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NEWSWIRE: December 9, 2014

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Vol. 16, No. 48

UNAPOLOGETICALLY OUTCOMES FOCUSED. For the past 18 years, CER has evaluated charter laws based on practices that don’t just sound good on paper, but have been proven to expand educational options in states such as Michigan, the District of Columbia, and Indiana. Unfortunately, and to the detriment of students, others have a different way of doing things, choosing to focus entirely on inputs and then chastising states that don’t abide by a strict set of lawmaking standards, regardless of real conditions on the ground. Quibbling over regulations without actually considering whether they affect student achievement and school accountability ultimately fuels the side in favor of constraining – not improving – the charter sector. State policy must focus on outcomes as well as the inputs so that charters don’t become the very things they sought to fix.

REFRAME AND ACCELERATE. At a discussion last week on how to make education work for all students, respected education reform leader Howard Fuller said the question we should be asking of kids is not “how intelligent are you?”, but rather “how are you intelligent?”. It’s exactly this sort of reframing that needs to be applied when thinking not only about charter school laws, as mentioned above, but about our school system as a whole if we want our kids, and our country, to be successful. Parents need access to an array of outstanding learning options, and with the U.S. Census predicting an influx of school-aged children over the next ten years, this only makes more urgent our mission to accelerate the pace of reforms that allow for kids to explore exactly just how they are intelligent.

PHILLY POSSIBILITIES. Philadelphia families will have several upcoming opportunities to voice their support for new public education options now that the City of Brotherly Love no longer has a cap on public charter schools. In the next two weeks, the School Reform Commission will be considering dozens of new charter school applications and in the interest of transparency, will be doing so in hearings open to the public. Visit  PhillySchoolChoice.com to find out when these hearings are happening, and what you can do to show your support for these viable school options that are so critical for students who are in need of a new learning environment.

SURVEY SAYS: MORE CHOICES.  Two recent surveys present clear evidence that parents want options. The most recent coming today from BAEO, revealing between 47 and 61 percent of Black voters polled in five southern states indicating they wouldn’t send their children to their assigned public schools if they had a choice. Another recently released survey of parents in eight different cities reveals that parents want more options to get the best education for their child but more must be done to help them navigate what’s available. Interestingly, more than half of parents in all but one of the cities reported sending their child to a school of choice. True, eight cities encompass a large swath of families, but this is dwarfed by communities across 50 states both urban and rural that lack access to a diverse portfolio of learning options.

PARENTS ON DEFENSE. Florida is a state that ranks high in Parent Power, with parents utilizing education options such as tax credit-funded scholarships, personal learning scholarship accounts, and charter schools. Now, a judge has ruled, and rightly so, that parents have standing to be defendants in a lawsuit that aims to strip scholarships for students with special needs. For the 2014-15 school year, the scholarship program has the capacity to support 1,800 special needs learners, and as noted in CER’s report tens of thousands of Florida students benefit from tax credit scholarships. This is a positive development in an otherwise unfortunate legal process, because now parents have the opportunity to literally defend their child’s right to access what they need to receive an excellent education.

ONE MORE WEEK! If you’re a federal worker, there’s still one more week to make your mark in edreform through the Combined Federal Campaign, a cost efficient and employee-focused way for federal workers to contribute to the betterment of student opportunities. Click here to learn more.