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NEWSWIRE: September 22, 2015

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Vol. 17, No. 37

CATHOLIC SCHOOL SPOTLIGHT. In honor of the Pope coming to town, we’re highlighting a few facts about Catholic schools, a rich tradition in U.S. education that has provided an alternative education to many families. Catholic schools’ academic and community benefits are many, and while Catholic schools have struggled to survive, a report from Faith in the Future indicates they’re making a comeback in Philly thanks to innovative thinking and business models. With most states earning less than satisfactory grades on Parent Power, it’s critical these schools that save money while positively impacting student achievement and communities remain part of the fabric of choice for U.S. parents, and that more is done to provide access to all parents who wish to choose this type of education for their child.

WA SUPREME COURT GRANTS EXTENSION. The Washington State Supreme Court has granted charter schools additional time to file a Motion for Reconsideration regarding the ruling that came Labor Day weekend that found the alternative public schools unconstitutional. The deadline has been extended from September 24 to October 23. This means that all nine of the state’s charter schools, which remain open and continue to do everything in their power to ensure there’s no disruption in valuable learning time for students, will receive their public allocations until the new October deadline. It also suggests that the court is fully aware of the collateral damage of the ruling, giving charter schools additional time “to thoroughly explore the Court’s decision and the full range of its legal implications.”

ESA LAWSUIT. It seems that with every new school choice program comes a legal challenge, and this is in fact the case with Nevada’s new Education Savings Account (ESA) program. “It’s sickening that a group with the slogan of protecting individual rights and liberties is in fact doing the opposite and challenging a program that would give parents the freedom to exercise their right to ensure their child gets the best education possible,” said CER president Kara Kerwin when news of the lawsuit broke late August. Thankfully, history has been on the side of parents and students when it comes to legal challenges against school choice (most notably in the 2002 U.S. Supreme Court Zelman v. Simmons-Harris case, and most recently in North Carolina), and a national law firm with experience defending parents and students’ rights has been hired to help in Nevada. Five families have boldly joined the Institute for Justice (IJ) to defend the ESA program intended to give nearly all Silver State parents a choice in how to use education funds best in order to fit their child’s unique individual learning needs.

NEW VISION FOR PARENT POWER. Great Lakes State lawmaker Rep. Tim Kelley (R- 94th District), Chair of the Michigan House Appropriations Subcommittee on School Aid and Member of the House Education Committee, last week released his own vision for Detroit schools. This plan comes as both Gov. Snyder and the Coalition for the Future of Detroit School Children released their own proposals to improve education conditions in the Motor City. Rep. Kelly’s plan aims to expand school choice and empower parents, even going as far to suggest “Parent Power Cards” in light of the barrier that is the state’s Blaine Amendment. Despite that constitutional barrier, we applaud this leader for championing the idea that we must create conditions that put parents, not bureaucrats, in the driver’s seat when it comes to education.

REJECTED DESPITE DEMAND. A proposed arts charter school in Georgia, Columbia County School for the Arts, wants to be the first charter school in its county and provide an arts-based curriculum for students in grades K-12. Many local community members have expressed their support for the school, which is evident by the 900 students preregistered for just 794 spots. However, the school has been denied not once, but twice, by the state charter commission, even after many of the commission’s concerns regarding the school’s application were addressed. Now, the school is going back for another try for approval from the commission. This school’s struggles are why we continue to advocate for multiple and independent authorizers; charter school commissions are not independent from the traditional education bureaucracy, and are often antagonistic and the antithesis of the charter school concept. An effective “commission” requires complete independence to have a positive impact on the development of more and better education opportunities for students.

COMING SOON. Stay tuned for CER’s Education Tax Credit Laws Across the States 2015 Ranking & Scorecard out next week!