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Morning Shots

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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Setting the record straight in PA

The Scranton Times felt the wrath (ok, it was a measured response) of Sen. Jeffrey Piccola (R-PA) over a piece they published last week on the school choice legislation the senator and others pushed for this past session.

Sen. Piccola’s letter wanted to make clear that the voucher portion of the legislation always focused “on rescuing needy students and their families from the failure of the current system and providing them with the choice for a better education…” Not ALL commonwealth students like the editorial pointed out. Additionally, Sen. Piccola address the fact that countless public hearings and committee discussions were devoted to the evaluation process of the bill.

Pennsylvania proved to be a tough school choice nut to crack this session. But in his letter, Sen. Piccola re-ups his commitment to school choice and declares that Gov. Tom Corbett and House leaders are onboard.

Let’s hope that we’ll finally see the cooperation necessary to expand PA choice this fall.

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The Next Charter Battlefront: Suburbs

Over the weekend, the New York Times published an article about the growing fight over charter schools in suburban districts. The story focuses on Milburn, New Jersey where the median family household income is $159,000 (yeah, that’s not a typo).

Charter opponents provide the typical anti-charter school rhetoric – drains money, the local schools are excellent, test scores are high, etc. But they don’t acknowledge that even at the best schools there are students who still struggle. Just because the district is rich, the notion that one size doesn’t fit all isn’t negated.

Additionally, the district superintendent perpetuates the attitude of many other public administrators who believe that education dollars are theirs and not the people at large. He claims that the district is already losing money – never mind that Millburn has the highest property tax in New Jersey with an annual average of $19,000. It should also be noted that many states provide impact aid for districts where there are charters, which translates to charter schools getting less per-pupil funding than the student’s previous district.

This debate is just warming up. We’re going to see more and more of these types of articles because even in good districts not every need is met. Regardless of whether you’re rich or poor, some kids still struggle with school.

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