Home » Newswire Weekly » NEWSWIRE: April 29, 2014

NEWSWIRE: April 29, 2014

Vol. 16, No. 17

A “GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS STORY” was how Education Secretary Arne Duncan described the state of education in America in testimony before Congress on the Obama administration’s budgetary request, as the federal government continues to try and find its footing on a proper role in advancing education. That’s a fair description, provided the good news is a result of state-based policies that facilitate choice and accountability in schools, and the bad news is there are still millions of parents and students without access to the educational options they deserve. While administrative requests are wide-ranging, priorities outlined in Duncan’s written testimony still manage to miss the mark on how leaders at the federal level can truly boost student outcomes. Duncan alluded to the federal government’s rich history of incentivizing states and localities to “invest in education.” But this means incentivizing states to take the initiative and enact reforms such as strong charter school laws, all the while resisting the urge to create a one-size-fits-all definition of what constitutes quality in schools. It’s critical that Secretary Duncan and members of Congress recognize that the management of education and what’s best for students is best left to those closest to our families and communities.

PARENTS STEP UP IN SPARTANSBURG. Upon hearing that their local elementary school was closing, parents and community members of Spartansburg, PA decided to take matters into their own hands to make sure their kids still have a viable, local school option. So, they decided to start the process for opening a charter school. They even went so far as to decide it should have a unique agricultural focus. In a true showing of grassroots and community spirit, the neighborhood fire department hosted an auction and bake sale in support of the charter school, one of several fundraisers slated to take place (let’s not forget, after all, that charter schools get 37 percent less funding than traditional public schools). The efforts in Spartansburg epitomize the concept of a parent-driven charter school, and why charter laws at the state level need to be structurally reformed to meet growing demand.

GROUNDBREAKING. CER had the good fortune of attending a groundbreaking ceremony for the innovative Mundo Verde Charter School in Washington, DC, which provides students with an eco-friendly and bilingual educational experience. The event wasn’t all pomp and circumstance, since students were in hard hats as part of their expeditionary learning project focused on ‘construction.’ On top of the many testimonials from parents and educators on the benefits of this exciting and quality option, one student professed in perfect English how he began his education only knowing Spanish, and Mundo Verde educators allowed him to learn a new language while preserving his cultural heritage. Environmental consciousness is a laudable trait for any school, and DC charter schools are putting kids on a sustainable path in furthering their education.

CHOICE IS CHOICE. Could it be that when a parent opts to utilize a scholarship program, the only factor that goes into that decision is doing what’s best for the education of their child, rather than making a wider statement on partisanship and school systems? In the case of Florida single-mom, Faith Manuel, and many other parents nationwide exercising their right to choose, that’s the guiding principle in their no-strings-attached thought process. Manuel, whose oldest son is currently studying at a Florida college  to become a teacher, wonders why the statewide tax credit scholarship program has been twisted into something so controversial by school choice opponents, given the program’s proven benefits. Whether it’s a network of parents in Florida or aspiring charter school applicants in small-town Pennsylvania, parental access to educational options is a civil right, not a political football.

NATIONAL CHARTER SCHOOLS WEEK will be here before you know it, so now is the time to start thinking of how you’ll increase awareness of the widespread benefits that charter schools offer. CER will be doing its part on Twitter and Facebook in sharing stories from schools, parents, and advocates on the ground, along with a litany of facts and figures, showing how charter schools are helping students. Every. Single. Day. Official start date of National Charter Schools Week is this Sunday, May 4th.