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:
Teachers Unions, Federal Spending Slammed at GOP Convention

The Republicans offered up a lot of tough talk Tuesday night—including battering President Barack Obama and teachers unions—as they hailed Mitt Romney as their newly nominated candidate for president. By far the sharpest attacks in a long night of speeches at the Republican National Convention came from Gov. Chris Christie, of New Jersey, whose fire-breathing keynote speech attacked the educational establishment, especially teachers unions.Christie said that in New Jersey, he defied naysayers by successfully taking on “the third rail of politics” to overhaul the public employee health and benefit system in his state. He put the projected savings to taxpayers at $132 billion over 30 years. (Education Week – Politics K-12)

National PTA Revises Policy on Charter Schools
The National Parent Teacher Association has revamped its policy to make it clear that it supports giving entities other than local school boards the right to approve charter schools, a new position the group argues will increase its ability to shape policy within the diverse and growing sector of independent public schools. Leaders of the National PTA, an advocacy organization with 5 million members, say their goal is to remain relevant in discussions about charter schools by recognizing those schools’ role in today’s education system and by focusing more intently on improving their quality and oversight. (Education Week) 

New Laws, Programs Expand E-Learning Options
Lawmakers in Utah recently mandated that school districts allow high school students to take online courses from state-approved providers. In Florida, large districts must give students online-course options from at least three different providers. Recent legislation in Georgia altered the funding structure for students who take virtual courses; the action provides an incentive for districts to encourage students to try online classes. In recent years, several states have enacted laws that require more choices for students who want to try taking courses online, outside the offerings of brick-and-mortar school districts. In some cases, such legislation—as in Florida and Utah—is a companion to requirements that students take at least one online course before graduating from high school. (Education Week) 

New Jersey:
Convention Keynoter Christie Has a Flashy K-12 Record

Tonight, when the GOP convention goes full throttle, the keynote speaker will be New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has a national reputation as a union-arm-twisting, voucher-loving, turnaround-supporting, education-budget-trimming chief executive. That doesn’t mean, of course, that he’ll utter a word about education at a convention dominated by the economy. But if he does, he’d have plenty to draw on. Christie, who some folks wish had run for the GOP nomination this year, recently championed vouchers in his state, although he couldn’t sell them to a legislature controlled by Democrats. But earlier this year, he reached a deal with state Democratic leaders, making it much tougher for teachers to get, and keep, tenure in exchange for keeping in place layoff rules that put a premium on seniority. (Education Week – Politics K-12) 

New York:
Talking education reform

The inequities of the state’s school aid formula, the impact of budget cuts on North Country schools and the challenges of preparing high school students for college and the work force were some of the biggest concerns raised by speakers who testified before a state education reform commission here Wednesday. The New NY Education Reform Commission has been holding a series of public hearings across the state to gather input from local stakeholders on ways to improve the state’s public education system. The 20-member commission was appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this year. (Adirondack Daily Enterprise) 

New Code Aims to Ease Suspensions of Students
New York City public-school students can no longer be suspended for one-time, low-level infractions, and the youngest pupils can be suspended only for 5 days for midlevel offenses, down from 10, according to new disciplinary rules posted by the Education Department this week. With an aim of reducing punishments that keep students out of the classroom, the department’s new disciplinary code also guides teachers to intervene quickly with misbehaving students and to try counseling before moving to punishment. (New York Times) 


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