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NEWSWIRE: May 13, 2014

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Vol. 16, No. 19

IT’S CRIMINAL. This past school year, 1,289 students, approximately 240 of whom with special needs, received an education centered around social justice, development and growth at the Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners Charter School in Philadelphia, PA. As the school has been busy rebuffing district efforts to unlawfully cap the charter’s enrollment and working to resolve financial issues, it was completely blindsided when Philly’s School Reform Commission (SRC) decided to illegally (see a pattern here?) suspend the school’s charter. Meanwhile, parents overwhelmingly support the school, saying things like “the school is a godsend,” and “I think it’s an excellent school,” and “I recommend this school over any other public school in the district.” Walter D. Palmer epitomizes a charter school built with the mission to serve as many underserved students as possible, and it’s criminal to try and stop them from this mission. Read the petition and support the WDP—LLPCS’s struggle to stay open.

READING TOO LITTLE INTO IT. A troubling new report finds less children are reading for pleasure, in addition to a nationally low reading proficiency rate. Nine year-olds certainly might be reading anything and everything by Judy Blume, and teenagers still might learn about the 1930s according to Steinbeck, but more likely because of school assignments rather than self-drive. Reading proficiency levels paint an even bleaker picture, and are unsurprisingly consistent with stagnant NAEP scores posted by students year after year. The perception that kids aren’t pursuing books outside of the classroom is part of a systemic failure to nurture a love of learning, something innovative schools of choice are trying to reverse.

CHARTER STUDENTS GET AHEAD. Among the sea of proud graduates at the Ivy Tech Community College Commencement in Indiana was a group of three girls who had one slight distinction from the rest of the class – they were still in high school. Thanks to the dual credit agreement program between Ivy Tech and 21st Century Charter School, the Gary, IN teens obtained their associate’s degree while completing high school. And they’re not the only 21st Century students making early accomplishments. Sixteen year-old Johntrell Bowles will be working in a two-month program with medical students and professionals from all over the world, at the Indiana University School of Medicine-Northwest. If this doesn’t make the case for the need for strong charter school laws so that more opportunities like this exist for students, then we aren’t sure what is.

A STUDENT GROWS IN HARLEM. Ten year-old Alise Alexander loves to read, and is described as a learning “sponge” by her mother. That love for learning and going to school can be attributed to Success Academy Harlem Central in New York, where Alise has been going for five years. “This school had me at hello,” said Alise’s mother Monica. Success Academy has undoubtedly been described in many ways, but it seems unlikely it’s ever been named the “Jerry Maguire of charter schools.” Needless to say, both Alise and her mother were heartbroken upon hearing the initial mayoral decision to block location plans of their school of choice, potentially leading to the school’s closure. City Hall has since reversed course, but systemic funding inequities for charter schools still exist at the state level, leading to situations in which choice and charter hostility get chances to prevail. This is why structural changes in state laws are essential for reversing the nationwide trend of charter students like Alise receiving less per-pupil revenue.

RED TAPE? Overwhelmingly bipartisan charter school legislation passed the House of Representatives last week. While warnings about overregulation have surfaced (and are valid concerns as the federal government’s involvement with school policies can be more regulatory creep than helpful at times), after digging deeper, CER found out that there is some good to H.R. 10.  The admirable aspect about the Success and Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Act is that it encourages innovation at the local level. Because this legislation protects innovation at the school and classroom levels and incentivizes states to enact charter laws that protect from overregulation, H.R. 10 truly is a step in the right direction.