Home » Newswire Weekly » NEWSWIRE: February 18, 2014

NEWSWIRE: February 18, 2014

Vol. 16, No. 7

SOME STATES JUST GETTING STARTED. Last week saw a victory for Parent Power in Mississippi, where state lawmakers passed legislation that, once reconciled, will establish education savings accounts (ESAs) for students with special needs. Early estimates show that as many as 11 percent of Magnolia State students could benefit from having their parents make financial decisions to secure the best education possible for their child. Unfortunately, ESAs have not taken hold in the vast majority of states, meaning far too many parents lack the ability to customize their child’s educational experience to give them the necessary tools to excel beyond the traditional system. Hopefully, lawmakers can maintain this momentum, because if Mississippi’s weak charter school law, along with other deficiencies in choice and accountability, are any judge, there’s still a lot more work to do in a state that ranks 41st on the Parent Power Index.

YELLOWHAMMER STATE HAMMERS AHEAD. As Mississippi works to get its ESA program off the ground, Arizona is reaffirming its status as the ESA pioneer, seeking to expand an already popular program. Initially set up for students with special needs, Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, as they are formally called in Arizona, can now be obtained by students in failing schools, as well as those who come from military families or are in foster care. Now, proposals are underway to extend eligibility to more underserved students. The beauty of Arizona ESAs is that they put 90 percent of a child’s per-pupil funding directly into the hands of parents, who know best how to use it according to their child’s unique educational needs. Although there are still many other states where parents lack power and influence over their child’s education, it’s heartening to see when states are moving in the right direction.

DIGITAL DENIAL. In an unfortunate vote, a Maine legislative committee approved a moratorium on virtual charter schools to make way for a state-run option. We can’t help but think that the media misreporting and underreporting information on digital learning options has something to do with lawmakers making these sorts of decisions. Online learning has the potential to thrive, provided charter schools receive the proper oversight and support and ‘digiformers’ know how to convey the benefits of innovative learning. The state governor has promised to veto the moratorium, meaning Parent Power could avoid taking a step back in a state desperate to move forward. Do your part to dispel myths about digital learning and get the latest information with The Facts About Digital and Blended Learning Toolkit.

DON’T FORGET K-12. In the ongoing national debate surrounding education, the folks on Capitol Hill and in the White House continue to be distracted by the wrong issues. Instead of advocating solutions based in choice and accountability to solve the education crisis in the U.S., outlying recommendations continue their stranglehold on the conversation. Early education and higher education are admirable “book ends” to focus on, but there’s nearly 55 million students in K-12 schools that are not even 34% proficient in basic reading and math by 8th grade. Opening doors at an early age will have no lasting impact if we do not address the crisis in K-12. Two proposals in the Senate represent an attempt at promoting school choice, but they’re on the periphery of federal priorities. As long as elected officials keep turning a blind eye towards meaningful and substantive K-12 reform, much of the national dialogue will remain unproductive.

THREE DAYS LEFT on The School of Choice Tour led by the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and Marvin Sapp. The Tour has been full steam ahead since last week, and will conclude on February 20 in Memphis, TN. Join BAEO and Pastor Sapp as they continue the discussion on how families can get involved in supporting school choice. Click here  for more information and follow the hashtag #SchoolofChoiceTour on Twitter.