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NEWSWIRE: October 20, 2015

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Vol. 17, No. 41

CERBERUS IN MOTOR CITY? Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s latest plan announced yesterday to fix the woes of Detroit Public Schools is more akin to Greek mythology’s three-headed beast Cerberus, charged with guarding Hades against the strength and will of proven Herculean efforts that would actually bring about substantive change. Based on the flashy graphics and charts released by the Gov. on Monday, it is still not clear who will be in charge to take on the $515 million deficit or ensuring better outcomes for kids in Motor City, where only 11 percent of 8th graders are proficient in math and 45 percent proficient in reading. At the heart of the proposal is splitting DPS into two entities – a new district called the Detroit Community School District, and the old district. It would also create a Detroit Education Commission, made up of appointees from the mayor and governor, which somehow “engages with the community” by hiring yet another bureaucratic layer called a “Chief Education Officer.” Adding layers of bureaucracy only means that decisions are further away from the hands of parents. Like the Greek tragedy, these departments are akin to Cerberus, protecting the “underworld” from the failure of achievement, but what we really need is a Herculean effort that increases #ParentPower and accountability.

SOMETIMES THREE IS BETTER THAN NONE. Tomorrow, the House is scheduled to vote on the reauthorization of the SOAR Act, which would provide funding for the successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program to continue. But what many don’t realize, and what the Examiner’s Mark Lerner astutely points out, is that the SOAR Act is a three-sector initiative providing funding not only for vouchers, but traditional public schools and public charter schools, which educate nearly half of D.C. students today. Eliminating just one would put the federal funding for the other two sectors at jeopardy. The D.C. OSP has been providing excellent education options for District families who need it most for the last 11 years. Its success is revealed in its parental satisfaction rates, graduation rates, and savings for taxpayers, to name a few. Take action NOW to tell Congress to reauthorize this program that’s helping students succeed!

BORN ON THE BAYOU. Three years ago, the Louisiana Department of Education asked the GEO Foundation to consider starting schools in the Pelican State after getting wind of a report revealing charter schools managed by the GEO Foundation were performing in the top 25 percent nationwide when it comes to growth in math and language arts. But as any smart organization wanting to start a school would do, GEO assessed the situation to determine what it would take to open a successful school from the start. This August 2015, GEO opened its doors and it has been well worth the wait, with Superintendent John White coming to visit the school to see how it’s thriving in its mission to serve kids. Louisiana charter school students acquire on average 50 more days of learning in reading and 65 more in math than their traditional school counterparts. However the state’s C-rated charter school law could use some improvements so that more kids have the chance to attend schools of choice, which is why it’s more critical than ever for Louisiana residents to vote for an education-reform minded governor this Saturday. Get the scoop on where candidates stand at Education50.

EXPANDING CHARTERS IN MA. Two charter schools in Massachusetts are making gains in closing the achievement gap. SABIS International Charter School (SICS) and Holyoke Community Charter School (HCCS) both outperform their peers in state, district, and surrounding suburban districts in all subgroups in English and Math. Minority and low-income students at both of these schools had higher performance than their peers across the board. However, the chance for more schools like these to open and alleviate achievement gaps is restricted in Massachusetts thanks to barriers with the state’s charter school law. Governor Baker has proposed changes to lift the cap, however his proposal is modest. Some important steps for helping charter schools grow and thrive in the Bay State include eliminating the caps completely and allowing for independent authorizers.

TICK-TOCK WASHINGTON. The clock is surely ticking in the Evergreen State as October 23 is the last day for charter school parents, advocates and leaders to file a Motion for Reconsideration with the Washington State Supreme Court regarding its ruling that charter schools are unconstitutional. While Attorney General Bob Ferguson has asked the Court to reconsider as Washington charter schools remain open and continue to serve 1,300 students, it’s critical that Washington students be allowed to remain in their chosen educational environments for more than just this year. With the number of students on charter school waitlists at over one million nationwide, charter schools have proven they have a place in the U.S. education system and are meeting a critical demand for excellent education options. Visit SaveWACharterSchools.com and click “Take Action” to sign the petition.

SURVEY SAYS…If you are a charter school, we want to hear from you! CER is encouraging all charter schools to take our 2015 National Charter Schools Survey. The survey results are analyzed and published as CER’s Survey of America’s Charter Schools, a vital publication that since 1996 has helped set the record straight in the media and in statehouses on charter schools. Click here to take the survey, or contact CER at 800-521-2118 or tlosey@edreform.com if you would prefer a hard copy.