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On the Second Day of Christmas CER Gave to Me…

Model Legislation
And a Nominee for Opportunity!


The second in our 12-ish days of Christmas series, intended to bring gifts to education reformers everywhere!


screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-6-18-13-pmby Ted Rebarber*

Charter schools have become the single most effective public school reform to date. They provide opportunities to families and the freedom for schools to innovate, improve and address pressing needs without delays from bureaucracy or political pressure.

But laws make all the difference in the degree of opportunities afforded to families and freedom afforded to schools.

Of the 13 strongest charter laws, 12 were passed between 1991 and 1999, and it is these 12 states alone that account for over 56 percent of existing charter schools.  Only nine states passed a charter law between 2000 and 2015 and they opened a combined total of 233 schools, serving so few students that their impact on a national scale is almost negligible.

Strong laws provide for:

  • operational autonomy for charters, allowing a wide range of providers to innovate and meet the needs of their particular students;
  • multiple charter authorizers in order to guard against regulatory creep, including at least one independent entity focused on authorizing charters;
  • a high or no cap on schools and few obstacles to growth, allowing charters to scale up and offer parents multiple options in convenient locations;
  • accountability to parents through choice, while authorizers maintain public trust by eliminating fraudulent or obviously incompetent operators;
  • equitable funding for students and families in charter schools, including capital (facility) funds as well as operational funds.

We know from 23 years of research and practice that strong laws result in strong schools. That’s why we’re relentless in our pursuit for strong charter school laws that allow charter schools the freedom and flexibility. We hope 2017 brings the gift of stronger

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On the First Day of Christmas CER Gave to Me…

A Nominee for Opportunity!


This is the first in a series of blog posts — CER’s 12(ish) Days of Christmas. 

by George Mitchell*doe_part_1_2_web_ta_12-14-16

I can speak from direct experience when explaining why the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education is such a stunning and positive development.  

In the late 1990s the story of school choice was largely a Milwaukee story. The movement was in limbo awaiting a (favorable) 1998 Wisconsin court ruling that upheld religious school choice. A subsequent US Supreme Court decision, drawing heavily on the Wisconsin ruling, set the stage for potential expansion.  

A small group of selfless philanthropists emerged to up to help make it happen. The late John Walton’s untimely death created a void. Up stepped Betsy DeVos, along with her successor as head of the American Federation for Children, Bill Oberndorf.

Meetings and strategies developed under Betsy’s direction were all about focus, focus, focus. If you weren’t zeroed in on the single goal of expanding parental education options you were in the wrong place. She intuitively — almost instinctively — gets the basic point:  all things being equal, more choice is better than less. Giving parents more power and control and responsibility will be her guiding principles. She is indifferent to perks, power, and the embellishments that come with her job. She will be all about results.

What a fantastic Christmas present!

*George Mitchell’s interest in, and commitment to, school choice dates to the 1980s, when he met Howard Fuller and chaired a gubernatorial commission that studied education in Milwaukee. His wife Susan formed a coalition that strengthened the Milwaukee choice program and helped take the issue national.


Quick Advice on How to Survive Holiday Gatherings

There’s nothing like gathering with family, friends, and colleagues over the holidays – whether it’s at the school play, a work party, or a neighborhood get-together.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 3.13.28 PMThat is, until your crazy Aunt Sally launches into a political discussion.

Be ready this year. Here are a few conversation starters (and stoppers!) to have ready at your disposal to get you out of sticky situations, or give you something to talk a
bout with your relatives!


“Our public schools are just fine. I got a great education,” your grandfather says. That may be true, but we’re an increasingly global society, and with the U.S. ranking 35th in math,15th in reading and 18th in science in student performance across almost 70 countries, even our best-performing kids need better learning opportunities.

“But not all parents care”, your neighbor says.
What some perceive as a lack of caring could actually be the result of frustration. As a parent, it’s frustrating feeling like there is no other option for your child outside of the school that is failing them. Only 5% of U.S. children are able to take advantage of school choice opportunities.

“It’s not an education problem, it’s a poverty problem,” says your colleague.
Poverty is a challenge, but not an excuse. Our nation’s charter schools have proven this. A majority of the nearly 2.5 million children in the nation’s more than 6,500 charter schools are poor and minority, and yet they are performing better than comparable kids who have to attend their local public schools.

Let’s give the ultimate gift to parents and students this year by committing to remaining vocal about the importance of education opportunity for all.




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