, “Charter schools could hurt U.S. city school districts-Moody’s”, just another instance that demonstrates the importance of bringing accountability to education reporting.

ON THE RIGHT TRACK. The New Orleans daily Times-Picayune recently chronicled the changes and challenges experienced by schools in the Big Easy following Hurricane Katrina, specifically how schools have dealt with declining student enrollment and expanding student growth. But the missing variable in what has become the post-Katrina educational landscape is policies geared towards creating choice, accountability and more parent empowerment. Following the devastation that occurred all along the Gulf Coast to include Louisiana, the need to restore access to quality schooling options required bold action. Launched in 2008, the Louisiana Student Scholarships for Excellence in Education, which is currently under attack from the Department of Justice, served nearly 5,000 students during the 2012-2013 school year across 118 schools. The opportunity scholarship program combined with the innovative Course Choice program and an above-average charter school law will ensure the continued improvement of schools in the Bayou State.

STAY-TUNED for online lessons from the nation’s leading reformers and experts. Get a sneak peak of what’s in store, from CER’s 20th Anniversary Conference, Hear first-hand accounts of challenges facing district leaders, how ordinary parents became community activists, and the proven ways to introduce positive reforms.