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The Top 10 states for educational options; Arizona 6th

by Angela Gonzales
Arizona Business Journal
April 15, 2013

Arizona ranked sixth on The Center for Education Reform’s Parent Power Index, which means parents have access to quality education options and are provided with good information to make smart decisions about their children’s education.

The states were ranked on prevalence of charter schools, school choice, teacher quality, transparency and access to data, online learning, pro-reform governors and parent trigger laws, where parents have an opportunity to turn around failing schools.

The rankings pointed to Arizona’s scholarship program for students with disabilities and a tax credit that has helped more than 30,000 students opt into new schools. In addition, Arizona’s charter school law has provided more than 200,000 children with choices about their schooling.

Click here to see the top 10 states in The Center for Education Reform’s Parent Power Index.

Here are more specifics on Arizona from the index:

72%: Arizona’s graduation rate
1539: Average SAT test score
19.7: Average ACT score
33%: 4th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math score
31%: 8th grade NAEP math score
26%: 4th grade NAEP reading score
$8,006: Per pupil funding
1,077,831: Public school enrollment

TX Senate Committee Approves Tax Credits

“Senate panel OKs measure to fund tuition at religious and private schools”
by Will Weissert, Associated Press
April 11, 2013

A state Senate committee on Thursday approved a high-profile school voucher plan, sending it to the full chamber for what could be a fierce floor fight.

Senate Bill 23 by state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, would offer tax credits to businesses that provide scholarship funding for low-income students who want to transfer from low-performing public schools to private or religious schools.

The bill would allow businesses to write off 100 percent of their state business margins taxes, but it caps the total value of all donations at $100 million.

Patrick, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, says the plan could help as many as 10,000 students transfer.

His committee referred the bill to the Senate, but not before an important modification was approved: To qualify for scholarships, children have to be at risk of dropping out of school and come from low-income families. The measure originally allowed at-risk or low-income students to seek scholarships.

The amendment changing or to and was made by state Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville.

“I understand the author’s intent with this bill,” Lucio said. “This could give those students who most need educational choice a voucher.”

Patrick accepted the change, saying his intent was “to help students who are poor and in failing schools.”

Lucio responded, “I am for helping poor kids, including keeping them in our public schools.”

To get scholarships, students must come from households with incomes less than 200 percent of that needed to qualify for the free and reduced-price lunch program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has guidelines for who qualifies based on family size.

A family of three can qualify to get reduced-price or free lunches at school if their yearly income doesn’t exceed $36,000. Patrick’s proposal would allow families to seek

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Voucher Victory in Indiana

“Indiana Supreme Court upholds school vouchers”
by Scott Elliott and Tim Evans
Indianapolis Star
March 26, 2013

Public tax dollars may be used to fund private school tuition under Indiana’s voucher program, the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled today.

“We hold that the Indiana school voucher program, the choice scholarship program, is within the legislature’s power under Article 8, Section 1, and that the enacted program does not violate either Section 4 or Section 6 of Article 1 of the Indiana Constitution,” the justices wrote in the 5-0 decision.

The ruling, on a teachers union-supported lawsuit from 2011, ends the legal challenge to the program at the state level. The case could be made again in federal court. But in 2002 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a similar program in Ohio, making any further appeal a long shot.

The Indiana case began shortly after the program was created in 2011 when a group of teachers, school officials and parents who oppose vouchers sued the state, arguing the program was unconstitutional.

Vouchers allow low income families to redirect tax dollars from their local public school district to pay tuition when their children transfer to private schools.

In its second year, the program is the fastest-growing in history, jumping to 9,324 students receiving vouchers this school year from 3,919 last year. The program is redirecting more than $38 million in state aid from public schools to private schools, although officials say a provision that guarantees at least 10 percent of a school district’s per pupil amount be returned to the state resulted in a savings of $4.2 million that was redistributed among all public schools last year.

Opponents have argued that vouchers unfairly take away funds that public schools need to benefit primarily religious institutions, especially Catholic and Christian schools. The vast majority of schools accepting vouchers are religiously-affiliated. The

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Newswire: March 19, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 11

THE MAINE EVENT. Earlier this year, Governor Paul LePage expressed his outrage that Maine’s “school systems are failing.” And when the newly-created Charter School Commission rejected four out of five charter applications he called on “…those people, if they’re afraid to do the job, if they can’t put students first, then they ought to resign.” Vowing to go back to square one on reform efforts, the Governor jumping back in the ring to convene a conference this Friday, March 22. The conference will feature sessions on best practices from across the country like Florida’s school performance grading system, school choice, and stretching education dollars. CER President Jeanne Allen, will lead a panel discussion on “Multiple Pathways to Success.”

BATTLE IN THE BAYOU. Today, parents, students, educators and reformers rallied before the Louisiana Supreme Court to defend the Louisiana Scholarship Program. Over 4,500 students across the state benefit from the program which provides scholarships to qualifying students enrolled in underperforming and failing schools, to attend schools of their choice. Former DC Councilman, attorney, advocate, and CER board member Kevin P. Chavous addressed the masses today and said, “I know justice, and it is absolutely criminal to snatch away opportunity from children.” The debate is heating up and attorneys brought their arguments for a showdown today with oral ammunition before the state’s Supreme Court. A ruling on the appeal is not expected for several weeks.

