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NEWSWIRE: November 19, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 43

WHY THEY EXCEL. Earlier today, we were very fortunate to receive a tour of Excel Academy,  an all girls charter school that is deliberately located in the Anacostia section of Washington, DC. The school staff, mission and most of all the young scholars are nothing short of a quintessential example of a well run charter, and what happens when a school is mission-driven and devoted to empowering families. “You really have to be crazy” to start a charter, Kaye Savage, Excel’s founder and CEO told us, while maintaining that DC is one of the more charter-friendly environments in the country. But what’s crazy is that high-performing charters like Excel, despite being public schools, can have such tremendous outcomes for students when they all too often get less money than traditional public schools. Savage takes seriously the role of school administrators as stewards of public money and resources, and this understanding combined with providing a much-needed option for low-income girls leaves little room for underperformance. It’s critical for the American public to recognize mission-driven schools like Excel, and the need to create the necessary policy environment for like-minded school leaders to create better opportunities for kids.

COMMON GOALS. Concerns have arisen over the potentially adverse effects of Common Core Standards on charter schools’ ability to deliver the unique and quality educational experience they strive to offer their students. Regardless of where one stands on Common Core, there is already an established 72 percent of Americans who support charter schools. That type of consensus, along with the proven track record of success enjoyed by charter schools across the country, makes it easier to identify what’s worth preserving. For charter schools, that’s their accountability and autonomy, and accountability and autonomy are best achieved through laws  that allow charters to stay true to their mission and create a viable alternative for students in need, and take action and hold charters accountable when they fall short of their mission.

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT. At a policy discussion in Washington State,  Spokane Superintendent Shelley Redinger took full advantage of an opportunity to dispel some of the most common myths  surrounding charter schools. Redinger flatly rejected the misconception that charter schools “cream” the best students from other schools, and are instead made to serve the students most in need of another option. Earlier this year, Washington voters approved the introduction of charter schools, and lawmakers so far have yet to employ best practices such as independent charter authorizers, and ensuring funding equity. But after discussing her experience in Oregon with the “ripple effect” that occurred when the introduction of a charter school compelled surrounding schools to perform better, Redinger pointedly asked, “Why not pursue it?”

HOLLOW VICTORY. In its ongoing assault on the Louisiana Scholarship Program, the Department of Justice has merely decided to switch tactics that will still curtail the power of parents to choose a better education for their child. Instead of placing an injunction of the Scholarship Program’s operation, DOJ now wants to require the state of Louisiana to provide detailed information on each income-eligible scholar 45 days prior to their enrollment, creating burdensome red tape that does nothing to facilitate the ability of a student to escape a failing school. As school choice proponents point out,  this is nothing but a cynical stall tactic that allows the lawsuit to continue, and creates uncertainty for an overwhelmingly popular program. Unless DOJ forgoes the entire lawsuit and allows the Scholarship Program to operate properly, the civil rights of Louisiana families will continue to be under attack.

BIG BULLY. US Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been put in the hot seat (rightfully so!) by parents, bloggers and the press for a controversial statement made last week that has sparked a major debate  around the Common Core standards with regards to race and class. Duncan is apparently “fascinated” by the fact that there’s any opposition from the American public to the Common Core and especially, “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.” The fact is moms and dads, urban, suburban or rural, have every right to express legitimate concerns over the Common Core and the nation’s top education official has no business bullying them. Many parents find the push for Common Core a distraction from addressing the fact that only 34% of our nation’s 8th graders are proficient in math and reading. This sort of bullying is apparently becoming commonplace for this Administration when it comes to education. Attorney General Eric Holder’s actions to block Louisiana families from making choices is an attack on parental rights. So while Duncan takes on “white suburban moms” and Holder continues to bully black low-income families in the Bayou state, little to no progress is being made to ensure great outcomes for all our students. More parents should be questioning authority. Oh the nerve! 

ONLY TWO WEEKS until #GIVINGTUESDAY. Are you in? CER will participate in #GivingTuesday on Dec. 3, a national day dedicated to generosity. Following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, people around the world are encouraged to give back for Giving Tuesday. Our goal is to raise $5,000 towards making schools better for ALL children. You can donate early here. Follow our progress on Twitter and Facebook and tell us why you #Give2edreform on #GivingTuesday.