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NEWSWIRE: June 17, 2014

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Vol. 16, No. 24

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT’S DUE. In the past three years, there has been a rapid creation of tax credit-funded scholarship programs across 14 states. Eager to determine whether these programs were actually increasing parental access to more and better educational choices, CER conducted a ranking and state-by-state comparison to encourage best practices. Some states (Arizona and Florida) not only cast a wide net in terms of funding and student eligibility, but also follow through in actually implementing the program. While their tax credit programs may not be at the bottom of the barrel in terms of structure, actual implementation in other states (looking at you, Louisiana) is not delivering on the promise. At the end of the day, lawmakers should ask the question of how to best expand parental choice, and sound tax credit scholarship programs are one option in what should be a diverse portfolio of educational opportunities that can continue to boost student outcomes. Read the full report here.

VERGARA VICTORY STILL SHINING. The huge victory for both students and educators in Vergara v. California has not only stimulated governmental action across the states, but has also served as a catalyst for a conversation surrounding what’s best for students while honoring teachers as professionals. The clear and unequivocal nature of the Vergara ruling affirming equality of education as a civil rights issue has highlighted the types of antiquated employment practices that defy common sense and what’s best for students. Unions are fighting the current policy shift in favor of more accountability in schools, and Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead. And unions are miraculously doing it without actually mentioning policy terms such as ‘tenure’ and ‘seniority’ (can’t have that pesky veil lifted). Vergara may have originated in a state judiciary system, but has now officially been brought to the court of public opinion, and it’s winning that battle too.

RAISING ARIZONA. A very happy 20th anniversary to Arizona’s charter school law and all of the pioneers who helped make it happen. As it stands now, this southwestern bastion of Parent Power has the fifth strongest charter law in the nation. In addition to multiple, independent charter authorizers, charter schools in Arizona are supported by teacher autonomy, the absence of a cap on schools created, and assistance with facility funding. Whether applied to charter laws or school choice as a whole, it’s clear Arizona appreciates the importance of structuring policies correctly to maximize the number of families who stand to benefit from choice, as they also earn an “A” on CER’s new education tax credit scholarship ranking & scorecard, out today!

LET’S GET DIGITAL. CER wasn’t the only group to release a report today encouraging innovation at the state policy level. A new report from the Aspen Institute prescribes ways on integrating technology to help students best master learning content and adapt to newly available resources. Two key things the report accomplishes is recognition of the urgency with which we must act to improve a stagnant education system, and how digital learning can be part of that solution. Similar to tax credit scholarship programs and school choice overall, online learning options have proliferated rapidly in recent years, allowing students to engage in a form of education best suited to their needs.

SENIOR SIGNING DAY. In a crowded auditorium, graduating seniors of Democracy Prep in New York City walked out onto the stage, introduced themselves and the college where they’ll be attending next fall, at which point each graduate was promptly met with resounding applause. It’s one of the more inspirational spectacles in education today, and a demonstration of the positive role charter schools are playing in New York and elsewhere. Unsurprisingly to anyone familiar with the high expectations and positively rigorous Democracy Prep academic program, it takes more than a few minutes to get through all the students. While policy reports are critical in providing guidance on best practices, it’s critical to provide reminders of the real results of school choice and innovation.