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NEWSWIRE: June 10, 2014

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Vol. 16, No. 23

VERGARA VICTORY. In a tremendous victory for California students, the Superior Court decision in Vergara v. California has upheld the constitutional rights of students by significantly reversing unproductive teacher employment practices. In May 2012, nine student plaintiffs sued the State of California to invalidate teacher employment practices, to include the ‘Last-In-First-Out’ retention policy, the Permanent Employment Statute, and the incredibly onerous dismissal process that protects ineffective teachers. The case officially went to trial this past January. Today’s landmark decision to transform teacher tenure policies is no doubt encouraging, and has the potential to send shockwaves across the United States, challenging archaic employment practices that continue to plague the public school system.

LIKING & SHARING BEST PRACTICES. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made headlines upon announcing a $120 million donation to San Francisco Bay Area schools to address specific district needs and promote technology in classrooms. Many recall when Zuckerberg made a similar splash with a large donation to schools in Newark, the effects of which are still playing out. Zuckerberg claims that the Newark aftermath has informed the Bay Area effort, a hopeful sign seeing as those in ed reform who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, made abundantly clear by “Education Reform: Before It Was Cool.” There’s a lot to admire about the current initiative to help Bay Area students. To become more acclimated with K-12 education, Zuckerberg ran an after-school program while his wife Priscilla Chan taught science, reflecting a genuine desire to improve outlooks for underserved students. But funding only goes so far without a system in place that fosters innovation and permits teachers to set high expectations with newfound resources.

‘MORE’ IS THE OPERATIVE WORD. Over the course of two decades, there have been many offerings to explain charter school performance, and how best to build a high-quality charter sector. As a way to challenge others, including CER’s Kara Kerwin, to submit insights, Fordham’s Mike Petrilli said in not so many words: ‘It’s a Wonk-a-thon.’ Kerwin points out that strong charter school laws are the lynchpin in ensuring proper charter accountability while effectively allowing quality schools to proliferate. With millions of students on charter school waiting lists, building the charter sector with more choices across the states is paramount, which is achieved through laws that create independent authorizers, funding equity, and school autonomy. Read the whole thing, and find out what other reformers had to say about the biggest challenges facing charter schools.

CUOMO AND THE CARDINAL. There’s some friction between New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Cardinal Timothy Dolan over what may or may not have been promised regarding the Education Investment Tax Credit program when Empire State lawmakers crafted a budget earlier this year. Putting aside the he-said, Cardinal-said going on right now in the press, the Education Investment Tax Credit deserves attention as sound policy that would positively expand choice in a state where the focus has disproportionately been on charter schools as opposed to creating a full range of educational options that bolster Parent Power. The program would be fueled by charitable donations, which in turn go towards resources for all types of schools, in addition to opportunity scholarships for students in need of an educational alternative. No matter how many bitter cold rallies Cuomo attends in Albany, lip service is moot without real implementation.

TEMPORARY VICTORY IN ALABAMA. The circuit judge who recently declared the Alabama Accountability Act unconstitutional has now reversed his own injunction against the popular school choice program, allowing students to participate through the 2014-15 school year. Proponents of the Accountability Act successfully obtained a stay on the injunction, so parents can continue to rely on the program to secure a better opportunity for their child as the case makes its way through the courts. Unfortunately for scholarship families who may eventually have to return to the chronically failing schools they managed to escape, the victory is only temporary, as defendants still need to appeal their case to ultimately prove the tax credit program’s constitutionality. Of the three lawsuits against the Accountability Act, this is the first to gain any sort of momentum, which hopefully will soon come to a screeching halt.

ARE YOU LINKEDIN? CER IS!  Follow CER on LinkedIn to get all the latest education reform updates and constructively engage with fellow reformers. Click here to make the connection.