NEWSWIRE: July 29, 2014

Vol. 16, No. 30

EXCUSE ME, YOU’RE BLOCKING THE VIRTUAL SCHOOLHOUSE DOOR…
Arguably the most glaring example of school choice denial this week is taking place in Tennessee, where 626 legally enrolled students of the Tennessee Virtual Academy now face uncertain prospects just two weeks before school starts. Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman has granted a waiver to the Union County School Board to move forward with un-enrolling new students from TNVA, after these kids got their books and supplies, poised to begin their online education. The stoppage of parents exercising a conscious decision to enroll their child in an online school is baffling enough, but it’s compounded when TNVA is demonstrating measurable academic improvements for second and third-year students. No parent should ever be put in the position of having no recourse after exercising their right to seek out educational options.

START SPREADING THE VERGARA MOMENTUM…
…From California to New York. In the Empire State, a lawsuit challenging teacher tenure has been filed challenging teacher employment policies that hinder student learning, building on the Vergara catalyst and making Campbell Brown a favored lightning rod for union criticism and vitriol. The lawsuit alleges that only three percent of New York City’s eligible teachers were denied tenure outright in 2011 and 2012, meaning an astronomical 97 percent were granted tenure after just two years of actual evaluation. According to one analysis, a grand total of twelve NYC teachers out of 75,000 annually were formally replaced due to incompetence over a ten-year period. The figures outlined are hardly reflective of a system in which student learning is priority numero uno. It’s efforts like these from brave parents and students that are making it increasingly difficult to defend harmful employment practices in the court of public opinion.

SHUFFLING THINGS UP IN BUFFALO…
…Meanwhile, in another part of New York, the Buffalo School Board recently ushered in a promising new majority in its membership ranks, and The Center for Education Reform is hopeful that the shakeup will favor a reform-minded approach towards improving student outcomes. CER President Kara Kerwin is on the ground meeting with key Buffalo leaders to effectively gauge the propensity for meaningful change in this new era of leadership.

FLORIDA PARENTAL DEMAND EXCEEDED EXPECTATIONS?! THIS IS OUR SHOCKED FACE…
Well wouldn’t you know it, Florida parents who have children with special needs are eagerly pursuing the newly established Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts (PLSAs), intended for young learners with autism, down syndrome, and other challenges. More than 1,200 families and counting have now applied for a PLSA in the first week alone. Using the PLSAs, Florida parents can utilize available funds to directly address the individual learning needs and circumstances of their child, whether that means tuition assistance or extra supplies, to name just a few of the many different uses. While the program is proving to be popular, it must also withstand a desperately mounted legal challenge as part of the overall fight against school choice. But parents will forge ahead, and try to obtain these PLSAs to achieve peace of mind and a better outlook in meeting the learning needs of their child.

IT’S MORE THAN A BACKPACK DRIVE…
The Alliance for School Choice has begun a multi-stop tour through Arizona to distribute backpacks full of school supplies and information about what educational options are available to AZ families. Last year alone, 43,000 students in the Grand Canyon state benefitted from school choice programs. Arizona is no stranger to Parent Power, containing a vast array of choice-enabling policies, from tax credit programs to a strong charter school law. Check out how helpful your state is when it comes to parents being able to choose the best learning option for their child over at the Parent Power Index.

KIPP KIPP HOORAY…
Three cheers for KIPP as it celebrates twenty years of a powerful school model that has transformed students and communities across the nation. KIPP started in 1994 with the goal of creating a learning environment for students to help them develop the knowledge, skills, character, and habits necessary to succeed in college and beyond, and it has certainly delivered on that promise. We can’t wait to see the impact KIPP will have in its next twenty years!

WAVES OF CHANGE, OCEANS OF OPPORTUNITY…
… Is the theme of this year’s North Carolina Public Charter Schools Association Conference starting July 30th in Wilmington, NC, where CER President Kara Kerwin will be among featured speakers discussing how best to facilitate successful charter schools, most certainly reflecting on the “oceans of opportunity” that could exist in the Tarheel State based on effective practices and policies elsewhere throughout the nation. Follow @CERKaraKerwin for the latest.