NEWSWIRE: August 25, 2015

Vol. 17, No. 33

BACK TO SCHOOL. As many students and teachers – and undoubtedly parents! – celebrated the #FirstDayofSchool yesterday, we can’t help but think about the number of parents and students who still don’t have access to excellent schools. With just six percent of the total K-12 school-aged population taking advantage of choice programs, and states barely scratching the surface when it comes to offering parents real power over their children’s education, the need for more and better learning opportunities is now. As National School Choice Week President and CER Grassroots Advisory Board member Andrew Campanella said:

Parent Power means “every child has the opportunity to achieve his or her American Dream.”

 

And as Families Empowered Founder & Executive Director and CER Grassroots Advisory Board member Colleen Dippel said, Parent Power is not a fictional tale created by policy wonks in Washington, D.C.

“In just the city of Houston alone, 37,000 applications for 2,000 spots. As a parent myself, if I were one of the 35,000 parents on waitlists and I had to sent my child back to a failing school, that would sure make me feel powerless.”

Influencers “treat our families as if they are not in charge of their own children,” said Democracy Prep Public Schools CEO and CER Grassroots Advisory Board member Katie Duffy. “I think that’s a huge mistake.”

The power to make a conscious decision about “what you want and what you value for your own kids [is] something every parent should have.”

 

Hear more from people on the ground across the nation about why parent power is important, and check out the newly designed Parent Power Index to see how your state stacks up and what you can do to get more #ParentPower in your community.

NASHVILLE NEEDS MORE. Two KIPP charter schools in Nashville were denied based on concerns about the fiscal impact of the schools on the district and “perceived practices” of the schools, and because KIPP Nashville still has open seats to fill in some schools. However, an analysis reveals that the schools would actually be an investment for the district and not have a negative impact on the district’s budget. KIPP Nashville applied based on what the district said it wanted in 2013, which is schools serving high-needs areas, but now has suddenly shifted its position. According to the latest state test results, the Nashville Metro Public Schools district has fewer students at proficient or advanced in all test categories compared to statewide averages. A tragedy to think about when that number is a mere 39 percent of Nashville 3rd-8th graders at proficient or advanced in reading, and 47 percent at proficient or advanced in math. Meanwhile, KIPP Academy Nashville was recently recognized by Gov. Haslam for being in the top five percent in growth in the state. As Nashville mayor Karl Dean points out in The Tennessean, Nashville will never have enough KIPPs or enough of any other excellent charter schools until every single student has the chance to attend a school that puts them on their own personal path to success. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Nashville has shown its aversion to charter schools either. In 2012, Great Hearts Academies had to cease its efforts to open a school in Nashville after the city refused to comply with the state’s orders to allow the school to operate. Schools being denied regardless of the merit of their application happens far too often, and in 2014, the Tennessee legislature passed a much-needed binding appeal for the State Board of Education when districts like Nashville unfairly deny choices for students. While the school board has already said it would challenge the new law, there’s no doubt that KIPP Nashville would prevail in its appeal to provide an excellent option for Music City’s families. Until that happens, the question shouldn’t be “When is enough enough?”, but rather “How can we have more of these sooner?”.

NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN. Serving our Children has been named by the U.S. Department of Education as the organization that will now administer scholarships under the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DC OSP). Despite attempts by the Obama administration to undercut this program, which serves families with an average annual income of $22,000 or less, the DC OSP has been a lifeline for the students it serves. Ninety percent of DC OSP students graduate from high school, compared to D.C.’s overall graduation rate of 62 percent. Not only that, but the program boasts a 95 percent parental satisfaction rate. Talk about #ParentPower! Let’s hope leaders in our nation’s capital recognize the tremendous power of this program to transform students’ lives, and expand the program beyond where it is now, as no new students are allowed to enroll despite it being authorized by Congress until 2016 because of funding neglect.

BEHIND THE PDK/GALLUP POLL. After 47 years, the Phi Delta Kappa International poll in conjunction with Gallup on “The Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools” continues to suffer from loaded questions that lack the ability to derive valid answers about how Americans truly feel about education reforms today. For instance, a question about vouchers implies that they come at the cost of the traditional public school system. Not only is this not true, but it also suggests that parents seeking options outside of their zoned schools are suddenly not part of the public. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this year’s poll, however, is its agenda-driven message that “testing doesn’t measure up for Americans,” when in fact the results indicate that populations who typically aren’t afforded choices support school choice and high standards in education, and believe measures like testing are an important factor in determining school quality and improvement. It’s critical that the voices of parents and community leaders across the nation vying for more #ParentPower in and among schools, and need for laws that truly make this possible, especially for those who have none, are not overpowered by special interest groups that continue to promote status quo interests above all else.

#EDlection2016 BEGINS. CER was on the ground last week in New Hampshire as six presidential candidates shared their views on education. A refreshing focus as education unfortunately doesn’t make the cut as a headliner topic during election cycles. We’ve got a recap of candidates’ views here, and will continue to keep you posted as the 2016 election draws closer with CER’s Education Fifty, your #EDlection headquarters dedicated to providing you, the voter, with the information that can best inform your vote, ensuring meaningful changes to our educational system are realized.