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Newswire – June 12, 2018

MASS MILESTONE. Recalling amazing milestones in educational change (something that all too many today think is too hard to pursue) the Pioneer Institute reminds of the 25th anniversary of the landmark 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act (MERA), the act which ushered in standards, testing and charter schools. “People should remember Governor Weld’s extraordinary K-12 education leadership,” writes Jamie Gass, director of Pioneer’s Center for School Reform.

“…in MERA’s early years, state educrats repeatedly tried revolt-of-the-clerks tactics to subvert the law’s intent. When these flaky functionaries promulgated draft English standards that included Ebonics, Weld and legislative leaders responded by radically overhauling the state education governance structure to hold the bureaucrats accountable.”

“[Weld] appointed his former gubernatorial rival and firebrand Boston University President, John Silber, to chair the state Board of Education. Just as Weld had planned, Silber fed misbehaving state educrats bucketsful of cod liver oil. It was Weld’s tough-minded board appointees who redirected the policy conversations on standards, testing, accountability, and charter schools. (Happy Silver Anniversary, MERA. It was CER’s first year in business and we remember the work well!)

EDTECH IS THE MEANS, NOT THE END. An accomplished edtechie takes the case to Forbes.com this week in “EdTech Should Be Only A Means, Not An End, For Your Local Schools” –about EdTech and what it means, or should, and the danger of it becoming a fad defined more by owning the latest in hardware bells and software whistles, and less by its true value. Adam Geller, Founder & CEO of Edthena sums it all up nicely with this simple question: “Why is the conversation about the classroom technology we want to possess instead of about the student learning we hope to see?” And answered with this equally simple statement: “The goal for students isn’t technology-centered learning. It is problem-centered learning using various types of high-tech and low-tech tools.”

Agreeing agreeably even if we don’t always agree. The New York Times kicked up some dust last week when it ran a piece titled “Charter Schools Have a Betsy DeVos Problem,” (see last week’s Newswire for our take on the matter). But you don’t have to be a DeVos or Trump supporter to see the danger in that argument. To wit, Minnesota’s Joe Nathan – a self-described Paul Wellstone-Hubert Humphrey liberal and student community organizer Saul Alinsky – who while noting his disagreement with the EdSec on many issues, pointed out the value of left-right coalitions in winning approval of important ideas (Joe was a leading force in crafting nation’s first public charter school law in Minnesota). “Isn’t one of the longtime lessons of America that broad coalitions can help produce progress, though coalition members disagree on many things?” Joe concluded, and to which we say “Bravo!” That’s what happens when you put kids first, and adult egos away. Thank you, Joe, for reminding us and the Times that we can agree to disagree on some things and still be united on education opportunity. That’s why Joe Nathan is one of CER’s 25th Anniversary Silver Honorees for his commitment always putting principle ahead of politics.

NEVADA PRIMARY NOTES.  Educational choice is at the heart of the Nevada gubernatorial primary. Democrats Steve Sisolak, who served on the state Board of Regents, and Chris Giunchigliani, a special education teacher for more than 30 years, are vying for their party’s nomination for governor to replace Gov. Brian Sandoval, while Republicans will choose between (among others) Attorney General Adam Laxalt, and State Treasurer Dan Schwartz.

Schwartz has vowed to “not sign a single bill until he has a parental choice [funding] bill on his desk,” while Sisolak has said he’d donate his salary to charity until the schools are “turned around.” Laxalt, whose father was Senator Paul Laxalt and a respected leader by both parties in the 80s, is far ahead in the race. His edreform pedigree is that he successfully defended the constitutionality of the state’s school choice program and Schwartz wrote the regulations for it. (Laxalt’s campaign is actually using the Dems’ education experience against them pointing out that “…both tout themselves as education champions based on their long political careers and involvement in education, while at the same time complaining about how broken our education system — the one they’ve been overseeing for decades — remains today.” Point taken.). Serving as a backdrop for all of this on the Democratic side, is the discord between the statewide teachers union and the Clark County affiliate which has extended to its gubernatorial endorsements. Although Giunchigliani served as the president of both the Clark County Education Association (1983–87) and the Nevada State Education Association (1987–91), she only secured the endorsement of the latter, with the local union endorsing Sisolak instead and going on the attack against one of their own.

One question for Nevada voters, as posed by the 74, is not whether Sandoval’s successor will continue to prioritize education, but how and by how much.

Our question however, is a bit more pointed.

Which candidate will be the leader in ensuring that personalized, educational opportunities are not only protected and advanced but multiplied? Only time will tell. But one thing is certain – Nevada’s rapidly rising enrollment and too few great educational opportunities threaten its economic health and the welfare of countless families.

They don’t call it “Real Clear Policy” for nothin’. Friend, colleague, fellow edreform pioneer (and honorary co-chair of CER’s Silver Anniversary Summit) Gov. Jeb Bush, and Steve Klinsky, Founder and CEO of Modern States Education Alliance, offer a compelling plan that would lower the cost of tuition (by up to 25 percent) and create an immediate “on ramp” to college for students. Read more…

BREAKING.  CER announced last week its illustrious first Co-Chairs of the October 25-16th Silver Anniversary Summit & Celebration, “Opportunity, Innovation & the Road to ONE America,” taking place Miami, FL. Check it out! The event co-chairs will lead the summit in developing strategies that fuse together collective efforts in education reform and innovation across every juncture. The summit will be a unique chance to mix and mingle with the leading lights of modern education reform, and most importantly, to learn about how to advance opportunity and innovation in the 21st century.

You can always use a Reality Check. This week Jeanne talks with Carol D’Amico Executive Vice President of Mission Advancement and Philanthropy with Strada Education Network (SEN). Carol’s background as a nationally recognized expert in designing and leading strategies related to higher education, workforce development and business-led involvement with education reform has led her to her unique position at SEN where, since 2013, she has played a leading role in developing national and state-based philanthropic initiatives involving the higher education, business and workforce development sectors. Listen online at edreform.com/realitycheck.

The AFT: coming to a town near you. One might call her an “uninvited co-conspirator” but that would be mean. Still, what else can you say about AFT president Randi Weingarten who last week inserted herself into Rhode Island politics by travelling to Providence to lobby for a $250 bond issue and to buddy up with the Providence Teachers Union which is stewing over stalled contract negotiations – which we’re sure Randi’s will help resolve given her calming presence wherever she goes.

Don’t forget! Meet us in Miami Oct. 25-26 for our Silver Anniversary Summit + Celebration. More info at edreform.com.

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Founded in 1993, the Center for Education Reform aims to expand educational opportunities that lead to improved economic outcomes for all Americans — particularly our youth — ensuring that conditions are ripe for innovation, freedom and flexibility throughout U.S. education.