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DFER-MA Releases Statement on Stalled Charter Bill in Light of Arne Duncan's Visit to Boston Schools

Contact:
Devin Boyle | 202.445.0416 | Devin@dfer.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Democrats for Education Reform Releases Statement on Stalled Charter Bill in Light of Arne Duncan’s Visit to Boston Schools

Boston, MA - March 11, 2014 - Democrats for Education Reform Massachusetts (DFER-MA) released the following statement today from Massachusetts state director Liam Kerr, urging the passage of a stalled education bill in the state legislature upon Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s visit:

“Doing right by kids can be politically challenging, but President Obama has urged Democrats to power through. In 2010, federal money helped push needed reforms. Today, hopefully, Secretary Arne Duncan’s visit will inspire politicians on Beacon Hill to do the right thing and make the changes we need.

“As reported by The Boston Globe on Sunday, the State House has stalled An Act to Further Narrow the Achievement Gap, a bill to expand high-performing charter schools and further empower districts to turn around low-performing schools. The changes stuck in the Education Committee expand on the most successful aspects of the 2010 bill passed in response to Obama’s “Race to the Top” competition. Secretary Duncan advocated for states to make these exact changes back in 2010.

“While Duncan’s trip has not yet been publicly tied to the bill, he will visit two schools that have seen dramatic results from kids as a result of this legislation—created over the fervent objection of strong forces on Beacon Hill.

“In 2010, entrenched interests like the Boston Teachers Union promoted the claim that “Race to the Top” would not improve education. But it did, through both charter school expansion and district school turnarounds. Secretary Duncan will visit both these models of reform on this trip: success stories that would not have been possible if we listened to those same groups with a direct financial stake in the process that are objecting to the current bill. President Obama challenged Democrats to rise to the occasion in 2010, and we have to again now.

“The educational policies that President Obama and Secretary Duncan promote are difficult for adults, especially politicians. But let’s focus on kids. These changes have worked for Massachusetts, and we need more. Our kids deserve better.”

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About Democrats for Education Reform

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) is a political action committee with 13 state offices whose mission is to encourage a more productive dialogue within the Democratic Party on the need to fundamentally reform American public education. DFER operates at all levels of government to educate elected officials and support reform-minded candidates for public office.




Washington’s New Charter Schools: Doing it Right

By Tania de Sá Campos, DFER-WA Deputy State Director

It was an exciting day in Washington yesterday—the state commission on charter schools approved seven proposals for new schools, which will begin to open as early as fall 2014. With the approval of Pride Prep in Spokane last week, this brings Washington’s total of new charters to eight. This is a huge accomplishment, given that just two weeks ago that number was zero—but it’s just the beginning of an exciting journey for the new school leaders and the children and families they will serve.

The commission was careful and deliberate in their review of each of the 19 proposals and the recommendations of the review teams, which reflects a statewide commitment to getting it right when it comes to charters. Ultimately, they chose not to follow the recommendation of the review teams in only one instance, approving SOAR Academy for Tacoma (after some pretty moving words from founding school director Kristina Bellamy-McClain) with conditions that must be met before the commission’s next meeting in February.

Some applications that weren’t approved in the end had received significant public support. This clearly demonstrates that families are looking for more options for their kids, and the commission acknowledged the stronger proposals and encouraged them to work on their applications and reapply in the future. Local organizations like WA Charters reminded applicants that they stand ready to support them throughout the process.

These new schools, with the blessings of the charter school commission and Washingtonians across the state, will soon begin changing things for the better for students and families who will benefit from more options, more accountability, and more opportunities. Washington’s doing it right—and that’s the most exciting thing.

Tania de Sá Campos joined DFER Washington (DFER-WA) in April 2013 as Deputy State Director. In her role, Tania engages with a growing constituency of active, reform-minded Democrats and works with partners and allies to position Washington state as a leader in the next evolution of the movement to give every child a great education. Read more about Tania here.




Democrats for Education Reform Commends Spokane School District for Approving Washington State’s First Charter School

Devin Boyle | 202.445.0416 | Devin@dfer.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Democrats for Education Reform Commends Spokane School District for Approving Washington State’s First Charter School

SPOKANE, Wa. - January 24, 2014 - Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) issued the following statement from Deputy Washington State Director Tania de Sá Campos congratulating the Spokane School Board and Spokane Public Schools on the approval of Washington State’s first charter school, Pride Prep.

