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An Abbreviated Story of Labor: What Once Was but Is No More

Once upon a time, in this country, early in the last century hoards of Italians, (like me!), Irish, German, Jewish peoples and more descended on this land in search of something better. From the schools to the sweatshops, they took jobs that paid little and demanded much. Haste, greed and neglect soon became the norm in the American workforce. Labor unions stepped, to collectively support and advance the rights of people to work and be given adequate wages, benefits and a quality environment. It was great, when it was needed.

Today those same unions — in this case in education — no longer protect people who are being abused, neglected, forced to work 15-hour days with no break for food or bathroom. Because of enlightened leaders, workers and yes, labor’s past contributions, today we and our institutions are protected. Those protections however, may have swung too far past the original intentions. For when it comes to teachers unions, protections now are all about labor not product.

Consider this program is overwhelmingly popular ongoing legal attack by the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and their allies in successfully impeding the Louisiana scholarship program. This program is overwhelmingly popular with parents and allows income-eligible students educational opportunities they would not have had otherwise.

Or how about just hours after North Carolina passes an opportunity scholarship program of their own this past July, the NC Association of Educators begins to mount a legal challenge.

The national unions have been fighting efforts to allow parents to turnaround failing schools. They oppose California’s parent trigger law and have well-documented tools for members who succeeded in squashing a similar proposal in Connecticut. The unions not only oppose real performance evaluations and parent choice but even standards and testing, funding teachers to rally in Washington over efforts

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Intriguing At Best, Rarely Accurate – Annual PDK Poll

The PDK annual poll on “The Public’s Attitudes Towards the Public Schools” is always intriguing but rarely an accurate assessment of what people think. Since I founded the Center for Education Reform, the poll has consistently defied commonly accepted polling practices that expect questions to be defined before they are asked. Thus year after year, while parents are clamoring for options and new innovations, and are frustrated with the status quo, the PDK-Gallup Poll reports support for convention and opposition to Parent Power. This is the first in many years the media has covered it!


Why I Chose a Charter School

Hello, I’m Briana McManus.

I am in the eleventh grade at the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School – Parkside Campus and interning at CER for three weeks as a part of my fellowship to obtain job experience and to prepare me for life after high school.

While reviewing different articles, statistics, and facts at my internship, I wondered what influences help parents decide what school is right for their child? I came up with two factors parents consider to see if it is a good school for their child. Does an extra-curricular activity influence their decision? Or is the school widely known in the area or recognized worldwide?

In reviewing articles, the idea of extra-curricular activities made me think if this is why parents choose a certain school for their child. Are parents sending their children to schools because they will receive scholarships in sports? Is this because they are focused on creating the next big sports icon instead of the next person to win the Nobel peace prize? Or is this school mentioned in mainstream media? Is it well-talked about or well-known in their community? Are the good or bad stories in the media influencing a parent’s decision?

I know some people want to know why I chose a charter school and I want to say it is not because of sports, or being recognized nationally. My family and I chose this school because of the mission and vision that they wanted to achieve. In the process of researching schools, we found that Cesar Chavez had a 100 percent college acceptance rate, a 90.2 percent graduation rate, and was going to give me the opportunity to work with public policy issues, to gain job experience through my Fellowship, and take a year long thesis class to prep me for

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What makes a person who benefitted from choice repel it?

“Do you have a card?”

She had a huge smile, coming up to me right after I spoke to the NC House Education Committee —the largest, it would seem, in the free world with 53 members (!)– about the need for opportunity scholarships to provide poor children access to quality schools.

“Um, I’ll get you one,” I answered. Then I noticed her sticker on her lapel, which was a circle, with the word vouchers in the middle, and a SLASH through the word.

“Why do you want my card, you clearly don’t agree with me,” I responded.

The inquirer responded – “I just want to know who is paying you; where you get your money.”

Wow. So belief is all about who pays you? I was stunned.

Her name was Elizabeth Haddix, and it turns out Elizabeth works for the UNC School of Law Office of Civil Rights.

During the whole hearing, this man stood behind her, near the door, and cued her with motions and non-verbal hand signals as people were talking. (See minute 44:16 in the video of the hearing below.) He actually looked like the union boss in “Won’t Back Down.” But upon further research, it turns out, he’s the manager of said Office of Civil Rights, and, it would seem, her coach.

It was a quick hearing, and only an hour was allocated for pro- and con-, and the basic introdution of the bill by members, but clearly Elizabeth waited with anticipation to deliver a zinger of remarks… which never came because they had to stop the hearing due to time. Thankfully, the voucher hearing

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Don’t Call Me Stupid! Underestimating Parental Choice

February 19, 2013

Apparently, all of the poor parents I’ve met all these years are actually stupid. I didn’t know this until I read yet another review of how people actually get into charter schools.

You probably didn’t know this but there’s a bunch of really smart poor folk who know that there are charter schools and school options, who can read and write and spell and who somehow show up to apply and file for school lotteries to get their kids into better schools than their neighborhood schools. They are apparently smarter than the other poor folk because they know that the assigned public school – the one that they are zoned to by zip code — is actually bad, and you wouldn’t know that if you weren’t smart, because you’d be so ill informed that you wouldn’t even know your child couldn’t read or write and you’d have no idea that there was a difference in schools anymore than you know there are nicer ones somewhere or better clothes, or televisions, or stereos or buildings or even jobs.

So these smarter poor folks, who are usually people of color (but not always, if you’re in Appalachia or West Virginia or even East Palo Alto, or Indianapolis) somehow know more than the other poor folks and they know their kids are smart so they get them into other schools.

