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NEWSWIRE: September 23, 2014

Vol. 16, No. 37

TIME FOR A CHANGE. Tomorrow, a cluster of union mouthpieces and status quo proponents are descending on York, PA to protest a much-needed effort to reverse a failing school district. After a year of refusing to make necessary internal changes to improve, York officials are rightfully moving forward with a charter school conversion plan, appreciating the urgency to fix a fledgling system before more kids are deprived of their right to a good education. It’s almost as if the protesters remain blissfully unaware that York City has consistently failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) goals, as long as their foothold in the district is intact. Make no mistake: Union resistance to change is about power and control, and the old guard will continue to resist even if it means students will have a shot at more and better opportunities. And they’ll continue to use the same old misguided arguments that adults in the charter world merely want to line their pockets and aren’t about results for kids, even though charters have proven time and again that their bottom line is about student outcomes.

PARENTS CHALLENGE. There’s no question education would be a lot better off if there was a group like Parents Challenge in every county. In the past decade, the Colorado Springs-based group has helped over 1,600 low-income parents make informed decisions to secure better opportunities for their children. Through informational workshops, school listings, and online resources, Parents Challenge recognizes financial assistance is maximized when parents are educated consumers. Income-eligible families can apply to Parents Challenge for donor-provided scholarships to access the school of their choice. As far as obstacles go, Parents Challenge told Newswire the biggest inhibition is meeting demand among Colorado parents, which isn’t surprising in a state that has room to grow when it comes to parent power, offering zero state-wide school choice programs. But Parents Challenge will continue its good work, and serve as an example of true Parent Power in action.

SOME SCHOLARSHIPS MOVE FORWARD. Approximately 2,000 students already enrolled in North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship program are now permitted to receive vouchers following an Appeals Court ruling last Friday. Yes, you read that right: Low-income kids and their families had to receive legal clarification that they were in fact allowed to receive scholarships to which they already had access, and attend schools they already chose. The whole episode speaks to the absurdity of the lawsuit against Opportunity Scholarships pointed out by CER months ago, and how families just want to utilize this opportunity afforded to them. The legal challenge still needs to snake its way through the court system, which means more uncertainty for the future of school choice in North Carolina, a state that could certainly afford to give parents more options with a Parent Power Index score of 70 percent.

THE MISGUIDED BAN. In rather predictable fashion, a group of Michigan lawmakers are calling for a moratorium on charter school creation in reaction to the sensationalized and incredibly biased Detroit Free Press investigative series on charter schools, currently being analyzed by the Media Bullpen to set the record straight. The call for a ban could be construed as genuine, were it not accompanied by the set of shrill talking points that have been around for decades. As CER’s charter law rankings show, Michigan is in fact a model of charter accountability, compelling charters to operate under a strict system of oversight, a concept foreign to traditional public schools. Using their own ‘logic’ – for lack of a better word – lawmakers would need to ban the proliferation of traditional public schools until accountability provisions are put in place, but needless to say, that seems unlikely.

ATHLETICS MEETS ACADEMICS. During National School Choice Week earlier this year, CER had the pleasure of meeting Jay Cammon, a charter student and senior at Friendship Collegiate Academy in D.C. At the time, Jay spoke of his involvement in Friendship’s ‘Early College Academy’ program, allowing him to earn college credit through summer programs at Cornell and Stanford. With the start of football season, Jay is now being recognized as a model student athlete who excels both in the classroom and on the football field. The running back/exceptional student serves as an example to his peers of a student who effectively balances athletics with coursework, something kids across the country attempt to manage. So kudos to Jay for realizing his own ability to succeed, and the types of learning environments that provide for these opportunities.

A HEARTY CONGRATS to Gwinnett Co. Schools in Georgia and Orange Co. in Florida, co-winners of the $1 million Broad Prize For Urban Education, in recognition of their distinct approaches towards improving student achievement.

PARENT POWER. Notice those references to how much power parents have in Colorado and North Carolina? Well stay tuned to find out whether or not your state has improved when it comes to providing parents access to educational options and good information to make smart decisions about their child’s education – CER’s Parent Power Index will be released next week! These new rankings are just in time for elections, so you can vote with an eye towards candidates that will make changes to improve Parent Power, and ultimately, educational outcomes for students!