MISSED OPPORTUNITY. As Newswire reported last week, a charter school proposal must still be negotiated in joint House-Senate conference committees. As it stands now, “Mississippi has yet to open the book on what charter schools can really do for the whole of education across the state. Not only is this not significant in any

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Newswire: March 12, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 10

RACISM & GREED? Should our public services be used for people who really need them? Aren’t prisons a place for criminals who defiantly break the law? And how exactly does intentionally breaking the law help children understand the importance of schooling? These and more questions are on our minds as we ponder the actions by President of the AFT union Randi Weingarten this past Thursday, who, upon her arrival in Philadelphia to protest the closing of 23 FAILING (yes that was caps intentionally) schools got herself arrested. Make no mistake — this was planned. Anyone with a big time PR shop like the AFT has doesn’t do these things without much consideration. You could just see her — boarding the plane, arriving in Philly, taking her car to the site, getting poised to protest and WHAM, standing in front of the door to the School Reform Commission meeting just to be carried away to the Klink, the pen – prison! The cheering and hizzahs were incredible, thanks to the adult members of the union who joined her. “This is about Racism and Greed” one sign said. Actually — he’s half right. It’s about the not so subtle racism that pervades a system that makes someone want to keep a bad school open and keep poor kids of color from getting a good education and it’s about the greed of the unions who just can’t let it go.

BABIES TO THE CORE. Those cute little kindergartens we all like to fawn over are apparently getting the shaft in schools that have already started implementing the Common Core standards for young children. It’s not intentional, as Harlem Village Academies Founder & Author (and CER 2006 Honoree) Deborah Kenny writes in a fabulous op-ed. It’s that teaching

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Newswire: March 5, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 9

OK PINOCCHIO. Last week, Newswire sparked a mini-debate on what the sequester really means for education. But as CER president Jeanne Allen points out in today’s National Journal, “… that among all of these thousands of entities that spend and receive federal money, no one seems to know or to be even talking about how the almighty federal dollar flows.” The reality that CER continues to point out, is that most of the money has already been collected by states and districts. Thankfully we’re not alone in holding the Administration accountable for irresponsible rhetoric about a frenzy of “pink slips.” In fact, the US Department of Education has yet to produce any district-level evidence of lay-offs, according to the Wall Street Journal.

COVER UP. The Worcester County Teachers Association in Maryland has been making headlines as news broke of their botched attempt to cover-up the fact that Denise Inez Owens, the union’s former treasurer embezzled over $430,000 of teacher dues to fund her gambling addiction. In 2009 when the MSEA (state affiliate of the NEA) learned of the crime, they merely forced Owens to resign. We know these union contracts are ironclad, but come on, they sent a known-criminal back to teaching in a middle school classroom! Finally justice has been served, but where’s the accountability and “common good” that the union leadership supposedly values?

EXPANDING CHOICE. In a press conference last week Alabama Governor Robert Bentley applauded the legislature for sending an individual and corporate tax credit bill to his desk, “I truly believe this is historic education reform and it will benefit students and families across Alabama regardless of their income and regardless of where they live. I’m so proud we have done this

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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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TN Governor Touts Vouchers

“Gov. Haslam touts limited school vouchers”
by Andy Sher
Chattanooga Times Free Press
January 29, 2013

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam used his annual State of the State address Monday night to defend his plan to implement a limited school voucher program next fall that would allow impoverished children in 83 low-performing public schools to use tax dollars to attend private institutions.

“Some have said that this administration and General Assembly aren’t committed to public education, but that could not be further from the truth,” Haslam told members of the Republican-run House and Senate meeting in a joint convention.

Noting his administration has been “literally putting our money where our mouth is, even when other states haven’t done so through tough budget times,” Haslam added the state’s education funding formula has been fully funded in his three budgets.

Noting various initiatives his administration has implemented including expansions of publicly funded but privately operated charter schools, Haslam said, “This year we’re proposing to offer another option for school choice” through vouchers. “If we can help our lowest-income students in our lowest-performing schools, why wouldn’t we?

“I’ve heard the argument that this kind of program will drain resources in the schools that need them the most, but we’re focusing on those schools,” said Haslam, who pointed out the state is providing $38 million to the 83 worst-performing schools over a three-year period.

The bill, called the “Tennessee Choice & Opportunity Scholarship Act,” is sponsored by House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, who carry the governor’s package of bills.

Enrollment would be limited in its first year to 5,000 students whose family income makes them eligible for free or reduced-price lunch programs. That would grow to 20,000 by the 2016-17 school year.

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, charged the administration is “putting forward a radical,

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Opinion: Education Reform – School choice would benefit all Montanans

by Joe Balyeat
Helena Independent Record
January 29, 2013

“There is no respect in which inhabitants of a low-income neighborhood are so disadvantaged as in the kind of schooling they can get for their children.” Economist Milton Friedman

Given the fact that Montana continuously ranks near dead last in the country in average wages and our “low-income neighborhoods” arguably encompass our whole state, it should not go un-noticed that Montana also ranks dead last nationally in educational choice reforms as well. The Center for Education Reform ranks Montana 51st (even behind Washington D.C.) in its Parent Power Index. And Friedman’s economic analysis is spot on: There may be a direct connection between Montana’s failure to provide educational freedom to our impoverished families and the continued multi-generational stagnation of economic opportunity in Montana.

Of course it is the entrenched special interests such as government union bosses and bureaucrats who block any and all attempts at true reform, insisting that the only answer is to throw more money at a system that al-ready spends $11,530 per student statewide. This means the average Montana worker’s entire annual salary is devoured educating just 3 kids for nine months. This tired “increase spending” non-solution is repeated despite the fact that there are at least 138 studies nationwide which prove that level of funding bears no statistical corre-lation to quality of education.

To the contrary, numerous studies reveal real education reform which does work – and the key ingredient is true educational choice. Even think tanks like the Brookings Institution concur that both public and private schools do a better job educating kids in “market” environments where there is true competition on a level play-ing field, as opposed to monopoly areas (such as Montana) where public schools have no real competition.

Even Democrat researchers John Chubb and Terry Moe concluded: “Conventional

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