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NEWSWIRE: January 21, 2014

Vol. 16, No. 3

FREEDOM TO CHOOSE. A half century following the efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights era, American students still face inequitable educational options, and find themselves unable to escape failing systems. And yet, in places such as the District of Columbia, more and more students are demonstrating first-hand how they are able to overcome status-quo conditions because they have the opportunity to chart their own unique course. Danial and Jay of Friendship PCS in D.C. are clear examples of students who are making the most of their better-for-them schooling option. Collectively, these two high schoolers have earned enough college credits to be halfway through a bachelor’s program by now. And the favorite thing about their choice is the rigorous computer science program the school offers. Yet today, despite the fact that a majority of Americans support the idea of students like Danial and Jay having the freedom to choose, access to options is still denied for many children across the nation. It’s up to us to ensure students like Danial and Jay are not the exception to the rule, and push our elected officials to fully embrace Dr. King’s fight for social justice and equality.

LESSONS FROM LITTLE ROCK. In remembering Dr. King’s legacy and the importance of equality in education, it’s important to remember the contributions made by the “Little Rock Nine,” who got their name after courageously attempting to enter their high school in newly integrated Little Rock, AR. Their courage and willingness to put their own safety at risk simply for going to school represented the end of an antiquated system that fostered inherent inequity. Last week, an Arkansas judge acknowledged the progress made in school integration since the 1950s by halting state funding for desegregation efforts and allowing for administrators to upgrade facilities before the program’s official expiration. In other words, the judge adapted a government policy to fit modern times. Unfortunately, the Department of Justice does not abide by this mindset, as they continue their lawsuit against Louisiana’s Opportunity Scholarship program under the guise of reversing segregation in 2014, a trend thoroughly debunked by a state-commissioned study. The real opportunities afforded to families in New Orleans, and the popularity of them, shows all of the progress made since 1950s Little Rock.

SOMEONE LOOP IN ARNE. In a recent speech, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak had told President Obama in 2009 that South Korean parents are universally demanding of a world-class education for their children, regardless of income level. Duncan proceeded to lament that not enough American parents share the same fervor found in South Korea. We would respectfully submit that Mr. Duncan take another listen to the pulse of American parents who are constantly demanding the best opportunities for their children. When given input in their child’s education, parents consistently become more involved, whether that means taking advantage of school choice programs like in Arizona or Louisiana, or adamantly learning about neighborhood charter schools like in the District of Columbia. The perception that parents are not engaged in their child’s education only means that not enough states have policies allowing for that engagement to take place.

PHOENIX RISING. In a concerted effort to improve the educational landscape of low-income neighborhoods, the city of Phoenix, AZ is turning to charter schools as a way to provide more and better opportunities for students. If successful, low-income children will have access to 25 new charter schools over a five-year period. One of Arizona’s foremost reform stalwarts and CER at 20 panelist Lisa Keegan said the plan is a step towards making good on delivering the promise of quality options when Arizona first passed its charter school law in 1994.  It’s no surprise then that with a focus on continually reevaluating what’s working and what could be working better for students, The Grand Canyon State consistently remains in the top ten for Parent Power.

CELEBRATE SCHOOL CHOICE C’MON.  …It’s a celebration! National School Choice Week is upon us, spanning from January 26- February 1. We’ll be at Washington DC’s Union Station tomorrow evening to help kick things off, along with a plethora of supporters and students, and hopefully you!  Can’t make it tomorrow? Join us at the Put Kids First Rally on January 29th.  Of course, this is common knowledge for anyone who follows CER on Twitter and Facebook, so be sure to follow us for information on events around the country, and how you can help celebrate the rights of parents and students to choose no matter where you live!