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NEWSWIRE: April 7, 2015

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Vol. 17, No. 14

MARYLAND’S WRONG PATH. The Maryland Senate approved a completely amended version of Gov. Larry Hogan’s original charter school reform, taking the teeth out of a bill intended to create more opportunities for kids in the Old Line State. Evidently, the Senate had other ideas, and through the amendment process gutted the operational autonomy, teacher freedoms and funding equity that would have provided charter schools with the tools they need to be truly successful. The bill now goes to the House for consideration, where lawmakers are now tasked with salvaging the opportunity to create a friendlier policy environment for charter schools in F-graded Maryland.

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

CONSTRUCTIVE CHOICE. For too long, McLane Middle School in Florida had been a chronically failing haven for crime and lack of discipline where students and teachers alike felt unsafe in classrooms and hallways. At one time, an average of one student per week left the campus in handcuffs, and its record number of expulsions (51) was set during the 2007 school year. In 2004, local district officials designed a magnet “choice” program aimed at maintaining student demographic levels, as opposed to responding to parent demand for more options and lifting student outcomes. This year, administrators have taken steps to improve discipline and attendance, but there is still a long road ahead. The McLane experience demonstrates that choice must meet parent demand, as opposed to the best-laid plans of school officials. After all, Parent Power is why the education reform movement was born in the first place.

PARTNERSHIPS. Imagine a day in the life of a public school student, through the lens of the public-private partnerships that make up the typical school day. Inside a backpack purchased at Wal-Mart or Target are textbooks produced by a private publisher. The student then enters a school heated by a private energy company with supplies and furniture from a private industrial supply chain. Before leaving school on a privately manufactured and sold school bus, the student perhaps takes an exam designed by a private testing company. Just as traditional public schools have these types of partnerships, so do charter schools with management organizations that provide the type of administrative and financial support necessary to sustain the school day. These public-private partnerships provide charter educators with a functional school environment, and allow them to focus their attention on students.

BROKEN PROMISE. Video from June 2013 recently surfaced of former Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman assuring lawmakers – and by extension parents, students and educators – that under the 2013 Virtual Public Schools Act, the Education Department would not close virtual schools using data prior to the law’s enactment. Two years later, the families of Tennessee Virtual Academy (TNVA) are realizing that was a promise the Commissioner was unwilling to keep. This is why TNVA families have filed a lawsuit to keep this fully online education option open as it continues to post sizeable learning gains. It’s reprehensible whenever public officials break their word, especially when educations are at stake.

NOT DONE YET. Alabama has passed the nation’s 44th charter school law, and here comes the million-dollar question: Now what? The law’s passage is a step forward, but charter schools depend on the law’s quality and implementation and on paper, Alabama’s lack of independent authorizers and restrictive charter school cap present cause for concern. The intent of any charter school law should be the creation of numerous, high-performing education options for students. Alabama lawmakers must pay attention to how charter school creation plays out on the ground, and recognize the job isn’t finished just because there’s now a law on the books.   

20/20 VISION. The 2015 ASU + GSV Summit is in its second day in sunny Arizona, where the leading voices in reform are discussing the latest innovations in classroom technology, and effective delivery methods for expanding access to a high-caliber education at all levels. Not in Arizona? Follow along on Twitter @asugsvsummit and check in with @CERKaraKerwin, @frankbonsal, @CSUSAJonHage, @JeanneAllen, @michaelmoe, @kevinpchavous, @edward_m_fields, @davidphardy, and the rest of CER’s Board of Directors gathered here for its annual meeting to discuss the future of @edreform and delivering on the promise of #gsv2020vision. Click here for full agenda and speakers.