Thursday, April 21, 2005


For a good idea of what’s going on with school choice and charter schools all over the country – except in Nebraska, the Off the Radar Screen State – visit the Center for Education Reform,
www.edreform.org, and its CER Newswire. Look at all the ideas that could save big bucks, give new birth to the beleaguered Class I schools, give teachers and parents tons more academic freedom, and most of all, give the benefits of more choice, flexibility, innovation and excellence to Nebraska’s schoolchildren. Here’s the April 19 edition:


Vol. 7, No. 16


HEY, BIG SPENDER. The Kansas City Board of Education says it will sue the state over a decision handed down by the Board of Fund Commissioners that requires the Kansas City school district to give charter schools the $6 million it is obligated by law to pay. For years the district has withheld $800 per charter school student. Charter supporters point out that charter school students are public schools students too, and are entitled to the funds. District Superintendent Bernard Taylor complains that services have to be cut if they pay. He does not mention, however, that the district is handling 20 percent fewer students who no longer need those services, nor does he say how much the lawsuit that he wants to file will cost. Meanwhile, the district's financial records show a healthy amount of cash in its pot - according to The Kansas City Star, $168 million in a capital projects fund and $31.7 million in its rainy day account. It's also important to note that the district that wants to rethink charters is plagued by educational failure, while the city's charters are exceptional in most cases.

THE FIGHT FOR CITY NEIGHBORS. For months now, Bobbi Macdonald of Baltimore, Maryland has been negotiating with the city school board for sufficient and equal funding for her recently approved City Neighbors Charter School. In true reformer fashion, she held nothing back in an impassioned letter to the chief executive officer of the Baltimore City public school system. Macdonald writes, "While further delay may make no difference to the School Board, to us, it means a risk that we will not open in 2005. I will exhaust every resource, loudly and strenuously, before allowing that to happen. Please, Dr. Copeland, help me to serve the 120 students who have signed up for City Neighbors, the parents who have put their hopes in our efforts, and the community that has supported us so graciously. Help me be true to your vision for innovation in our school system, as you've demonstrated by clearing a path for seven new charter schools." Macdonald will get her answer soon, as the state board will hear this case tonight.

LEGISLATIVE ANGST. The halls are hot in legislatures nationwide as charter issues continue to heat up. Texas is considering boosting support for high-performers and doing an immediate intervention to close all the rest; Ohio is still looking at how best to infuse accountability while maintaining quality growth; South Carolina is moving a bill forward that has negative implications for charters in the Palmetto State; Florida is hoping to further improve the environment for charters; Nevada's assembly just passed a bill that frees teachers from the school district collective bargaining agreement and offers flexibility with teacher license certification guidelines. There is more activity this session than in the three previous sessions combined. Watch this space.

A "BUZZ" IN ARIZONA. Earlier this month Kevin Bertram, a 13-year-old student at Valley Academy Charter School in Arizona, was able to correctly answer a very tough question about the Pribilof Islands and fur sear rookeries. In doing so, Kevin won the 2005 Arizona National Geographic Bee, beating 102 other fourth to eighth-graders from all over the state. Valley Academy Charter School educates 666 students in grades K-8 and is known for having one of the strongest language arts programs in the state. Its standardized test scores are among the top five percent in Arizona. As the winner, Kevin gets a chance to compete for the $25,000 scholarship and lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society to be awarded at the national competition hosted by Alex Trebek in May. Newswire will be following Kevin's progress! To visit Valley Academy Charter School, click here: www.valleyacademy.com.

STANDARDS AND ACCOUNTABILITY FREEDOM TO FIRE. Officials with the Chicago Public School system finally got smart last month and allowed principals to swiftly fire more than 1,100 incompetent teachers, all of whom had serious problems in the classroom. According to The Chicago Sun-Times, more than half of the teachers were fired for "classroom failings" which includes "mismanagement and poor teacher-pupil relationships." The second most common justification was "poor instruction" which includes "planning, methods and knowledge of subject." This new procedure creates a serious measure of accountability and is a welcome change for the frustrated principals in Chicago. In the past, to fire just one incompetent teacher took many months, several deadlines and reams of paper. Harry Randall, principal at Yates School agrees, telling the Times: "This is an easier way for principals to get rid of that dead weight."

HOME OPENER HOME RUN. The Nation's Capital has been without its own baseball team for 34 years. So last week's Nationals home opener brought out new fans, old timers, Orioles-haters and, of course, protestors (it is Washington, DC, after all). While standing in line to get through security for this historic event, one CER employee was berated by an angry DC parent complaining that the Washington Nationals franchise and the new baseball stadium "are taking money away from DC schools" and "we should be spending this money on education!" Given the fact that the security line was now at a standstill (the President was arriving to throw the first pitch), this gave the CER employee a chance to set the record straight. She kindly let the uninformed protestor know that, according to the US Department of Education, Washington, DC spends more money per pupil on education than any state in the US. It spends more per pupil than the entire state of New York and more than twice as much as Utah. The response? The protestor turned around and walked away. We'd say this CER employee hit a home run.

SCHOOL CHOICE DC HOME RUN TAKE 2. Another 271 kids will join the 1,700 currently benefiting from DC's Opportunity Scholarship Program. The Washington Scholarship Fund (WSF) announced the results of the first lottery for applicants who will be entering grades six through twelve. Demand for the open seats far outnumbered supply, which came as no surprise to supporters. But where are the critics? Earlier this year critics tried to discredit the importance and impact of the program, claiming it wasn't reaching the kids trapped in failing schools. The numbers state otherwise. Sixty-two percent of the students came from "needs improvement" schools and not one kid was already enrolled in a private school. So far, no comment from the detractors. To read WSF's entire press release, click here.


In Other News:

National Charter Schools Week is right around the corner, May 2 – 6. Join us and other co-sponsors for the Kick-Off event in Washington, DC and see firsthand the impact charter schools are having on students throughout the nation! When: May 2, 2005 at 2:00 p.m. Where: Thurgood Marshall Academy, 421 Alabama Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20032

Can't make it to a charter school in person? Visit a Charter School Online Today! CER brings back its popular virtual charter school tour on May 1. Keep your browser pointed to


The CER Newswire may be redistributed in its entirety with proper attribution. The CER Newswire is published by The Center for Education Reform, the nation's leading authority on school reform. CER is dedicated to making schools better for America's children by improving educational access and excellence for all. CER works with parents, teachers and policymakers to advance meaningful education improvement initiatives.

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