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NEWSWIRE: November 4, 2014

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Vol. 16, No. 43

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO. Today, Americans face the important task of electing candidates who will best serve their interests and appreciate the urgency with which leaders must act to improve student outcomes. State leaders are vital to improving education, and some – but not all – have recognized this responsibility by expanding new and meaningful educational choices for families. History tells us that political fortune favors those who take bold actions. It’s up to governors and state leaders to effect meaningful change, but it’s up to voters to give them that opportunity, and then hold them accountable for results. CER’s Education50 breaks down which candidates are up to the challenge of making bold choices for students.

OH THE IRONY. It comes as no surprise that Mike Antonucci’s Intercepts blog gets a little zanier during an election year, exhibit A being a letter to the editor from a local AFT official lamenting an “outrageous” amount of spending by an outside group during a school board election. The amount in question was $31,000 to fill a school board seat in the District of Columbia. No doubt a big chunk of change, but peanuts compared to say, the $450,000 spent by the AFT in a school board election down in New Orleans. Not to mention the $60 million plus that unions planned on spending leading up to Election Day to roll back policies that put more power in the hands of parents and students. This is why it’s critical voters know where candidates stand on education issues so they’re able to spot the real reformers for themselves.

BREAKING TRENDS. We’ve seen the same headlines year after year about what should be done about the unacceptable stagnation in SAT scores among American high schoolers. While the persistent lack of any meaningful shift in average scores is noteworthy in and of itself, what often gets missed is the fact that scores vary depending on the type of school students attend. Students attending private schools significantly outscored public students in math, reading and writing sections, ultimately buoying national averages across all student demographics. Perhaps voters in at least one of the 36 gubernatorial elections will find a candidate undeterred from ensuring students are able to have a choice.

RELATIONSHIP BUILDING. Recently released federal data show a seven percent uptick in the number of charter schools during the 2012-13 school year, consistent with the steady, linear growth in charter schools reported by CER’s 2014 Survey of America’s Charter Schools. What’s also consistent is the uneven proliferation of charter schools on a state-by-state basis. The data show a direct correlation between the number of charter school campuses created during 2012-13, and whether a state charter law contains the financial and oversight mechanisms necessary for charters to truly thrive. This relationship goes to the heart of how state policy can influence reforms on the ground, and why voters must select candidates who have the best chance of creating a positive environment in which educational options can grow.

IS HE FOR REAL. Speaking of spotting a REAL reformer, former NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has a new book out this week, reflecting on his experience of changing education for the better in the Big Apple. Facing an uphill battle to insert a healthy dose of much-needed accountability, Klein’s writing shows an implicit acknowledgement that things needed to change, which was followed up with sweeping policy initiatives to identify teacher performance in the classroom, to introduce data-based accountability, and to give underserved families choices beyond their zip code-designated school. The work of Klein and other real reformers in New York is far from over but this reflection serves as a conversation starter and – once the Election Day dust settles – hopefully a blueprint for action.

AFTER THE VOTES ARE TALLIED, find out what midterm election results mean for the future of education policy at a discussion this Thursday from 3:30-5:00pm hosted by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). CER’s Senior Fellow and president emeritus Jeanne Allen will be there to weigh in along with AEI’s Rick Hess, Education Week’s Alyson Klein, Bethany Little of Education Counsel and Charles Barone of Democrats for Education Reform, with AEI’s Michael Q. McShane serving as moderator. Livestream will be available here.