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NEWSWIRE: March 31, 2015

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Vol. 17, No. 13

CHANGE MARYLAND. As regular Newswire readers know, efforts to strengthen Maryland’s F-graded charter school law are facing major headwinds, and time is running out before the legislative session ends on April 13. Just today, the Maryland Senate Education Committee voted in favor of charter school legislation that would set back charter schools in Maryland, dismantling proposed changes to the original legislative proposal from Governor Hogan that would increase operational autonomy for charter schools, create a binding charter application appeal process, ensure equitable funding, and give teachers more input over who represents them in employment issues. These changes gut many of the original bill’s key provisions so much so that Activist, Founding Board Member and Immediate Past President of Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) Kenneth Campbell, made a trip to Maryland to educate lawmakers and the public about the importance of parent choice, especially for low-income and working-class Black families in the Old Line State.

Take action to let elected officials know that charter schools deserve equitable funding and true autonomy so they can improve education for all Marylanders!

BUDGET BATTLE. Details have begun to emerge about what a New York State budget might look like for the upcoming fiscal year. State aid to schools would be contingent upon locally approved teacher evaluation systems, which must follow new guidelines drafted by the State Department of Education. A late-night agreement Monday between Gov. Cuomo and legislators could also mean state receivership of five Buffalo schools if academic performance doesn’t turn around this coming school year. Missing from budget talks, however, is the Education Investment Tax Credit, which would create scholarships for low-income students. But Newswire remains hopeful that Empire State lawmakers will continue to lead on expanding access to education options that serve as a lifeline for students and families across New York. 

SCHOOL CHOICE UPTICK. The 2014 elections saw an influx of both reform-minded governors and legislators, and now we’re seeing the results, as leaders are feeling emboldened and acting on a mandate to increase choice and accountability in education. Lawmakers are looking to states such as Florida and Arizona that rank high in Parent Power, to see what policies they too could be implementing, such as tax credit-funded scholarships and education savings accounts (ESAs). This year, as many as 34 states are considering the creation or expansion of school choice programs. Thankfully, reporters like Caroline Porter at the Wall Street Journal are taking notice, and elevating the voices of parents such as Taryn Webb of Milwaukee, who says, “Money for public schools is important…but what’s important to me is the education my child receives. I want my child to learn and be equipped so they can grow up to be upstanding citizens.”

MISSISSIPPI VICTORY. Kudos to Mississippi lawmakers, who last week flexed some of that school choice momentum muscle happening in statehouses nationwide by passing an Education Savings Account (ESA) program for students with special needs. In the program’s first year, up to 500 parents will be able to access funds designated for their child’s education and direct those funds towards services such as tutoring and therapy so their child’s learning needs can be met more effectively as they see fit. A much needed program, as just 23 percent of students with disabilities in Mississippi currently graduate high school on time, compared with 75 percent of students overall. The ESA program builds on the voucher program available to Mississippi students with dyslexia and speech/language issues, and is another positive step for special education and Parent Power.

ASU + GSV SUMMIT. Next week from April 6-8, all the biggest names in education reform will gather at the ASU + GSV Summit to discuss everything from digital learning, college readiness and equality of opportunity. Click here for more information.