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Newswire: May 12, 2015

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Vol. 17, No. 19

DOWNGRADED. This morning, Maryland became the first state to roll back its charter school law. While Governor Hogan’s original changes to Maryland’s charter school law would’ve made modest improvements to the state’s ‘F’ graded law, the State Senate gutted his vision, sending a bill to his desk that prohibits online charter schools, removes the State Board’s check and balance authority, stalls enforcement of equitable funding for charter school students, and removes the flexibility school districts already had in negotiating operational changes by requiring every single operational feature subject to a legal agreement. “I am fully aware that the politics of Annapolis can be ‘tricky,’ but to completely ignore the warnings of local charter school leaders, news media, local businesses, parents and national experts is extremely troubling and does not put the interests of students first,” says CER President Kara Kerwin.

MAKING THE CHOICE. A new report from the D.C. Public Charter School Board provides the first comprehensive look at where charter school students in our nation’s capital attend school. Commuter patterns reveal 48 percent of public charter school students attend charters in their home ward, while 46 percent of public charter school students attend a charter outside of their local district. What this report indicates is that parents make choices for their children for a variety of reasons; some choose a school because of proximity, while others choose a school based on its culture or special academic focus. Whatever the reason, parents deserve the power to make choices when it comes to their children’s future, as one D.C. charter school parent notes, “Choice is everything.”

163,000 WAITING. D.C. parents aren’t the only ones who think “choice is everything,” as New York City has the longest wait list for charter schools in the nation with over 160,000 kids wanting to access public education options outside of their assigned neighborhood school. The problem with New York is that there are perverse policy incentives in place regarding backfill, or the practice of “making vacated seats available to new students”. Policies that prevent parents from having the most power over their children’s education must be exposed and changed, which is exactly why CER’s Parent Power Index evaluates and grades states based on how much opportunity and information parents are afforded. As a recently published piece on CER’s Parent Power Index notes, (and as data from New York to DC reveals!), “Whether you come down for or against charters and other school choice options, parents want the resources to make informed decisions about their children’s schooling.” Thankfully, today New York Governor Cuomo introduced the Parental Choice in Education Act, and together with Cardinal Timothy Dolan called on the Legislature to pass this legislation that would provide $150 million in education tax credits for students most in need of education alternatives.

MORATORIUM.If you ain’t first, you’re last.” While Delaware is nowhere near first when it comes to offering Parents Power, perhaps the First State should take Ricky Bobby’s trademark slogan to heart and work harder to improve parent power, not limit it, as it just did by placing a moratorium on charter schools in Wilmington. Just days ago, Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed a bill into law that bans new charter schools from opening until June 2018. The rationale? Concerns that charters have “disrupted local feeding patterns and hamstrung traditional public schools.” Call us crazy, but stifling growth just because it’s hurting “business as usual” for adults in the system isn’t a valid reason to prevent what’s in the best interest of our students.

TAXED. It looks like North Carolina is taking notes from Delaware when it comes to stifling innovation and growth, as a provision that snuck into the 2014 budget is rearing its ugly head. The provision calls for new charter schools opening in 2016, and all charter schools upon their renewal, to come up with $50,000 cash or purchase guarantees. Perhaps North Carolina is forgetting that charter schools are in fact public schools that actually get 36 percent LESS money on average than their traditional public school counterparts and unlike other public schools, typically do not even receive facility funding. All the while research indicates public charter schools are actually using public funding more efficiently than traditional public schools. Time for adults in the Tarheel State to figure out an alternative to balancing the budget that doesn’t come at the expense of improving student outcomes.

#EDREVOLUTION. CER will be on the ground in New Orleans next week for AFC’s annual policy summit that convenes some of the best and brightest policymakers, advocates, and leaders when it comes to school choice. Register to attend here, and be sure to follow @edreform on social media for real-time updates!