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Morning Shots

One is the loneliest number

sesamestreet1When is a charter law not a charter law? When is a charter school not a charter school?

Ask Mississippi.

Like a thief in the night, July 1st of this year came and went, slipping out the back door with the Magnolia State’s charter law as legislators allowed it to sunset without even a word.

Nobody seemed to notice. Not the press. Not the bloggers. Not the major edreform players. We didn’t even mention it, but in our defense, it was really hot that day and we were planning a cookout.

Another group that likely missed the significance of the loss of the law: the faculty and students of Mississippi’s lone charter school – The Hayes Cooper Center.

The school was basically a glorified magnate school, did not have true autonomy and was tied to the school district in so many ways as to make it indistinguishable from its conventional counterparts.

Each year, we analyze and grade the country’s charter school laws, assigning a letter grade to each.  Last year, Mississippi received an ‘F’ with an analysis that placed it last among the (then) 41 laws.

Certainly, The Hayes Cooper Center probably didn’t feel much different as kids ran out to greet the first day of Summer than it did when they trudged back for Fall classes.

And it was Mississippi’s weak law – one that its lead architect later referred to as “the sorriest” in the nation – that allowed this to happen.

The ‘Race to the Top’ competition has placed a national spotlight on charter schools and charter legislation as lawmakers everywhere begin to tinker with theirs in order to polish them up before the Department of Education passes judgment in the Spring.

Will their laws shine any brighter than Mississippi’s? Certainly. But, while the

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How dare you?

schoolchoicecapitolDespite the adage that you get more bees with honey, I will not sit idly by and allow Congressman Jose Serrano, Democrat from Bronx, NY, write an opinion for The Washington Post that is layered with obfuscation and misperceptions, without calling him on it.

Serrano is suddenly the focus of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program‘s supporters, forced by the unique circumstances of the federal government’s oversight of the District of Columbia, which he manages as chair of a nebulous Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. Serrano is apparently angered that this position begets him calls from all over the nation – from people of all stripes and walks of life, who want children to have what they deserve and rarely get in the District’s traditional public schools – a good education that is also safe, also preparatory for life.

Serrano’s attitude to these calls – and the children affected – can best be considered ignorance. He says that local people should lobby their local leaders, as if their local leaders have the authority to spend federal money. By doing so, he also ignores that local people HAVE lobbied local leaders – tens of thousands of them – and those local leaders have endorsed the program and written Congress about that endorsement. The Mayor, the Chancellor of the city’s schools, a majority of the City Council, the former Mayor, the former City Council Education Chair, the Mayor’s staff. These are not Republicans, as Serrano wants us all to believe. These are Democrats, and predominantly people of color, who understand and care deeply about the people of this city, and who are happy to draw help from anyone who can or would want to help them, regardless of

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Gingrich and Sharpton – An Odd Couple for Education, But Not the First

al-newtTomorrow, on his continuing education tour, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will be joined in Philadelphia by two gentlemen who because of their obvious differences on many levels are called the Odd Couple of education.  I applaud strange bedfellows – when they make things happen for kids. With this one, I’m not so sure.

The first real Odd Couples of education led some of the nation’s most fundamental shifts in education, shifts that had once been considered radical.  Looking back through the past sixteen years, it’s clear that while education reform has changed dramatically, broad, mainstream support for bold changes in education existed then, just as they do now.  It was just much less hip to say so.

Then, policymakers who led the fight for charter schools, merit pay (as it was called in those days), vouchers and the like were accused of being part of the vast right wing conspiracy and generally anti-public education, despite the fact that such nomenclature didn’t fit then, just as it does not now. CER’s first work celebrated legislators like Pennsylvania Democrat Dwight Evans, who joined hands with Republican Tom Ridge to pass that state’s charter bill.  Miami Urban League head T. Willard Fair teamed up with Governor Jeb Bush to bring vouchers to Florida, following in the steps of Representative Polly Williams, a former Black Panther, in league with conservative Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson.

These were the first, real Odd Couples of the modern education reform movement.  They were bold, tenacious, and courageous to cross party lines, incur the wrath of unions together and suffer all sorts of education establishment slurs. (more…)

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