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NEWSWIRE: November 13, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 42

CALIFORNIA PARENTS WANT POWER. The state of California just boosted the state-aid in the low-income Fresno school district where over 80 percent of students are eligible for free or subsidized school lunches. Once the parents caught wind of the extra funding, hundreds spoke up to claim their power. Because of their engagement with the school board, parents may be able to have more say in how that money is spent. The bottom line is parents across America want more power and want more options but do not realize they can make a difference. When these Fresno parents saw an opportunity to wield more input and influence into their local schools, they eagerly stepped up to the plate and took it. Check out these tools to learn how to Be The Power in your community.

CLOSING THE GAP. Montgomery County, Md., Superintendent Joshua P. Starr discussed at length the wide achievement gap in his district between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian peers. The superintendent’s emphasis on the wide achievement gap is well intentioned, but arrives at the wrong conclusions. He praised an ‘innovation school’ that has made some changes to its learning program as a way to close the gap, but stopped short of proposing proven solutions. And with policies that yield low Parent Power in Maryland, state lawmakers haven’t exactly facilitated real innovation in the classroom. Montgomery County should look to their Washington, DC neighbors, who have created a reform-friendly environment and whose students posted some of the largest testing gains in the country. Innovations in learning happen in the classroom, but it helps to have support from the statehouse.

PARENT TRIGGER. In a powerful and compelling piece, former California legislator Gloria Romero rightly places the growing consensus surrounding parent power through the lens of civil rights and education as the great equalizer in American society. Romero writes of her impatience with school reform despite receiving annual data that showed unacceptably high failure rates, and consistently underperforming schools. Upon hearing the concept of a parent-trigger law in 2010, which allows parent to decide to take action when their child’s school is failing, Romero immediately set to work drafting the legislation. Romero declares that because parents are empowered they will no longer be complacent or silent with failure. If only more state lawmakers would think and act like Romero, we’d see more gains for all students.

GOING ON DEFENSE. Glenda Ritz, Indiana’s current Superintendent and establishment proxy, who leaked emails to the press in order to marginalize a political opponent, now has a new target in the form of Gov. Mike Pence. Thankfully, Pence continues to defend the level of Parent Power! in Indiana as the nation’s reformiest state. by standing by the statewide Choice Scholarship Program for income-eligible families, positive forces devoted to charter school expansion and performance-based teacher policies. This most recent development highlights the notion that the fight for reform is never over, and defending your hard work is just as crucial to ensuring quality opportunities for kids.

VOLUNTEERING STAGNATION. In a move that focuses on perceived school capacity over student growth, the Nashville, TN school board voted to limit charter school expansion to parts of the city where students are over capacity or local schools are underperforming. Opponents such as the mayor and lone board member who rejected the plan, rightly point out the goal of charters is to boost student outcomes regardless of location, and should not be limited to these types of restrictions, adding that some of Nashville’s highest performing schools are charters. Tennesseans agree. In a recent poll, 71 percent of voting adults in the Volunteer State support the creation of charter schools. In fact, 60 percent prefer parents to be allowed to choose from a number of public schools. The amount of quality charter schools has steadily increased in Nashville in the last few years, but this latest move risks a reversal of that progress. It’s time to bring new and independent multiple charter authorizers to the state to answer the demand for more and better options especially when the status quo is so unwilling to do so.

#GIVINGTUESDAY. On Tuesday, Dec. 3, CER will participate in #GivingTuesday – a national day dedicated to generosity. Our goal is to raise $5,000 on (and prior to) #GivingTuesday towards making schools better for all children – thank you for your support!

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