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NEWSWIRE: March 3, 2015

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Vol. 17, No. 9

POLICIES MATTER. Even after seemingly doing his bidding by only approving five – yes, just five – out of 39 charter school applications, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf removed the School Reform Commission (SRC) Chairman in Philadelphia. Clearly that was five too many in Wolf’s eyes, but to the nearly 30,000 Philly students on charter school wait lists, it’s not nearly enough. Anti-reform governors like Wolf could learn a thing or two from reform-minded colleagues elected across the country in 2014. But even so, it is strong policies like multiple charter school authorizers that will ensure children’s futures don’t rely on the whims of those in power. With all the problems facing Philadelphia schools, it’s astounding that politics would get in the way of student success and reforming the status quo.

BIG APPLE REFORM. When it comes to education, New York is truly living up to its name as the city that never sleeps. While unions are busy questioning a rally of charter school students from Success Academy and beyond scheduled for Wednesday, its own attempt at a charter school is shutting down because only 11 percent of its students are passing English and 18 percent are passing math. And speaking of test scores, Governor Andrew Cuomo just dropped a “political bomb”, in the words of the New York Post, on state lawmakers, tying their names to failing schools in their districts in a recently released report. It sounds as if the status quo in the Empire State is getting a real wake up call with all of this in addition to building support for an Education Investment Tax Credit. The stage is set in Albany to create more Parent Power, but whether Parent Power can truly be kicked up a notch in a state where the BLOB has such a chokehold on education remains to be seen.

GARY GRADUATES. The Indiana Department of Education released high school graduation data, and 21st Century Charter School in Gary, IN, a school whose student population is 99 percent low-income, posted a 94.3 percent on-time (defined as four years) graduation rate. That’s eleven points higher than the state’s 83.4 percent grad rate. Even before receiving their diploma, 21st Century students are able to get a leg-up on college credit, with most students earning 12 or more credits by the end of their senior year. Education options like 21st Century are thriving in ‘A’ rated charter law states like Indiana. It’s inspiring to see a model like 21st Century that’s not only increasing college and career readiness, but also closing the achievement gap one graduating class at a time.

OLD LINE OPTIONS. The Maryland House Ways and Means Committee heard testimony on a much-needed proposal to strengthen the state charter law, currently ranked 39 by CER. The Maryland Senate Committee on Education will meet Wednesday at 1:00pm to discuss similar legislation. In both written and verbal testimony, Jeanne Allen, CER Senior Fellow and president emeritus, laid out the legislation’s strong points, which include increased authority to make operational decisions, funding equity, and an appeal process to the State Board of Education. Testimony also came from Susan Hobbs, who at one time was in desperate search of a school that would best help her daughter Jamie, who has Down syndrome. Now, Jamie loves school and is thriving thanks to a charter school environment that’s right for her. The proposals currently on the table in Annapolis would help all Maryland students, regardless of background or special needs, access more and better charter school options.

CHOICE WINS. The Alabama State Supreme Court upheld the Alabama Accountability Act, meaning students in failing schools will be allowed to utilize tax credit-funded scholarships. Over 12,000 families applied for the 2,830 scholarships that were awarded this past school year, a resounding display of parent demand for greater learning opportunities for their children. This demand, combined with the outpouring of individuals and businesses who claimed tax credits for scholarship donations, are what prompted the desperate legal challenge against the program. CER’s tax credit scholarship ranking shows the Alabama Accountability Act is in need of some improvement, but this court ruling is encouraging nonetheless, and paves the way for the program’s expansion.

MARCH FORTH. On March 4 (tomorrow!), Parents Advocate League (PALs) is calling upon Californians to let their elected officials know that students must be top priority when it comes to decisions regarding education. All it takes is a quick email or social media post to make your voice heard! Click here for more on how to take action!  

BLENDED LEARNING CONFERENCE. Come join CER President Kara Kerwin and fellow school choice advocates, who are gathering Wednesday March 11 at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City to discuss the promise of blended learning both in New Jersey and nationwide. Click here to register.