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Morning Shots

On the Second Day of Christmas CER Gave to Me…

Model Legislation
And a Nominee for Opportunity!

 

The second in our 12-ish days of Christmas series, intended to bring gifts to education reformers everywhere!

 

screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-6-18-13-pmby Ted Rebarber*

Charter schools have become the single most effective public school reform to date. They provide opportunities to families and the freedom for schools to innovate, improve and address pressing needs without delays from bureaucracy or political pressure.

But laws make all the difference in the degree of opportunities afforded to families and freedom afforded to schools.

Of the 13 strongest charter laws, 12 were passed between 1991 and 1999, and it is these 12 states alone that account for over 56 percent of existing charter schools.  Only nine states passed a charter law between 2000 and 2015 and they opened a combined total of 233 schools, serving so few students that their impact on a national scale is almost negligible.

Strong laws provide for:

  • operational autonomy for charters, allowing a wide range of providers to innovate and meet the needs of their particular students;
  • multiple charter authorizers in order to guard against regulatory creep, including at least one independent entity focused on authorizing charters;
  • a high or no cap on schools and few obstacles to growth, allowing charters to scale up and offer parents multiple options in convenient locations;
  • accountability to parents through choice, while authorizers maintain public trust by eliminating fraudulent or obviously incompetent operators;
  • equitable funding for students and families in charter schools, including capital (facility) funds as well as operational funds.

We know from 23 years of research and practice that strong laws result in strong schools. That’s why we’re relentless in our pursuit for strong charter school laws that allow charter schools the freedom and flexibility. We hope 2017 brings the gift of stronger

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“For Too Many Families, The Skies Have Not Cleared”: Massachusetts’ Time To Shine for Education Opportunity

On Thursday, July 14th, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker stood in front of the  State House among families, students, legislators, and residents to advocate for the importance of expanding educational opportunities for children.

Students and their families — likely some of the more than 32,000 on charter school wait lists — echoed throughout the downpour of rain as they chanted, “lift the cap!” in support of lifting current limitations — or a “cap” — on charter schools in the Bay State. Currently, there are limits on the number of charter schools allowed to open in Massachusetts, the number of students allowed, and funding limitations.

Recently, Question 2 was added to November’s election ballot as a way to give residents a voice in whether authorizing either the approval of up to twelve new charter schools or the expansion of student enrollment in existing charter schools would provide more opportunities for students to succeed academically.

During the rainy rally, Governor Baker stated that “for too many families and too many kids, the skies have not cleared, the sun has not shined…too many do not get the chance and opportunity to go to the school of their choice and to have the chance to fulfill their dream that most kids and their families do in the Commonwealth.”

As Governor Baker and the families behind him rallied for greater parent power through charter schools, the skies cleared and the sun began to shine possibly signifying that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is ready for a bright change of opportunities.

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Mississippi’s Charter School Law: A Sad But Sitting Duck for a Lawsuit

A group claiming to work against poverty has filed a lawsuit against Mississippi’s fledgling and very modest charter school law that was intended to help poor kids. This is ironic at best, and harmful to kids, at worst. The Southern Poverty Law Center should be about eradicating poverty through the very foundation that holds the key to a child’s future and upward mobility – education! That great charter schools all over the nation are solving the achievement gap for the poor should be their model.

But then again, Mississippi’s charter school law was a sitting duck. sittingduck

As we argued when it was being debated, proponents should have demanded a law that allows for authorizing by school districts and universities, and provide for a high number of charters that could create a natural support base from the get-go. Allowing for institutions already publicly approved to spend taxpayer dollars to authorize charter schools not only avoids the creation of new bureaucracies but is legally sound.

Charter commissions, while held up as model, are fraught with challenges. In the few states that have them, commissions are becoming agents of charter-loathing state education departments who tack on more regulations and have narrow views of what innovation really is in public education.

That’s why we support and are advocating for strong laws that provide for multiple authorizers, a high or no cap on schools, fiscal equity and operational autonomy.

Laws that don’t provide for these are not laws worth having. They take just as much political capital to pass as does a pilot or weak law, but once enacted, they create more momentum to withstand increasing political pressure to roll back and over-regulate.

Like a weak-kneed bully who goes after the smallest kid on the block, Mississippi’s

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Are We Doing Enough to Affect Change in Education?

On Thursday, May 7th, Paul Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. hosted its 2nd Annual “My Brother’s Keeper…Responding to the Call” event focused on effective efforts to prepare young boys of color for college and community action surrounding those strategies. The forum strengthened the dialogue about key issues like inequality and the achievement gap, an especially significant discussion given the recent happenings in Baltimore, Maryland.

Jami Dunham, CEO of Paul Public Charter School, D.C. native, and Howard University alumna, explained how central education is to helping the country’s most disadvantaged communities, telling those in attendance last night, “What happened in Baltimore is a reflection of the adult culture that has failed those children. We as adults have failed to give them the tools to succeed.”

Dr. Robert Simmons, Chief Innovation Officer at D.C. Public Schools, challenged the audience, saying, “D.C. could easily become Baltimore. We need to ask ourselves if we are doing enough to affect change in education.”

And in fact, just today the Washington Post Editorial Board made this same connection, writing:

The state of Baltimore’s public schools was spotlighted in the aftermath of riots that rocked a city mourning the death of a young black man, Freddie Gray, while in police custody. Bad schools are only one element of urban dysfunction. But they are both a consequence and a cause of inequality, and improving them is essential to keeping another generation from being trapped by poverty. There’s no excusing violence. But as the attorney for Mr. Gray’s family said of the young people who took part in the rioting, “The education system has failed them.

Giving poor parents the kind of alternatives that wealthier families take for granted would help. Some competitive pressure on the school system might help, too. But Maryland is

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Maryland Students Deserve a Break

by Jeanne Allen

When governors win historic elections, one expects legislators to not only respect such a mandate but to try to work collaborate on changes that help those for whom adults should work the hardest, and that’s our kids. Such expectations for Maryland, however, seem sadly out of reach right now. This week, the Maryland Senate Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee took up Governor Larry Hogan’s very modest proposal to amend the state’s charter school law, in order to increase quality educational opportunities for students who currently have no options other than their assigned school, which may not fit their needs. Yet rather than even debate the need for more and better choices, this allegedly thoughtful body ignored his proposals altogether and actually took action to make Maryland’s education law less accountable to parents and taxpayers! They did so by removing the advisory role of the State Board of Education and by taking any authority away from charter school principals to choose their own staff!

This was news to many legislators with whom advocates spoke this week. Indeed even the Governor’s own staff seems to believe that they have made progress. That’s because there has been little time given to actually understanding how charter school laws are supposed to work and a lot of time given to listening to mythology and misinformation about this very successful education reform that has helped 42 other states and The District of Columbia transform schooling for all types of children, particularly the poor and disadvantaged among us.

The reality is that a charter school law that permits school districts to dictate the terms under when and how a new public school is formed and control all of its hiring, curriculum decisions and funding is not a charter school law at all. It’s simply

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