Home » Newswire Weekly » NEWSWIRE: March 17, 2015

NEWSWIRE: March 17, 2015

Share This Story

Vol. 17, No. 11

STATE OF CHARTER LAWS. The Center for Education Reform released the Charter School Laws Across the States 2015: Rankings & Scorecard, revealing a remarkable lack of progress in statehouses nationwide when it comes to implementing policies that could allow charter schools to play an even bigger role in addressing the needs of our students. While charter schools continue to grow at a linear pace nationally, parent demand for more options shows no signs of slowing down, with most charter schools reporting wait lists with 300 or more students. True, lack of action can be chalked up to politics, but the bigger culprit is misinformation about what constitutes strong policy. For 19 years, CER has seen firsthand and evaluated what works in expanding charter schools, and which laws can truly withstand the test of time and political interests. Click here to read the full report, and find out how your state could be encouraging meaningful choices for families.

APATHY. Though not as weak as the “F” graded Maryland, Virginia and Kansas, the “D” graded New Hampshire charter law has ample room for improvement, especially when it comes to funding equity. A recent op-ed out of the Granite State rightly criticizes “legislative apathy,” a problem that not only affects New Hampshire but dozens of other states that made little to no progress in strengthening charter laws. The New Hampshire funding disparity between traditional and charter schools is currently estimated at an unacceptable 50 percent. Between this funding shortfall and a restrictive charter cap, it’s no wonder there are fewer than 25 charter schools statewide. Structural problems like these do a disservice to public charter students, and all students in the state who would be better served by a school of choice, and it’s time New Hampshire lawmakers (and lawmakers nationwide!) turn apathy into action.

BEYOND THE BOROUGHS. Not surprisingly, the education challenges of New York City tend to receive the lion’s share of the media spotlight in comparison to other municipalities. However, on the other side of New York State is Buffalo, another city where reformers on the ground are tirelessly trying to improve student outcomes through choice. Currently, Buffalo district officials are debating whether to lease vacant buildings to charter schools, a move that would invite reputable operators to provide new schools for students in need of alternatives.  Last year, state lawmakers took steps to remedy charter facility challenges in the Big Apple, but ended up neglecting the rest of the state. Expanding facility access, along with the innovative Education Investment Tax Credit program, are just two of the state-level reforms waiting in the wings that would bring new opportunity. Speak up and make your voice heard in support of these critical changes for the Empire State!

WRONGFUL EVICTION. The Magnolia Science Academy (MSA) charter school in Santa Clara, CA offers students a rigorous, STEM-based education. Ninety-one percent of students met or exceeded proficiency on science state assessments, far surpassing the 60 percent state average. A similarly high 80 percent scored proficient in English. And yet, the Santa Clara home district is forcing the closure of the school in order to make way for a renovated traditional school, taking away this high-performing education option. A closer look at California’s charter school law ranking reveals local boards are the primary authorizers in the Golden State, a problem since many are openly hostile to school choice. Even worse, many districts do not follow state law when it comes to providing equitable access to facilities. The struggle for MSA families to save their chosen school epitomizes the importance of having strong laws that protect against the whims of local control and the status quo, and ensure charters have the support they need to flourish.

VIRTUAL INSANITY. While parents in Santa Clara are fighting to keep their school of choice open, parents and guardians of students at Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA) filed a lawsuit, challenging the State Commissioner’s misguided decision to shut down TNVA at the end of the school year. The Posans, legal guardians of their grandson Austin, a TNVA student with autism, say Austin is a “different child” thanks to the school. Before Austin attended the school he wasn’t reading at all. Now, he’s reading at a fourth-grade level. From 2013-14, TNVA increased its school growth measure in all subjects, and second and third-year students are making learning gains at higher levels. Parents and guardians like the Posans sought out TNVA because the online learning model is the right fit for their children, and they’re taking necessary action to preserve the choice they made.

SYMPOSIUM COUNTDOWN. In less than 48 hours, Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) will be holding its Symposium in Memphis, TN, where reformers from across the country will connect to empower families and expand opportunity for black children. Click here for more information.