“The Spokane school district has taken a critical, decisive step in improving the future of education for children here and in Washington State as a whole. We are very happy to see Spokane leading the way by bringing an exciting new option to its students, all of whom deserve to be challenged by the best educational practices and teaching methods in the country.

“It is no accident that it took until today to approve the state’s first charter school, even though voters approved a measure in 2012 to make Washington the 42nd state with a charter school system. Pride Prep and the other applicants went through a rigorous democratic approval process with a thorough public discourse to make sure all voices were heard and all options were considered. Pride Prep’s approval after a strong showing of support at the public forum is a testament to a united community committed to providing the very best for its students and future leaders.

“We are excited to follow Pride Prep’s progress as it works to open the first charter school in Washington and look forward to watching more communities and districts embrace the opportunity to expand educational options for families and offer new, high-quality public school options for our students. Congratulations to Spokane for being the first of many in the state to put Washington’s schoolchildren first.”

About Democrats for Education Reform

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) is a political reform organization with 13 state offices that cultivates and supports leaders in the Democratic party who champion America's public schoolchildren.

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Public Forums for Charter School Applicants Begin Today

By Tania de Sá Campos, DFER-WA Deputy State Director

As Washington’s charter school authorizers continue the application review process to determine which public charter schools will be approved this year, they are offering a prime opportunity for Washingtonians to voice their opinions on those that applied in a series of public forums beginning tonight.

The Washington State Charter School Commission will host nine forums across the state during the month of January. These forums are part of the official evaluation process for applications. During the forums, applicants will have the chance to express their vision and community members will have the opportunity to express their support and concerns.

Charter applicants will be given 10 minutes to present their vision, then the floor will be open for 30 minutes of public comment. Community members who wish to comment publicly will be randomly selected in a lottery prior to the meeting.

Individuals or groups wishing to provide written comment may send their statements to the Washington State Charter School Commission, P.O. Box 40996 Olympia, WA 98504-0996. Comments may also be hand delivered to the public forums. Written comments are limited to one page (12 point font). 

The first public forum takes place today, January 6th, at the Spokane Public School Administration Building. (The complete schedule of forums is listed below.)

Separately, on January 15th the Spokane Public Schools School Board will hold a public forum for the three applications they received. 

These forums are the next step toward opening public charter schools in our state and we look forward to hearing the opinions of all in attendance. If you’re from Washington— or just happen to be in town this month— please come show your support for public charter schools in the Evergreen State! And, keep your eyes peeled for a subsequent blog post as we move forward with the authorization process.

Tania de Sá Campos joined DFER Washington (DFER-WA) in April 2013 as Deputy State Director. In her role, Tania engages with a growing constituency of active, reform-minded Democrats and works with partners and allies to position Washington state as a leader in the next evolution of the movement to give every child a great education. Read more about Tania here.




Washington State Trial Court Upholds Charter School Law

By Tania de Sá Campos, DFER-WA Deputy State Director

A Washington state superior court judge ruled yesterday to uphold the state’s public charter school law, deciding against multiple claims challenging the law’s constitutionality.

Judge Jean A. Rietschel upheld the initiative, leaving the vast majority of the law intact and striking down one small piece of the legislation. Based on the judge’s decision, public charter schools will not have access to a state matching construction fund.

Implementation of Washington's charter school law will go forward. The case is expected to be appealed to the state Supreme Court. The Washington State Charter School Commission and the Spokane School District are currently evaluating 22 public charter school applications, with decisions anticipated in about six weeks.

DFER-WA State Director Lisa Macfarlane spoke with reporters from Education Week and The Seattle Times about the victory:

"We were thrilled with the ruling. We wrote a good law, and we vetted it with constitutional law experts, and we've always been confident it will pass constitutional muster.” (Education Week)

“If the decision today stands as is, charter schools move forward and operate and get funded, and that is what is important to us.” (Seattle Times)

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson also issued a statement on the passage of the law, noting: “The court has held the vast majority of the charter schools initiative constitutional, and the state will continue to implement the law.”

Yesterday’s ruling is definitely a win for public charter schools in the state.

Tania de Sá Campos joined DFER Washington (DFER-WA) in April 2013 as Deputy State Director. In her role, Tania engages with a growing constituency of active, reform-minded Democrats and works with partners and allies to position Washington state as a leader in the next evolution of the movement to give every child a great education. Read more about Tania here.




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