They are the cream, according to some. And they make it bad for all the others. They take everything before other people can get there. They know to stand in line and wait for school lotteries, and they know about the lotteries, and they know who has the good teachers and who doesn’t and they live with the other poor folks but somehow they are apparently more advantaged because everyone keeps

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Regulations Hinder Choice

February 11, 2013

The Fordham Institute’s most recent report School Choice Regulations: Red Tape or Red Herring? examines different types of regulations on private school choice programs and how implementation of regulations effects schools’ participation. It’s not surprising that there is a correlation between regulatory burden and school participation in private choice programs. However, when schools were surveyed about their concerns to participate in programs, they cited not enough eligible families as the reason not to participate, not excessive regulations. But, excessive regulations shouldn’t be overlooked.

We’ve seen concerns about excessive regulation in choice programs and charter schools increase over the years and even discussed these increasing rules on The Stossel Show on Fox Business News. The federal government requires a state to sign onto Common Core in order to receive funds, and regulatory creep at the state and local level is putting charter school autonomy and flexibility in danger.

We’ve known for years that the numbers reported by the fed govt of disadvantaged students in charters was wrong. It was wrong because, as we found out through our annual survey, almost 39 percent of charter schools don’t’ participate in the F&RL program, and therefore their students aren’t counted as such. Why don’t they participate? The most prevalent reason why charters do not participate is because they do not have the proper facilities to prepare meals. Twenty-one percent choose not to apply because of the massive amount of paperwork and bureaucratic red tape that is difficult to abide by with fewer administrators. In 2006, 48% of survey respondents chose not to apply for F&RL status because of the amount of paperwork involved.

This report and its findings aren’t shocking to those who have been keeping an eye on regulatory issues, but reiterating the fact that regulations are a

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School Choice is — and was — Bipartisan

January 17, 2013

We’ve got a treat for you this Thursday afternoon with this blast from the past letter we found in our archives and couldn’t help but share, especially with National School Choice Week only 10 days away and an Arkansas Senator just yesterday proposing new school choice legislation :

(click on the image to see a copy of the actual letter)


October 18, 1990

Representative Polly Williams
State Capitol
Room 18 East
P. O. Box 8953
Madison, Wisconsin 53708

Dear Polly:

I read Don Lambro’s recent column about your version of the school choice bill in Milwaukee. I am fascinated by that proposal and am having my staff analyze it. I’m concerned that the traditional Democratic Party establishment has not given you more encouragement. The visionary is rarely embraced by the status quo.

Keep up the good work.

Bill Clinton

ACT Scores Show Most Not Ready For College. Now What?

Last Wednesday, annual ACT scores were released and the results were dismal. Only 25% of 2012 ACT test takers met college readiness benchmarks in all four areas tested- English, Reading, Math, and Science.

The ACT defines college and career readiness as “the acquisition of the knowledge and skills a student needs to enroll and succeed in credit-bearing first-year courses at a post-secondary institution (such as a 2- or 4-year college, trade school, or technical school) without the need for remediation.” Breaking down college readiness by subject yields better numbers. For instance, 67% of students tested met English college readiness benchmarks. However, that means 33% of students taking the ACT have not been sufficiently prepared by their schools for learning at the next level.

Bear in mind also, that these statistics only include the students taking the ACT, preparing to enter college. The number of test takers under-prepared for college and careers is even worse when looking at the other three subjects- 48% failed to meet Reading benchmarks, 54% failed to meet Math benchmarks, and a whopping 69% failed to meet Science benchmarks. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently released data indicating that America continues to lose ground internationally when it comes to producing college graduates. Well, it’s not hard to see from these ACT statistics why this is the case. Ensuring students can graduate college means ensuring that students are first adequately prepared.

As I await the release of the 2012 SAT scores later this month, I can’t help but prepare myself for more disheartening news.  How many more years of stagnant test scores are we willing to accept? It is obvious that the status quo is not adequately preparing our children for college and careers. It’s time that we each take a step back, admit it’s not working and then work to

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Weekend Reading: What School Choice Has To Do With National Security

‘Do not Pass Go’, ‘Do Not Collect $200’, unless you’ve read “National Security Issue” from the Las Vegas Journal:

“It could hardly get more clear: The performance of the public schools has become so bad that even a bipartisan, middle-of-the road panel says the low educational attainment of our younger generations threatens American security.” READ MORE…


Save the Status Quo, March Against Freedom

By now, you’ve likely heard that the anti-reform establishment will be marching the streets of D.C. this weekend in an effort to “Save Our Schools.” The participating groups want to restore parent and student influence in education.

There’s only one problem with that – they don’t.

The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers – two unions that have done everything in their power from distorting the truth and lying to intimidation and lawsuits to stop any reform that takes their control and gives it to parents – are driving this rally.

These groups fight charter school openings across the country. For example they are currently stumping against a Mandarin immersion charter in Milburn, New Jersey.

They’ve sued multiple times to stop or delay school choice bills from taking effect. The teachers association now has a lawsuit in Indiana to stop low-income students in failing schools from using a voucher to attend a different school of their parent’s choice.

They are even fighting the “Parent Trigger” law that was passed in California and allows parents to initiate changes to a school, like converting it to a charter, if a majority of parents agree and sign a petition.

It’s the same coalition of the past 35 years that just wants the status quo. Reform to them is about money, control and no high-stakes tests or accountability.

In each case above, and the dozens of ones not mentioned, these groups are eliminating the influence parents and students have, not moving it forward.


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