Lisa Gibes is 50CAN’s vice president of strategy and external relations. She lives in San Francisco, CA.

Here are news and opinion stories educators, advocates, policy wonks and makers are talking about today:

News & analysis:
Which Districts Are Getting Race to the Top Buzz?

Want to win your office betting pool on the Race to the Top District competition? Well, according to a survey of “education insiders” recently published by Whiteboard Advisors, the smart money is on the Los Angeles Unified School District. You also probably wouldn’t go broke betting on Hillsborough County Schools in Florida. Other districts with buzz include Austin, Texas; Boston; Charlotte-Mecklenberg, N.C.; Denver; Houston; Nashville, Tenn., and New York City. (Of course, we have no idea if any of these folks will actually apply.) So what exactly is this survey? Whiteboard Advisors, an education consulting practice, regularly polls 50 to 75 political and policy “insiders” including current and former senior staff from the U.S. Department of Education, Congress, and organizations. And it sounds like those insiders are less than impressed with the Race to the Top District competition. Fifty-nine percent think it was a bad idea, saying that it circumvents state authority and will be tough to oversee. (Education Week – Politics K-12) 

Teach For America Alumni Take Aim At State Office, Face Union Opposition
When Teach for America alumnus Bill Ferguson took on six-term incumbent George Della for a Maryland Senate seat two years ago, he benefited from the energetic support of his fellow Teach for America alumni—but he had to overcome the strident opposition of the teachers’ unions. Ferguson upset Della in the Democratic primary and went on to win the general election, making him only the second Teach for America alumnus to secure a seat in a state legislature—following Mike Johnston, who joined the Colorado Senate in 2009. Johnston and Ferguson aren’t likely to be alone for long: At least six TFA alumni are running for state legislatures this year, and many others are running for boards of education. Like Ferguson and Johnston, most of these former teachers likely will have to overcome union opposition to win. (Stateline – Pew) 

Segregation Fear Sinks Charter School
Nashville school officials have rejected a proposal to open a charter school in a middle-class part of the city, highlighting a broader national battle over efforts by operators of such publicly financed, privately run schools to expand into more affluent areas. The Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools board voted 7-2 Tuesday night to reject an application by Great Hearts Academies, a nonprofit that operates prep-school-like charter schools, for five new establishments. The Arizona-based group planned to open its first Tennessee school in a middle- to upper-middle class area in west Nashville, after being invited by parents who either were unhappy with local public schools or said they favored choice in education. The board denied the application because members worried that low-income parents wouldn’t be able to easily transport their children across town to a school on the west side, meaning the plan could effectively cause “segregated schools,” said Olivia Brown, spokeswoman for the district. (Wall Street Journal online) 

Fewer students step into STEP-UP

Minneapolis’ highly touted summer jobs program places fewer interns this month for 2nd year in a row. Just five months ago, Mayor R.T. Rybak went to the White House to herald the success of STEP-UP, a summer employment program for disadvantaged youth in Minneapolis that has helped 14,000 students since it began in 2004. It was a highlight for STEP-UP, which remains a key part of the city’s strategy to bring more minorities into better jobs in the Twin Cities. But fewer students are starting a STEP-UP job this month, for the second year in a row. The program has matched 1,850 youths with jobs this year, the lowest number since 2008 and a 20 percent drop since the peak in 2010. Rybak defended the program’s success in an interview this week, saying the numbers would rise again. “We’ll get back to that,” he said. Officials attribute the drop to loss of stimulus funding and cutbacks in federal block grants that subsidize wages for some employers in the program, particularly nonprofits. Federal and state funding for the part of the budget that subsidizes youth employment fell 30 percent this past year. That budget gets 55 percent of its money from federal and state funds, and 45 percent from the city. (Star Tribune)

4 more cyber charters set to open as lawmakers debate charter funding

While debate continues in Harrisburg over a state formula that some say wastes taxpayer money by inflating payments to cyber charter schools, four more schools are set to open in the fall. After rejecting seven new cyber applications earlier this year, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has given tentative approval to four that reapplied. The green light for the new cyber charters – which typically provide online instruction to students in their homes – will boost the number of those schools in the state by 30 percent. The 13 online charters that operated in the academic year just ended enrolled more than 42,000 students from kindergarten through high school. The new schools, according to enrollment projections in their applications, expect to swell those ranks by at least 1,500 pupils in their first year. Only two of the state’s existing cyber charters meet the state’s academic standards under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. (Philadelphia Inquirer) 

Pete Du Pont: Class Struggle

Much has been written about the choice we face just 19 weeks from now, when we will select the next president. But while we discuss the almost polar opposite views of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on spending, regulation, taxes and health care, we shouldn’t lose sight of another very important issue: education. While the candidates have some areas of agreement, their beliefs about education are still quite different, and the impact on our nation’s youth of a second Obama term versus a first Romney term would be significant. Not surprisingly, given their differences on most other issues, Mr. Obama’s approach more closely follows the status quo, pro-teachers-union track, while Mr. Romney’s more closely follows the reform, pro-student track. Mr. Romney’s plan includes vouchers that would give disadvantaged children, particularly those in failed schools, and their parents the option of moving to a school of their choice. In the past, decisions on where children went to school would usually depend primarily upon their ZIP code. Giving parents choices is important, perhaps now more than ever, because we can see it working in many places where it has been tried. (Wall Street Journal online) 






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