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NEWSWIRE: April 14, 2015

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Vol. 17, No. 15

KILL THE BILL. “Appalled. MD just became 1st state 2 roll back on #charterschools w/ F grade and celebrates it on floor. Time 4 @LarryHogan to Veto.” That’s the takeaway CER President @CERKaraKerwin tweeted late last night after the Maryland General Assembly passed a dramatically revised charter school bill that makes it less likely that parents and educators will be able to create and advance innovative public school opportunities for children. Its most harmful components include the removal of the State Board’s authority to review charter applications, an invasive study on charter school operations, and the placement of funding and charter operations in the hands of district officials. The Maryland General Assembly is now adjourned, meaning Governor Hogan must veto this bill and start fresh next session.

Tell Governor Hogan to veto Senate Bill 595, which would make Maryland the first state to move backwards on charter schools.

NO SEAT LEFT BEHIND. An important report from Democracy Builders highlights the extraordinarily high demand for charter schools in New York City, exhibited by 49,700 students on charter waitlists. True, there are simply not enough charter seats to adequately meet demand, but that’s not always the reason why kids aren’t able to attend a school of their choosing. An analysis from 2006-14 finds that charter schools lost an average of 6-11 percent of students per year, leaving more than 2,500 open seats alone in 2014. This means students who are patiently waiting for a spot at a charter school still aren’t able to get in even if there’s room for them. It’s up to charter leaders to overcome these challenges, change the discourse and do their best to serve as accessible options for families.

HELP ON STATES. The Senate HELP Committee is meeting today for a No Child Left Behind markup extravaganza, with amendments expected to fly every which direction amid cordial calls for ‘bipartisanship.’ The counterpart in the House does a lot to reduce the Washington footprint on our nation’s schools, appreciating that successful policies and Parent Power reside at the state level. There’s still a long way to go in the overdue reauthorization of NCLB, but it’s essential lawmakers remember throughout this process that states must be held accountable for federal dollars while not impinging on their ability to innovate.

DISTRICT DEMAND. NYC isn’t the only place with high charter school demand. In 2015, DC charter school waitlists saw an 18 percent annual increase, jumping up to over 8,500 students in a city where already 44 percent of the public school population are enrolled in charters. There was also demand for traditional schools through a common lottery process, epitomizing the positive charter ripple effect on the DC public system as a whole. Thanks to the strongest charter school law in the nation, DC charter schools will continue to be a viable part of improving education in our nation’s capital.           

TEACHER TENURE. A new poll from USC Dorsife College and the LA Times indicates high support for teachers as professionals, and longer probationary periods before a teacher is eligible for tenure. Nearly three-quarters of respondents would like to see an easier process for removing ineffective teachers from the classroom, and voters of all stripes overwhelmingly rejected laying off teachers based on seniority as opposed to merit. Eighty-six percent of Americans think schools should have the ability to remove ineffective teachers according to CER poll data, and evidently, support for this kind of accountability is not waning in the Golden State.

CHOICE MANDATE. Besides Maryland moving backwards on charter schools, other states have actually shown measurable progress in 2015 in expanding choices for students in need. In Arizona, Native American students living on reservations are now eligible for Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). Arkansas and Nevada both introduced school choice programs: A voucher program for students with special needs and a tax credit scholarship program for low-income students, respectively. All three of these states just happen to have reform-minded governors according to a CER analysis following the 2014 elections. It’s now time for other newly elected governors to act on their mandate to improve choice and accountability in education.

AFC POLICY SUMMIT. From May 18-19, the American Federation for Children will hold its National Policy Summit in New Orleans, to celebrate past successes and future challenges with some of the biggest names in the school choice movement. Click here to register.