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Newswire November 21st, 2017

TAX REFORM. The focus on the economy has consumed much of the nation’s attention as of late, but CER is continuing to drive the potential for education opportunity to share the spotlight with economic opportunity.

First the good news: Support for tax credits to enable learners at all levels to gain additional and new educational opportunities is growing. CER has engaged dozens of congressional leaders in a discussion of the importance of allowing a tax credit to benefit entire families – with students able to access new private scholarship dollars and adults to access new apprenticeship and workforce training programs. While that proposed initiative did not make it into the tax bill – yet – what did get through both houses is an expansion of the 529 program, to help K-12students. More needs to be done to reach students most in need, but it’s a good start.​

Now the not so-good-news, but we are optimistic… Charter schools were inadvertently swept under the fiscal savings rug through the elimination of something called private activity bonds, which provide charter schools access to private capital to build facilities, that they would otherwise not be able to afford. Understand that most states do not allow public charters to utilize construction and capital dollars (and no state fully funds charters) (for perspective on the issue check out the this op-ed in the Washington Post). We are supporting the charter movement’s efforts to educate leaders in Congress to not eliminate private activity bonds – and we are cautiously optimistic of the outcome.

BLENDED BEYOND BORDERS. How do we make that happen, you ask? The Clayton Christensen Institute has taken a fascinating look at on-line learning, asking “how exactly the rise in technology correlates with fundamental shifts in teaching, learning, and student outcomes,” analyzing how brick-and-mortar schools in three countries use online learning to deliver content in new, more flexible ways. For ten years the Institute has been studying how schools can use technology to better differentiate students’ needs—i.e. blended learning—and in this study, they analyze data from respondents in Brazil, Malaysia, and South Africa, along with case studies of specific school models. Check out the report here: Blended beyond borders

VOUCHERS BACK IN? Progressives on the left and right have often been aligned on the importance of social justice through school choice. Berkeley Profs John Coons and Steve Sugarman who proposed the original voucher idea in California say it may be time to bring the issue back to California. In an op-ed in The San Francisco Chronicle they point to a statewide poll that found 55 percent of respondents favoring “government subsidies for low-income families to enable parents to choose a private school for their children.” The professors believe that, unlike previous voucher plans, which have been voted down in the Golden State, an appropriately drafted initiative to allow taxpayer funded scholarships, or a tax credit plan to encourage charitable funding of such scholarship, supported by a well-run campaign, could succeed.

DON’T FORGET… NY ED TECH WEEK. Yes, the annual global innovation festival is less than a month away: Dec. 18-20 at NYU’s Washington Square Campus. A packed agenda, a truly impressive roster of speakers, and great special features – including an Innovation Gallery (featuring more than 50 seed-to-growth-stage EdTech investment opportunities, EdTech products, and the chance to talk with CEOs about their companies), Open Labs at innovative education organizations and landmarks around New York City, and small-group two-hour Masterclasses presented by in-demand experts – again make it the must-attend event of the season. Hope to see you there.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL. As we head out to spend a wonderful long weekend with family and friends (and hope that you’re doing the same) we leave you a short list of things that we give thanks for this holiday season:

Opportunity, especially educational opportunity – for everyone – so that all kids might someday have access to a school that best meets their needs.

We are thankful to the legislators and policymakers who provide such opportunities,

We are thankful to the entrepreneurs and innovators who ensure that our nation’s educators, learners at all levels and parents have access to the best this nation can muster,

We are thankful to our nation’s leaders, our families, our members, our staffs and all those who toil for educational excellence,

And we are thankful to God for providing us with such bounty, and pray that others may share in all we have.

Enjoy the holiday!