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Opinion: Building Up Barriers

Hillary Clinton’s position on school choice hurts low-income students

March 16, 2016
Rachel Campos-Duffy
U.S. News & World Report

Last month, presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton unveiled a new agenda she promised would tear down barriers to opportunity for low-income and minority communities. While she was able to garner a few headlines, it doesn’t change the fact that she opposes the surest way to give children the best shot at a better life: expanding school choice and access to charter schools.

I say that as a Latina mother of seven who has taken advantage of educational options for my own children, and who has seen school choice policies improve thousands of lives in my home state of Wisconsin. It has clearly worked for Hispanic families in Florida, Nevada, Arizona and elsewhere.

Charter schools in particular have proven a lifeline for millions of children stuck in chronically failing schools. That’s especially true in some urban areas where fewer than one-in-three students are proficient in reading and writing. For these children, charter schools are their only chance to escape a life of hopelessness and poverty.

Clinton hasn’t always been so opposed. In fact, as first lady, she was a strong supporter of the charter school movement. During a 1998 White House meeting, she advocated that “charter schools are a way of bringing teachers and parents and communities together.”

But as a presidential candidate, Clinton has flipped to a steadfast opponent of school choice, making no exception in the instance of failing traditional public schools. As she put it last year, “I want parents to be able to exercise choice within the public school system – not outside of it.”

As a mother myself, I cannot imagine a more heartless response to the millions of children whose lives depend on access to charter

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The Miseducation of CNN (And Bernie Sanders)

A question posed to Bernie Sanders at last night’s Ohio democratic debate was a missed opportunity to powerfully educate the public about charter schools.  Typically, information is power, but when the information is bad, all we have is mush.  Following is Sanders’ exchange with the questioner and Roland Martin, a well-informed media commentator with a passion for education: (with some of my own commentary sprinkled in)

MARTIN:  Since I have a brother and two sisters who are teachers, and one who is a teacher’s aide, let’s go to a teacher.  We have Caitlyn Dunn, she helps lead a charter school here in Columbus, Ohio.  She did Teach for America and saw the inequities in our school system, and she says she is undecided.  So, you got a shot.  Go for it.

DUNN:  Thank you so much for taking my question.  An article was released in the Columbus Dispatch Friday announcing the schools producing top student gains from around the state of Ohio.  Of these, one-third of those schools producing these results were charters right here in Columbus, Ohio.  So, knowing this, and also having similar narratives from across the country, do you think that charter schools are a viable way to educate children in low-income communities, or do you think that you would continue, as President, giving money to traditional public schools?

During this time, apparently CNN’s Teleprompter was miscued by an ill-informed editor, because rather than abbreviate the question correctly, CNN produced this bastardized version, suggesting that charters were not public schools.


Adding insult to injury, Mr. Sanders seemed to create a new class of charter schools, one that does

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Charter School Bills Filed in Kentucky

Charter school, voucher bills filed

by Allison Ross
March 2, 2013

As widely expected, Republican legislators in both the Kentucky House and Senate have submitted bills just before the filing deadlines to try to bring charter schools to the commonwealth.

In addition, Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Burlington, has filed a bill that would create a school voucher-like program allowing special needs students to redirect per-pupil public school funding to pay for private schools or private tutoring.

Efforts to bring vouchers and charter schools to the Bluegrass State have been going on for years, but with a new Republican governor that has championed charter schools and vouchers and a House that could be moving closer to Republican control, the chances seem greater compared to recent years that such legislation could pass.

Tuesday was the last day for House members to file bills this session, and Thursday is the last day for Senate members to do so.

The charter school bill filed Tuesday by Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, is similar to those he’s filed in previous years.

The bill, SB 253, would essentially create a five-year pilot charter school program in Jefferson and Fayette counties, with a maximum of two charter schools allowed to open per year in each county. It would create a “Kentucky Public Charter School Commission,” which would have members appointed by the governor and could approve charter applications and provide oversight.

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Charter Schools Have Succeeded in Saving Public Education From Further Failure

When four education professors author a report about a change in public education governance that actually turns the incentives and power structure from top down control to bottom up accountability, it’s unlikely to result in anything but misrepresentations and confusion. That’s precisely what occurred in the report covered by Business Insider on January 6, one that attempts to discredit the movement that Time Magazine once called a grassroots revolution by comparing it to the mortgage crisis. The authors believe and say as much in their report that parents of students in charter schools – some 2.5 million of them – actually don’t freely make choices. These “we know best” academics infer that poor people, in particular, are not capable of doing so given their poverty or low income status (Note: 60% of all charters have a mean of 60% or more children of color and as many have a mean of more than 60% at risk, but they are not all poor, minority schools.) They clearly have never met a charter parent – or perhaps any low income parent – who despite their challenges know their children better than anyone else about what works for their child’s education.

