NEWSWIRE: December 16, 2014

Vol. 16, No. 49

Happy Holidays! We’re cramming in all the news in this extra special Parent Power edition of Newswire, as next week’s Newswire will be reserved for a holiday surprise! Stay tuned.

PARENTS DISSED. While discussing choice and charters following the release of a study on Ohio charter school performance, CREDO’s Margaret Raymond said, “It’s not helpful to expect parents to be the agents of quality assurance throughout the state.” This misguided revelation snowballed into a call for greater “oversight,” a commonly used term to sugarcoat the desire of many to turn charters into the very schools they sought to improve in the first place. To be sure, Raymond walked back these remarks in a note to blogress Valerie Strauss (of all people) saying charter backers were initially too optimistic in expecting fast results, and Rome wasn’t built in a day. All the more reason to keep building more options for more kids, so we can see how Parent Power plays out on a larger scale. In the meantime, let’s hold off on asserting parents don’t know what “quality” is when it comes to their own children’s education.

PARENTS SILENCED…FOR NOW. For over two hours, parents waited patiently at a Miami school board meeting to urge members to drop the lawsuit against Florida’s tax credit scholarship program and personal learning scholarship accounts for students with special needs. When it finally looked like they would get their chance to be heard, parents were instead silenced by board members who chose to table the issue. Following the setback, one parent rightly commented, “This is only the beginning, our children deserve the best. I will climb any mountain for my boys and for all the other kids with this program.” It’s a true inspiration to see this kind of resolve so kids can access education options available to them and parents can preserve their power.

5,500 PARENTS CHOOSE. Not even a year old, the North Carolina Opportunity Scholarship program is weathering a legal challenge from – guess who – union bosses who don’t seem to be bothered by the climate of uncertainty they’re creating for low-income parents wishing to choose a better education for their children. Nonetheless, scholarship applications can now be processed for the 2015-16 school year thanks to a recent legal ruling. The lawsuit may still be going on – the State Supreme Court could rule on the constitutionality of the program as early as February – but at least the recent actions are a step in the right direction in  enabling families to seek out more and better opportunity.

CREEPIN’ ON PARENTS. The New Orleans charter sector has garnered a lot of attention for the steady progress made towards improving student achievement and expanding choice on a citywide scale. However, regulatory creep is starting to take hold, as evidenced by school-level policies related to discipline and student transfers being determined by a bureaucracy rather than school leaders and parents. It’s always a good rule of thumb to resist the impulse to regulate to death schools that are intended to be autonomous and innovative. Given what the New Orleans charter sector has done already, imagine how much more they could flourish with a state charter law grade higher than a “C”.   

FORGOT PARENTS P.O.V. Apparently, all the Detroit Free Press newsroom has is a hammer because every perceived problem with Michigan’s charter sector looks like a nail. A story on the relationship between schools and charter management organizations raises questions on how ownership of school supplies factors into these partnerships. The exact amount of school supplies in question is not only undetermined, but besides the point. The ultimate goal of Free Press charter coverage (as revealed in a Media Bullpen analysis of the Michigan outlet’s coverage on charters) is to push for more “oversight,” and undercut Michigan’s “A” graded charter law. Lawmakers should focus on how to bolster a policy environment that enables successful charter schools to proliferate while being held accountable for results.

SHAMELESS. Okay, we lied. This entry isn’t really focused on Parent Power, but rather the countless attacks on it. Union-backed lawmakers left a series of voicemails with leaders at California Virtual Academies (CAVA), encouraging (read: intimidating) them to drop opposition to unionization. The California Teachers Association is claiming they have the necessary support for unionization, even though there was no election or transparent process, petition signatures were gathered in a statewide push despite virtual charters existing at the district level and numerous teachers felt misled and bullied into signing. Union reps went as far as to show up at the homes of CAVA teachers, telling them to sign now with the promise that more information would be forthcoming. To the union, it’s irrelevant that any collective bargaining agreement would demean teachers and take away their flexibility to help students who deliberately chose a virtual learning model. It’s always about power and control.

GIVE PARENT POWER. Last minute shopping? Give the gift of Parent Power through these page-turners that are sure to be a hit for everyone on your list this year.