Newswire September 19th, 2017

BLUE STATE CELEBRATION.  Leaders of education opportunity in Illinois gathered last night in Chicago to celebrate the first school choice program to ever grace a blue state. One Chance Illinois, the local advocacy group whose work contributed to the historic accomplishment, will lead the effort to implement the tax credit scholarship program, which permits businesses to contribute to organizations whose sole job is to provide scholarships to poor and at-risk kids who would not otherwise have access to private schools. In a city like Chicago, there is no shortage of need, or demand. The school funding bill – which was negotiated by Gov. Rauner and Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady, and in the end had the support of the speaker – also equalized funding for public schools and increased support for charter schools that have been underfunded. For more information go to INCS. Our hearts are full knowing more kids will have opportunity in the Land of Lincoln.

NEWARK’S BACK IN CHARGE.  After 20 years of state intervention, the Newark public schools are being “returned” to the district, the same one that sent it into disarray and was largely responsible for corruption, plummeting achievement and permitting unions to control the show.  While David Chen writes in “After More Than 20 Years, Newark to Regain Control of Its Schools,”that some things have improved in Newark’s schools (especially since the growth of charters caused a response and the state pushed hard for results), the old district model isn’t the solution. School systems that look like they did 150 years ago don’t solve the problem of students lacking the personalization of education they need. Just read Ted Kolderie’s The Split Screen Strategy if you want to understand that and what to do about it. While “local control” has a nice ring to it, beware of what it really means and who it helps – or hurts.

DC DOES IT.  Newark might take a page out of DC, where the move to mayoral control some 10 years ago, following a dramatic expansion of new schooling opportunities through charter schools and subsequently low income-based scholarships, kicked a system long in disarray into high gear. In fact, it’s so noteworthy that even John Oliver (who usually spends most of his time ineffectually maligning great education reforms) sent #DCPublicSchoolstrending on Twitter with one comment on the Emmys. DC Schools immediately responded to the applause of its supporters and fans. If only Oliver really knew how much trending DC Schools really means in the landscape of education reform and the model it is for other communities – especially its charter schools.

WE DON’T NEED NO… INNOVATION.  The list of schools eligible for takeover from the North Carolina’s Innovative School District (ISD) was released last week, and the effort is on to narrow the list of nearly 50 schools down to just a few that the state will take and partner with an innovative charter school partner in an effort to improve their academic performance. “Don’t come to us,” says Durham and Johnston counties, which have asked to be excluded from consideration. The schools are being considered for the ISD because their performance scores are among the lowest five percent in state, so it’s not like this is a case of mistaken eligibility that they don’t need help. It’s more a matter of who gets control. As Lt. Gov. Dan Forest puts it, ‘some turf wars’ between the ISD and local school systems were probably inevitable. But, he said, taking a ‘calculated risk’ was necessary to help low-performing schools. “It’s a brand new strategy in our state [and] a brand new opportunity to look at how do we really create a model that I think others can follow in how state and local communities partner together to improve outcomes for kids.”

PARENT POWER IN MINNESOTA.  In an interesting (although not surprising) look at the impact of parental choice on public school enrollment in Minnesota, The Star-Tribune reports that “Last year, about 132,000 Minnesota students enrolled in schools outside their home district, four times the number making that choice in 2000.” Among the many “wow” data points discussed in the article is the fact that “In Minneapolis and St. Paul, the number of students leaving has almost doubled in the past decade, and total enrollment is plunging. Both cities now lose a third of their school-age population to other districts or charter schools.” Joe Nathan, director of the Center for School Change, says that parents for do what’s best for their children and “people of all races deserve options.” Well said.

SPEAKING OF PARENT POWER: CER’S latest Index of Parent Power in the states is coming soon, with detailed analysis of what states offer it, how and what you can do to seize control of your own education. Stay tuned!