The education academics’ inference -wrongly – is that we charter schools give a choice to people who are not qualified, much in the same way that the sub-prime housing bust was a result of giving mortgages to people who could not afford to put money down, on houses whose values were inflated. In that case, if housing prices went up, the buyer would win. If not, the taxpayer would lose – and lose they did.

In charter schools, parents make a decision to take their child from, or not enroll them, in the assigned public school. They are in

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Local View: Charter schools are high-quality option

by Katie Linehan
Lincoln Journal Star
February 4, 2016

Much has been written recently regarding charter schools. To be clear: charter schools are public schools, open to all students, accountable to the public, and authorized by the state.

Charter schools do not cost taxpayers more. Rather, funding follows the student.

While many parents in Nebraska enjoy some ability to choose among existing schools, high performing public options are often at capacity.

Parents of means enjoy the opportunity to then choose among private school options. Low income parents, however, are left with fewer options and, far too often, their only options are low performing schools. Frequently, this results in a child’s zip code determining the quality of education she receives.

Despite increased spending and good intentions, student outcomes in Nebraska have failed to keep pace with the average rate of improvement in other states. Meanwhile, the achievement gap between white and minority children in Nebraska has grown and is now among the largest in the nation.

Charter schools are one example of a reform that has proven to benefit students, and under-served students in particular. The highest performing charter schools in the country are not only closing the achievement gap, but reversing it.

Given their positive outcomes, the charter school movement is growing. After twenty five years, charter schools are working for more than two million children in America, doubling the number of students served over the past decade. Forty three states and the District of Columbia have passed charter school legislation.

No charter school law has been repealed and weak laws, like that in Ohio, have been reformed. In 2015, students attending charter schools in Arizona performed as well as all students in the state of Massachusetts (the highest performing state in the country) on the

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Editorial: The speaker speaks up

Boston Herald
February 2, 2016

House Speaker Robert DeLeo doubled down on the benefits of charter schools last week, and frankly that’s a beautiful thing for the thousands of parents and students who are tired of being on waiting lists for the school of their choice.

In his annual address to House members, the speaker made clear that school districts that want charters “should be given the chance to pursue them, or any other option that they may deem necessary, in order to do right by their students.”

The next day DeLeo, appearing on Boston Herald Radio, said, “We have to give every child in the state the opportunity to succeed and quite frankly, I have so many parents who come in to talk to me, some of which are almost crying at the fact that they want to see their child in X, Y, Z school. And I feel that, who am I to deprive that child, if they have that opportunity, not to be able to attend a school of their choice?”

No child’s future should be determined by lottery — and yet that is the sad case for so many left on waiting lists by the luck of the draw. Gov. Charlie Baker is committed to expanding the number of charter school offerings in the state — preferably through legislation. But there’s the ballot question alternative if that fails.

And it speaks to the mindless opposition of the education establishment when Massachusetts Teachers Association President Barbara Madeloni can say — as she did to State House News Service, “It is incredibly disappointing that the speaker appears to be buying into the anti-public education agenda.”

Well, charter schools are public schools — but whatever!

DeLeo said, “When I take a look at some of those MCAS scores , and see

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A School of Choice

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”

This is the motto found on Columbus Preparatory Academy’s (CPA) website — a K-8 public charter school in Columbus, Ohio that’s not only earned a National Blue Ribbon distinction, but has also been recognized with an “Excellent with Distinction” award for four consecutive years.

Because public charter schools are free from traditional rules and regulations, while still being held accountable for results, CPA is able to help students succeed using an innovative curriculum and methodology called The Blitz©.

“The Blitz© is an exciting way to teach students to create, motivate, be a team player, and above all, be responsible for their own success in testing and academics. It is a year-long data tracking tool that customizes each individual student’s learning experience based on strengths and learning opportunities.”

CPA implemented The Blitz© in 2009 in part to respond to the challenges it was facing, such as inconsistent leadership, enrollment, teacher turnover, and parent involvement. During the school’s first few years, CPA was deemed a school in academic emergency by the Ohio Department of Education.

However after implementing The Blitz©, the school was able to achieve excellence, creating a culture that “embScreen Shot 2016-01-25 at 5.57.55 PModies a collaborative momentum toward closing the achievement gap… and a school-wide drive toward excellence, every student at CPA feels like a champion.”

