Tuesday, June 18, 2013

US Senate Taking Ed Reform Seriously

Even before Cory Booker gets there, I’m really heartened by the profound shift taking place in the U.S. Senate on ed reform. In the last few weeks, we have had some really great donor meetings with some of the more pragmatic Dems in the Senate. The sense of a historical shift in the Senate is palpable when you talk to them. As the old guard retires (or expires), we reformers are increasingly engaging with younger Dems who have grown up in the education reform generation and are poised to do great things in the Senate.
Our job will obviously be to convert the support from these very credible messengers into support for pragmatic education reform down the ticket.

Nobody compares to my favorite senator, Michael Bennet of Colorado (who used to be super of Denver schools – the only US Senator ever to have been super of a district), but Mary Landrieu of LA, whom I had lunch with last Monday, has been a huge champion of Obama and Duncan’s reforms nationally as well as the bold reforms going on in that state (as has her brother, Mitch, the mayor of New Orleans).

Last Monday morning I also had the pleasure of meeting Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) who’s really engaging on this issue, and the previous Friday met with Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), who was appointed in 2012 to serve out Daniel Inouye's term. His twin brother was a TFA-er in Los Angeles and now runs the Race to the Top office for the Hawaii Department of Education. He’s going to have to work hard to keep his seat in the 2014 special election, but he is exactly the kind of guy we need there. At 40, he is the second-youngest Senator after Chris Murphy (D-CT), who is 39 (Murphy is married to a TFA alum and is very good on this issue as well). Special mentions go to Chris Coons (D-DE) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

And Don't Forget The House: Or Rep. George Miller, at least. We are co-hosting two events in NYC next week for Miller - a breakfast and a lunch. As most of you know, Miller is a rock of support and has been for a long time. Both events are Friday June 21st, at One Grand Central Place, 60 E. 42nd St. The breakfast (which I’ll be at) starts at and the lunch starts at 8am Ping me if you can make either event.

Lastly, here’s an update from Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO):

Congressman Jared Polis (a member of the 'Reformer's Dozen') just introduced his All Students Achieving Through Reform (All-STAR) Act. This bill updates and improves the federal government’s program to support the financing and growth of public charter schools across the country by enabling and encouraging new charter school startups in addition to the replication and expansion of high-quality charter schools. The bill is based Chairman Kline's bipartisan Empowering Parents Through Quality Charter Schools Act (HR 2218), which passed the House of Representatives 354-54 last Congress, but makes a number of changes to emphasize quality, accountability, and growing and replicating charter school models that are demonstrating success for students, families, and communities. 

In particular, the bill would increase the percentage of increase the percentage of funds reserved for grants to individual charter schools and charter management organizations with a demonstrated record of success (and it's worth noting that both the Democratic and Republican ESEA bills in the Senate have an even greater emphasis on quality because they do not cap the percentage of funds that can flow to CMOs and charter schools that have demonstrated success.) This is important because federal funds through the Charter Schools Program Grants for the Replication and Expansion of High-Quality Schools have enabled 18 nonprofit CMOs (including KIPP, Rocketship, Uncommon Schools, and Democracy Prep) to create more than 330 schools in 20 states and Washington, D.C. Virtually all grantees exceed the average academic performance for all students in their state or states, and serve student populations that are at least 70 percent low income. However, this program is not currently codified in law, meaning (with sequestration and the rest), we could see this program zeroed out. We need your support to continue this crucial program. Please contact your representative and ask them to cosponsor All-STAR (HR 2252) or contact Allie Kimmel at Allie.Kimmel@mail.house.gov for more information! 

Earlier this year, DFER launched our Reformer's Dozen web page to raise money for some of our key allies in Congress. Please contribute here.

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