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NEWSWIRE: April 15, 2014

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Vol. 16, No. 15

TENNESSEE STRIKES AGAIN. Monday afternoon, the Tennessee House of Representatives took the final approval measure necessary to make the Volunteer State more charter-friendly. This latest piece of legislation grants chartering authority to the State Board of Education, allowing a quality charter school application to be under the auspices of the State Board if it initially faces denial from a local board. The Senate already passed the bill as amended, and while support for charter schools is no doubt a sign of progress, it’s unfortunate that voucher measures being considered  have once again failed to come to fruition as voucher legislation died today in the House Finance Committee. But all is not lost as there are more proposals on the table designed to expand choices for parents and students that deserve the attention of Tennessee lawmakers. Hopefully the momentum will keep moving in the direction that puts parents and students in the driver’s seat!

ONE OF 4,500. When a judge issued an injunction back in February that directly inhibited the ability of North Carolina parents to seek out a better education for their child, swift condemnation was the only appropriate response. Two months later, parents are still without choices, and are now making their voices heard through social media (#Oneof4500) to share why they feel the Opportunity Scholarship program is vital for their child. State lawmakers are attempting to circumvent the injunction by way of the State Supreme Court. Lets hope they succeed in helping the 4,500-plus parents denied a chance to give their child a better education.

HOMEWORK OVER THE BREAK. There are always at least one or two teachers who have no reservations whatsoever about assigning homework over a long Spring Break, and for members of the House GOP, that teacher is Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy is urging fellow members to visit charter schools in their home districts as a way to increase support for charter school legislation that recently passed the Education Committee. While it’s a great idea to go on the ground and visit charter schools, the federal legislation being considered has a number of causes for concern, namely the overreach of the federal government in determining what or WHO defines a “quality” charter school. There is a proper role for Congress to play in fostering charter school growth, but this isn’t it. Read CER’s full analysis on the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act and what the House can really do to improve education at the federal level.

ONLINE LEARNING GLORY DAYS. In a unanimous decision, a New Jersey appellate court upheld the authority of the State Commissioner of Education to act as an authorizer of online and blended charter schools. This move preserved the spirit of charter school innovation and stopped a union-led effort to impede the inexorable phenomenon of online-based learning programs that are helping over four million students nationwide. The decision made abundantly clear that in no way, shape or form does a fully online or blended learning charter school fall outside the parameters of the Garden State’s charter school law. Had it gone the other way, students whose learning needs could benefit from an online approach would be worse off, and high-quality operators might’ve escaped New Jersey as if they were a character in a Bruce Springsteen song.

THE COMMON CORE DISTRACTION. In a refreshing opinion piece, Kevin Chavous, Executive Counsel for the American Federation for Children and CER Board Member calls for an end to the bickering over Common Core and for a focus on the solutions that will have immediate effects on improving education. Raising standards for all students is extremely important, but the debate has taken up far too much space in the national conversation on how to improve student achievement, and it’s only become more divisive and unproductive. As a result, policymakers have moved further away from the key to truly transforming learning in the United States, which is choice coupled with accountability. Common Core is likely here to stay until the next flavor-of-the-month policy comes along to help explain away the continued lagging achievement rates of students nationwide. In the meantime, reformers can take the bold action necessary to introduce a portfolio of learning options and give parents the access to data so they can make the choice they deserve to make about what’s best for their child.