Charter Advocates Lobby to Restore Tax Credit for Facilities
According to Education Week, a coalition of nearly 60 public charter school organizations is urging members of Congress to revive the recently expired New Markets tax credit, which has helped create facilities for 125 charters in 21 states and D.C. In a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp and ranking Democrat Rep. Sander Levin, the charter leaders wrote that the tax credit, which expired at the end of last year, "has generated vital private investment to finance affordable facilities for public charter schools” as well as creating teaching jobs and providing new educational opportunities for children in economically distressed communities. The program, established by Congress in 2000, encouraged investment in impoverished communities by providing individuals and corporations with federal tax credits. It allowed community development entities to raise private capital for facilities in partnership with public charter school operators. The tax credits have supported 260 investments, worth $1.15 billion.
Source: Education Week
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First Washington State Charters May Be Homegrown
According to the Seattle Times, the first public charter schools in Washington state will probably be local start-ups instead of outposts of national networks. National Association of Charter School Authorizers head Greg Richmond said only nine public charter school organizations operate in more than one state and they "are very much in demand all over the country." According to Chris Korsmo of the League of Education Voters, teachers and principals interested in running charters are “just coming out of the woodwork” -- about 100 have already expressed interest. Robin Lake, director of the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education, said about three-quarters of the nation’s charters are homegrown. "Some of the best charter schools I know were started by a couple of renegade, fantastic teachers," she said. "The most important thing is keeping the focus on quality." Lake and others said that Initiative 1240 is a good law and if carried out well, it will eventually attract national charter operators.
Source: Seattle Times
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Editorial: In Los Angeles, Give Charter Schools Their Due
A Los Angeles Times editorial credits public charter schools with “changing the discussion in Los Angeles about poor and minority students. No longer is it acceptable to assume that students from disadvantaged backgrounds cannot be high achievers. The new ideas that charter schools brought into the educational mix, and the competition they posed in attracting students, played a significant role in the improvement of L.A. Unified's traditional public schools.” Nearly 100,000 L.A. students now attend charters – nearly twice as many as in New York City’s school system. The Times laments a recent attempt to place a moratorium on new charters, but posits that it would helpful to more closely examine charters’ record on serving students with special needs, their four-year graduation rates and the renewals of some low-performing charters. However, in the misguided moratorium attempt, “a moment for serious discussion was lost, during which the district could have made progress toward ensuring that all charter schools live up to their promises.”
Source: Los Angeles Times
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Baltimore Charters Looking to the Next Decade
According to the Baltimore Sun, on the eve of the 10th anniversary of Maryland’s charter school law, 18 Baltimore public charter schools seeking renewals will be evaluated for the first time with new performance measures developed in collaboration by district and charter leaders. The new measures take into account test scores, school climate, fiscal management, enrollment and retention. Coalition of Baltimore Charter Schools co-chair Will McKenna, called the new performance framework “the most fair that we've seen." Although district official Alison Perkins-Cohen said “we absolutely view charters as a vital part of our reform strategy," the city’s 33 charter schools, which serve nearly 13 percent of city students, are feeling the pinch of a new teachers’ union contract and a funding formula which charter leaders say shortchanges them. "We won't be able to survive and thrive if we have contracts and policies that affect us disproportionately," McKenna said.
Source: Baltimore Sun
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Editorial: Authorizers and Parents Should Support the Best Charters
A Detroit News editorial calls Detroit’s number two ranking in percentage of public charter school attendance “a testament to the power of school choice.” Although some Michigan leaders have decried the rapid growth of educational options, “parents have the most important objective of all: giving their child the foundation of a great education…Quality controls do exist. Charter schools come into existence through authorizers, usually state universities. These authorizers have the ability to shut down a charter that doesn't deliver on its original promise. And authorizers do close schools — nearly 60 in past years — while no standard public school has closed for poor performance. Ideally, the rapid expansion of charters will slow and the best schools will be left standing. Authorizers and parents have an important role to play in ensuring the poor-performing schools shut down and the good ones thrive.”
Source: Detroit News
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Op-ed: In Tennessee, Public Charter Schools Are Succeeding
In a Tennessean op-ed, Matt Throckmorton, executive director of the Tennessee Charter School Association celebrates data on public charter school performance from the state report card and from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University. “Nashville-area charter schools did an incredible job with respect to student learning gains this year,” Thockmorton writes. Nashville charters topped the list for highest academic growth in both math and reading. Fifteen Tennessee charters significantly outperformed neighborhood district schools, and seven more demonstrated academic growth. Nashville also plans to close a low-performing charter school, which Thockmorton calls “a very difficult step, but at the same time, it testifies to the strength of the charter school concept…As Nashville develops more new high-quality charter models and as current operators expand, it is a very promising future for the quality of education…”
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Utah Charter School Enrollment on the Rise
According to the Salt Lake Tribune , Utah public charter school enrollment grew from 1,526 students in 2002 to 50,785 this school year. Utah’s 88 charters serve 8.4 percent of the state’s K-12 students, nearly twice as many as the national average of 4.5 percent. A funding ceiling limits charter growth to between 5,000 and 7,000 students per year. "Charters want to grow reasonably, fiscally responsibly with high-quality instruction," said Kim Frank, executive director of the Utah Charter Network, a nonprofit that offers advocacy, training and networking for charter schools. "We’ve found that somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 to 7,000 students accomplishes these goals." Chris Bleak, president of the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools, said there are still waiting lists at many charter schools."We certainly want to see enrollment meet the demand," Bleak said. "It doesn’t right now, but it comes pretty close."
Source: Salt Lake Tribune
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At Uncommon Schools’ Troy Prep, Practice Puts Perfection in Reach
In the New York Times, Katie Yezzi, the founding principal of Troy Prep Elementary School in Troy, N.Y., part of the Uncommon Schools public charter school network, describes how practice is “one of the most powerful ways to improve performance,” and an antidote to the self-doubt, frustration and sense of defeat that can accompany difficult work. “Some 92 percent of my school’s students live below the poverty line, and the urgency of our faculty’s work is what motivates us to be great every day,” Yezzi writes. “With our students, we never accept that some won’t ever ‘get it.’ We know that intelligence is not a fixed trait; with the right instruction, and lots of well-constructed practice, all of our students can achieve at high levels…We all work hard in a very demanding environment, but our teachers love their jobs. The key to workplace satisfaction is doing a job well, and our most powerful tool for ensuring that is practice.”
Source: New York Times