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NEWSWIRE: October 21, 2014

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Vol. 16, No. 41

TAKING ON THE FREE PRESS. Readers with no background who read the Detroit Free Press State of Charter Schools series would think charters are unaccountable for results while consuming $1 billion in public funds, even though the state of Michigan spends $13 billion on K-12 public education, and not a single traditional public school has ever been closed for academic reasons. The bias is bad enough, but what’s even more concerning is that the respected news organization reprinted the series, omitting pro-charter opinion pieces and letters to the editor, and sent it to state lawmakers in order to blatantly influence state politics. To counter this agenda-driven reporting, The Media Bullpen investigated the most egregious claims and statements made by the Free Press in this special report.

PILOTING CHOICE. A state senator from Western New York is floating a pilot voucher program for low-income students in Buffalo, on top of renewing calls for a tax credit scholarship program currently stalled in Albany. Currently, tax credit-funded scholarship programs pay tuition for approximately 190,000 students nationwide, a school-choice program participation level that is surpassed only by enrollment in charter schools. Additionally, more than 100,000 students across the U.S. are using school choice vouchers to attend the private school of their choice. The introduction of multiple programs to help New York families speaks to the importance of having a vast array of learning avenues so it’s truly possible for parents to find something that best helps their child excel educationally. We’re glad to see state leaders stepping up to focus on real results for students, and hope the upcoming elections result in more leadership focused on true education reform that creates more and better learning opportunities for parents and students.

‘REY’ OF HOPE. At all levels of government, there is a familiar effort to frame the urgent need to improve student outcomes through the lens of breaking the cycle of poverty through education. But few initiatives epitomize this mission better than the 28-school Cristo Rey Network, designed to give low-income students real opportunity. A combination of per-pupil spending efficiency, parental engagement, high expectations, and an innovative work-study program enables access to this unique educational experience. But the external dimension is the presence of available funds through voucher programs, which currently exist in one form or another in just 14 states plus the District of Columbia, according to CER’s first-ever Voucher Laws Across the States Rankings & Scorecard. It’s critical that more lawmakers realize the potential school choice has in not only putting power in the hands of parents, but breaking the cycle of poverty in the process.

BIG SPENDERS. The two largest teacher unions in the nation plan on spending upwards of $80 million during the 2014 campaign season in attempts to influence elections. That’s a pretty big chunk of change to combat declining membership rates, innovation that brings more accountability, and the incremental migration of K-12 education outside their purview. After seeing millions of parents vote with their feet in pursuit of alternative educational choices for their kids, status quo defenders would prefer not to see the same trend occur at the ballot box. It’s part of the reason why CER produced Education50, so voters have the information they need to know how gubernatorial candidates feel about the real solutions to improving education, and who among them has the best possible chance of recognizing the integral role they can play in bringing positive reform for their younger constituents.

14 DAYS. That’s how much time you have left to figure out where candidates stand on critical education issues such as teacher quality, school choice, and charter schools. As a potential voter, it’s important to make sure you have all the available facts and analysis on gubernatorial candidates and beyond before voting. Click here to find your state and see if you can spot a candidate with a real shot at making substantive reform possible.