Schools of choice like CPA are able to overcome challenges because they’re free from the traditional bureaucracy and red tape that can limit a school’s ability to innovate.

Today we celebrate schools of choice like CPA that are committed to doing whatever it takes to meet students’ needs and the policies that allow them the freedom

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A Leader’s Choice

“It’s not an experiment anymore. It’s not a demonstration. It’s not a what-if. After 20 years, we have overwhelming evidence . . . of kids, parents, families who have found what they were looking for in the charter school movement here in the Commonwealth of Mass.”

Those are words from Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker as he addressed the crowd of parents, educators and advocates at the State House last week as they prepared to press lawmakers to lift the cap on charter schools.

Since October 2015, the Governor has been pushing legislation that would allow 12 new or expanded charter schools statewide annually in low-performing districts.

While eliminating caps completely and allowing for independent authorizers could really help charter schools grow and thrive in the Bay State, the expansion would without a doubt be a positive step forward, as the state has nearly the s37000kidsMAchartersame number of children on charter school wait lists (about 37,000) as they do enrolled in public charter schools (approximately 40,000). Compared to traditional district schools, public charter school students in Massachusetts score proficient or advanced in all subject tests at every grade level. In fact, some of the state’s urban charter schools with populations that are mostly low-income and minority students are ranked among some of the best schools in the state.

“Governor Baker is putting a lot of political capital on the line for school choice for some of the poorest students in the state,” Mary Kissel of the Wall Street Journal notes. Despite the fact that charter schools have disrupted traditional public education in positive ways, there’s still reluctance and backlash to expand choices because of pushback from groups like

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WA Charter School Update: Motion for Reconsideration Deadline Extended to October 23

September 21, 2015
from the Washington State Charter Schools Association:

State Supreme Court Grants WA Charters Additional Time to File Motion for Reconsideration

Last Friday, the State Supreme Court granted a request by the Washington State Charter Schools Association (WA Charters) to extend the deadline to file a Motion for Reconsideration to October 23. This additional time gives WA Charters and our member public charter schools an opportunity to thoroughly explore the Court’s decision and the full range of its legal implications.

For example, the minority opinion argues that the same glitch the Court says disqualifies public charter schools from receiving public funding could also de-fund Running Start, tribal compact schools, schools for the deaf and blind, and any other public school program that isn’t directly supervised by an elected board. We requested more time to dive deeper into the ruling and its implications, and the Court has agreed.

In the meantime, all nine public charter schools remain open and continue to serve, engage, and inspire around 1,300 students across the state. Deanne Hilburn, whose sixth grade son Austin is attending Excel Public Charter School in Kent, said she is “so frustrated and angry” that this new and excellent school option could be taken away from her son. At Excel, Austin is thriving and more excited about learning than his mom can ever remember.

WA Charters will spend the next month preparing a Motion for Reconsideration and examining every possible option available to us to keep these public charter schools open for children like Austin for the remainder of the school year, and ensure parents and communities have high-quality public charter school options well into the future.


Show your support for charter schools on social media with the hashtag #saveWACharterSchools!

FROM THE DESK OF… Jeanne Allen, Senior Fellow: Recommendations on the GOP Presidential Debate

In the hands of some very seasoned campaign advisors, most presidential candidates take a safe approach to debates. With a relatively short time to get your talking points out, numerous issues to cover and lots of competitors working hard to hog the stage, they are advised to stay focused. But the measure of a candidate is what they do – and say – when programming is impossible. Who these people are and how they’d do as our president is best measured by dealing with issues that every one of us can relate to, the most communal of issues. That’s why I’m hoping that the candidates find opportunities across every issue to demonstrate their understanding that education is the great equalizer, and its connection to the economy and our international competitiveness, our peace, our safety at home and abroad is all connected to how well we educate our youth and our adults. Education is a big field, of course, so I’ll be looking for the guy or gal who is able to talk about education in the context of the most important current events we face today in improving and revolutionizing our schools. In my book, the candidate who touches well on the following three most important themes will win my vote.

Number One: Celebrate charter schools

Charter schools provide choice and diversity to parents and teachers, and challenge the status quo to do better. They are held accountable by performance contracts and in states where charters are largely independent from state and local bureaucracies they thrive. Charter schools are the reason we talk about standards today, have performance pay and teacher quality on the table and have closed some achievement gaps. Charters have helped breathe new life into cities like Washington, D.C. and New Orleans (just two out of

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