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NEWSWIRE: February 24, 2015

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Vol. 17, No. 8

EXPANDING ELIGIBILITY. Since 2011, Arizona’s incredibly popular Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program has grown to cover more student populations, from students with special needs to those stuck in failing schools. Using ESAs, parents have the power to put education dollars towards tuition and resources that best meet their child’s learning needs. Lawmakers are now considering another expansion for Native American families living on one of Arizona’s 22 reservations. Although Native American students made a seven percent gain in reading on state assessments between 2010 and 2013, they still score among the lowest of any student demographic at 58 percent proficiency. ESAs are not intended as a cure-all for the challenges facing tribal lands, but reaffirm Arizona’s commitment to Parent Power and ensuring ALL parents have opportunities to access an education environment that’s best for their child.

CHALLENGING CONSTITUTIONALITY. The North Carolina Supreme Court is hearing arguments today on the constitutionality of the state voucher program that in its first year received over 5,500 applications for just 2,400 scholarship spots for low-income students. Not too far from the Raleigh courthouse are four Thales Academy campuses that are examples of high-performing schools that low-income families could access using vouchers. Founded by North Carolina entrepreneur Bob Luddy, Thales’ students regularly outperform their peers on standardized tests and at a tuition that’s a fraction of the average private school price tag. Opponents in today’s court proceedings may trot out arguments based on constitutionality, but the real reason for opposition is that choices like Thales exist beyond the unionized education bureaucracy’s control.

COURSE CHOICE. An exciting new effort is underway in Illinois that would allow individual course enrollment for public school students. If a student attends a school without a particular course offering, that student could seek out a state-approved course provider and enroll. In addition to giving students more say over their education, the program expands access to courses that would bolster college and career readiness. Illinois is far from a shining example of Parent Power, but a course choice program would represent a step in the right direction.

MICHIGAN MELEE. Over the past year, the criticisms against Michigan’s “A” graded charter law have been nothing short of relentless. The latest is against Michigan’s independent charter authorizing system, courtesy of a report by The Education Trust-Midwest that employed a misleading methodology in order to falsely depict a charter sector where unaccountability runs rampant. The issue isn’t that the report calls for accountability, but that the report makes sweeping statements and conclusions by looking at just 40 percent of all charter school authorizers in Michigan. Read CER’s full response to the report here, and see why Michigan’s charter school law and record of student achievement should be held up as a national model.    

PARENT CONSUMERS. Thursday February 26, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is hosting an event, “Empowering parents and voters for K-12 education reform.” Panelists, including CER’s Kara Kerwin, will discuss how to maximize the impact of school choice policies at the state and district levels. Watch the event via livestream or RSVP to attend!