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NEWSWIRE: August 5, 2014

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Vol. 16, No. 31

NEW YORK HEATS UP…
No that isn’t a reference to the dog days of summer, but rather the ramped up criticism Campbell Brown and the courageous parent plaintiffs are receiving in New York, as they work through legal action to improve educational conditions for children. Whether it’s the peanut gallery at the Colbert Report studio or a commentary in the Washington Post masquerading as ‘fact-check’, union allies are desperately trying to stop the Vergara conversation from advancing any further. Criticisms tend to focus on tenure, but conveniently omit any reference to ‘last-in-first-out,’ a policy that prioritizes seniority in teacher layoff decisions and was struck down in Vergara v. California. Then comes the call for downplaying student growth in evaluations, as the New York lawsuit presents over 300 pages on the sizeable impact a teacher can have on student achievement, in addition to the incredibly demoralizing bureaucracy with which they have to contend. Finally, the perceived coup-de-grace is a condescending appeal to authority saying these New York parents aren’t educators, so what do they know? The positive role of parental involvement in education has long been established, especially when they work together with schools and teachers to ensure learning needs are being met. And not to mention it’s parents, more than anyone, who deserve the power to speak out when the system is failing their very own children.

NORTH CAROLINA GETS A BOOST…
Thanks to the recently released state budget, approximately 400 additional students could be granted access to schools that better meet their needs through the expansion of the new Opportunity Scholarship Program. Originally, the court-embattled Opportunity Scholarship Program was set to serve about 2,400 students, but the demand for the program unsurprisingly exceeded the number of scholarships available. Thus the $840,000 expansion is not only sound policy, but necessary to address widespread demand among low-income families. A recent court ruling has allowed for the distribution of scholarships to go forward this school year, as the program faces an unfortunate but not exactly surprising legal challenge. North Carolina still has a lot of work to do in forwarding Parent Power, but this most recent budget allotment is no doubt a step in the right direction.

A LIGHT SHINES IN HARLEM…
…Is the title of a new, must-read book that tells the poignant, impactful story of Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem, the first-ever charter school to open in New York. The book chronicles in accessible fashion the school’s founding and development, and what took place behind the scenes to make Sisulu-Walker a reality for New York students. Written by Mary C. Bounds, the book includes a foreword by Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, Sisulu-Walker co-founder and civil rights hero who served as Martin Luther King’s chief of staff and head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) during the 1950s and early 60s. But most interesting is the book’s incorporation of the charter school movement as a whole, recent studies corroborating charter achievement, and what challenges lie ahead. This type of perspective is critical, because as Dr. Walker writes, “In the charter movement, I am continuing the work of Dr. King that has far-reaching meaning. Every American child is deserving of a quality public school education. It is education that will guarantee that segregation and second-class citizenship will never return!” A Light Shines in Harlem is available for preorder here.

FERRIS BUELLER MIGHT’VE TAKEN A DAY OFF, BUT DC CHARTER SCHOOLS AREN’T!…
To quote Dean of Students Ed Rooney from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, math and reading proficiency rates for District of Columbia public charter school students have now exceeded state averages a total of “niiiine times.” Charter student proficiency on state assessments beat statewide averages by almost seven percentage points in math and approximately four percentage points in reading, at 60 and 54 percent proficiency, respectively. Nine straight years of outperformance ceases to be a fluke, and instead shows just why 44 percent of the District student population chooses to attend charter schools. All the while, D.C. charter schools receive on average $1,600-$2,600 less per-pupil funding. But thanks to recent legal action by charter leaders, that may soon change, and schools will be even better able to deliver results to charter students deserving of equitable funding.

AN INTERRUPTION TO YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING…
Newswire is taking a brief summer sojourn next week, as The Center for Education Reform gets ready (and excited!) for the back to school season. While Newswire is on break you can still get the latest education news at the Media Bullpen, edreform.com, and on all of our social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Brace Yourself... Vacation is Coming!