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NEWSWIRE: March 24, 2015

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Vol. 17, No. 12

COMPROMISING NEGOTIATIONS. Lawmakers in the Maryland Senate want to strike key provisions of legislation that would strengthen Maryland’s F-graded charter law. One provision of vital importance would give charter schools the freedom to make personnel decisions based on what’s best for their school and teachers, something school districts are now responsible for despite the fact that they aren’t responsible for the day-to-day operations of the school. Sadly, it’s no surprise that this proposal is under scrutiny in attempts to placate union support for the status quo. Watering down meaningful change means future charter applicants would face the same uphill battles when it comes to receiving approval from local – often-hostile – school boards, and then having the freedom to provide a true alternative to kids who could benefit from their mission. There is still hope that real charter law reform will be realized, but not if lawmakers continue to dismember the critical aspects that will actually create new opportunities for students.

Act Now!Take action to let elected officials know that provisions that give charter schools equitable funding and true freedom and autonomy are vital for charter schools to play a role in improving education for all Marylanders!

BAD BUDGET. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s anti-charter school budget proposal is meeting resistance in Harrisburg, where lawmakers in recent weeks have been holding appropriations hearings. Rather than include charter schools as a viable part of public education, this budget proposal alienates them. One particularly egregious component would require charter schools to annually return unused expenditures to their home district, limiting the ability of charter officials to have savings and plan for the future. Not to mention, Keystone State charters have long faced inequity due to a funding system based on local control. As long as these inequities persist, don’t expect Pennsylvania to move beyond a C-graded charter law any time soon.

PROPORTION PROBLEM. District of Columbia reform blogger Mark Lerner debunks the premise that there is a ‘correct’ ratio of charter and traditional schools. The proliferation of choice is about meeting parent demand for more high-performing options, regardless of market share or school governance. More than half of DC traditional school students scored proficient in math for the first time last year, thanks in no small part to the charter ripple effect, ultimately made possible by having the strongest charter law in the country. Charter students continue to outperform on DC assessments in math and reading, meaning more students could be achieving similar proficiency if only they were in a learning environment that their families could choose as a best fit. We must worry less about proportionality of schools, and more about the proportionality of students who are now mastering course content.

HERE WE GO AGAIN. Illinois’ 32 ranking out of the nation’s 43 charter school laws served as a grim reminder of the litany of anti-charter proposals in Springfield that would weaken the state’s charter law even further. Throughout this week, legislators will be working fervently to pry bills out of committees so they at least have a chance of consideration in the current session. Among these proposals include the removal of the State Charter School Commission’s authority to reverse charter application denials at the local level, and a system of checks and balances that allow charter school options to open and grow in the face of hostility. A pro-reform gubernatorial administration should serve as a last line of defense, but lawmakers should be working to improve the Illinois charter environment, which includes blocking attempts to do the opposite.

TAX CREDIT MOMENTUM. Between a bilingual ad campaign, a New York Post opinion piece authored by Gov. Cuomo, and rallies held across the tri-state area, supporters are getting the word out about the Education Investment Tax Credit (EITC). If enacted, New York would become the 15th state with a program that allows tax credits to be claimed against donations to scholarships for students in need. The tax credit program, which has bipartisan support, would mean more scholarships for low-income students in need of a new learning opportunity. Over 190,000 students and counting now benefit from tax credit-funded scholarships, while New York families stand ready and waiting for the same opportunity afforded to others around the country.

NO LOVE FOR LIFO. A Star Tribune Minnesota poll found that 68 percent of Minnesota residents think schools should be able to prioritize performance over seniority when determining teacher retention and layoffs. This finding mirrors CER’s own findings, which actually indicate even higher levels of support for accountability in schools. Minnesota lawmakers are currently considering a revision to the ‘last-in-first-out’ policy, a practice that received national attention during the Vergara trial last year. Kids deserve schools that take all steps to ensure high-functioning classrooms, and educators deserve a dignified system that acknowledges the great work they do everyday.