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Newswire: April 28, 2015

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Vol. 17, No. 17

CHOICE IS POWER. This editor of Newswire had the pleasure to sit down with a mom yesterday to talk about her son’s education and the impact making a choice has had on his life. Barbara left D.C. in the mid-90s to escape the violence and chose to move to suburban Virginia to give her kids a fighting chance. Her youngest son was struggling in a big suburban school, where the achievement gap is only growing among white and black students. She decided to move back to D.C. recently because she has witnessed how school choice has changed her community for the better, and now her son is thriving and has aspirations for college. Congress passed the controversial D.C. School Reform Act in 1996 to bring dramatic change to the nation’s capital and #edreform has done just that. Barbara said that “people aren’t inherently bad, but they make bad decisions when they have no choice in the matter.” She noted the people in her community haven’t changed since the mid-90s, but school choice has empowered them to make better decisions and aspire for something greater. The nation is watching Baltimore clean up from yesterday’s destruction caused in large part by young schoolchildren that have no choice in a city where violence looks a lot like D.C. did twenty years ago. Meanwhile, advocates continue to battle the status quo in Annapolis who believe “small progress” and a political win are more important than taking the bold and controversial steps as D.C. once did to empower parents in Baltimore and throughout Maryland.

FUNDING FIASCOS. In Connecticut, lawmakers are toying with children’s futures by eliminating funding for two already approved charter schools, Capital Prep Harbor School in Bridgeport and Stamford Charter School for Excellence. Dr. Steve Perry, an edreform advocate known for speaking up on behalf of students’ needs, told the Hartford Courant he still plans to open the Bridgeport school despite the most recent version of the budget that eliminates funding, as he’s received over 600 applications for 250 seats. Sadly, money promised to charter schools is no guarantee in D.C. either. Mayor Muriel Bowser is taking away $4 million that the D.C. council and former mayor had said would go to two charter schools, forcing D.C. International Public Charter School to push back expansion, which means restricting options for parents and students. From Connecticut to D.C., it’s time to stop balancing budgets at the expense of our kids.

CHOICES. In North Carolina, one of CER’s first interns and sponsor of the state’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, Rep. Rob Bryan, heard from hundreds benefitting from the ability to choose an educational environment that best meets unique individual learning needs. Unfortunately, not too long after this press conference, North Carolina’s westward neighbor Tennessee put the brakes on a voucher program that would’ve given Volunteer State students similar choices and education opportunities because of a number of amendments that came up that “warranted further discussion.” At least Tennessee lawmakers were able to approve the Individualized Education Act, however, creating an Education Savings Account (ESA) program for children with special needs. Once this legislation is signed into law, Tennessee will become the fourth state with an ESA program, following in the footsteps of Arizona, Florida, and Mississippi.

OKLAHOMA, O.K.! Okay indeed, as the Sooner State now has a law on the books that allows for charter schools statewide. Before this welcome update to the state’s C-rated charter school law, an unlimited amount of charter schools were only allowed in large urban areas such as Oklahoma City and Tulsa. An unlimited amount of charters were also allowed in districts that had a school on the school improvement list, but that’s currently less than one percent of all districts (21 out of 521 districts). Thankfully, adults in Oklahoma are starting to realize that #ParentPower is essential for all parents, not just those who live in certain districts, and every single family deserves the opportunity to find the best educational fit for their children’s unique learning needs.

PULITZER. What if you received more than $600,000 a year as superintendent for a school district of fewer than 7,000 children? The Daily Breeze, a California newspaper, won the Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting for uncovering that funding folly and more in the Centinela Valley Union School District. The superintendent has been fired, and the nomination letter notes that both the FBI and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office have launched ongoing criminal investigations thanks to the more than 50 stories uncovering this corruption. We can’t help but wonder how a certain news outlet in Michigan reacted to not winning a Pulitzer for their “investigative” (read: biased) multi-day series on charter schools in the Great Lakes State. Kudos to these California journalists for sticking to the facts while uncovering this horrendous misconduct.