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NEWSWIRE: April 21, 2015

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Vol. 17, No. 16

NECESSARY VETO. Just last week, the Maryland General Assembly rammed through the last of 2015 legislation, including a badly maimed charter school bill that will only harm Maryland’s already suppressed charter sector. Maryland’s political obstacles are no secret to even the most casual observer, but that’s no reason to sign legislation for the sake of signing legislation, especially when it will deter, not encourage charter school expansion. Communities like those in Montgomery County face persistent achievement gaps, and this bill does nothing to help mitigate them. For all these reasons, Gov. Hogan must veto Senate Bill 595 and try again next session.     

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

MOBILE INTELLIGENCE. After reading the letters to the editor section of the Baltimore Sun, hopefully readers also saw a commentary on the relationship between the ability to learn and the education reform movement. Research demonstrates the capacity of humans to become smarter through learning and hard work, and that intelligence is not immovable from cradle to grave. However, the top-down system we have today doesn’t acknowledge this mindset, treating schools as a constant and teachers as expendable even though they are anything but. This is exactly why CER firmly believes we must accelerate the pace of reform so more kids have access to more opportunities that realize their capacity to learn.

COME TO THE LIGHT. Like moths to a bug zapper, union protests continue to move predictably and without reservation against school improvement. Clearly the litany of school choice legislation signed in recent weeks has not shaken their resolve in protecting the status quo. This time, legal complaints have been leveled against the plan in Camden, NJ to turn around five chronically failing schools using a ‘renaissance’ charter model. Still, Camden Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard is moving ahead with the conversions, rightfully insisting that there has been significant public input, and the renaissance schools are intended to serve the Camden community. Across the country in California, legislative action is underway to undo Vergara momentum in the form of bills that reduce the probationary period before teachers receive tenure in small districts and loosen state requirements for evaluation systems. These efforts will be introduced to the zapper soon enough.

MYTHS REAPPEAR. Once again, inaccurate claims against charter schools are presented without a wider contextual knowledge of data, this time in North Carolina. Thankfully, reform advocates on the ground reacted quickly to dispel myths. What many media forget to report is the fact that the process for enrolling charter students in North Carolina and elsewhere requires random lotteries, not cherry-picking. And to the claim that charters aren’t accessible to disadvantaged kids because they don’t have to provide transportation, the media forgets that North Carolina charter schools receive on average 17 percent less per-pupil funding than traditional schools, making operational services related to facilities and transportation that much more difficult to provide. Meanwhile, a study shows that NC charters produce 14 additional NAEP points in reading and math than traditional schools, per $1,000 invested per-pupil. Bottom line: if charter schools are to operate at full strength and responsibly meet parent demand, they must be supported by strong laws at the state level.

LOOMING LEGACY. Legacy Charter School in Greenville, SC has a waitlist of over 650 students. In order to at the very least meet the demand of 20 more students to bring enrollment size on par with other campuses in the County, Legacy educators petitioned the local school board, but were denied. Bear in mind this is a charter school that recently had to apply for a Title I adjustment due to an increase in the number of students both with disabilities and who are English Language Learners. Although South Carolina’s charter law allows independent authorizers, only one university is in the process of opening a school, making charters largely subject to local school boards. This has turned out to be a disaster in Maryland, and shouldn’t be an example for other states to follow.     

AFC POLICY SUMMIT. The American Federation for Children’s National Policy Summit is setting up shop this year from May 18-19 in the Big Easy to bring together policymakers and advocates on educational choice. Check out the latest speakers, and click here to register.