Education secretary: 'We are at a fork in the road'
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speaks on the state of education at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on October 2, 2012.
October 2nd, 2012
05:32 PM ET

Education secretary: 'We are at a fork in the road'

by Lindy Royce-Bartlett, CNN

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNN) - Education Secretary Arne Duncan believes that America's decision on Election Day will greatly impact the state of education.

"The choice facing our country today is pretty stark.  I believe we are at a fork in the road.  Some folks see education as an expense government can cut in tough economic times," Duncan explained during a luncheon at the National Press Club Tuesday afternoon.  "President Obama and I see education as an investment in our future - the best investment we can make.  Especially - especially in tough economic times."

To get feedback and "take the pulse of people after nearly four years in office," Duncan recently went on a cross-country bus tour themed 'Education Drives America.'  After taking part in over 100 events in twelve states, Duncan says it is clear that "the real work of improving schools doesn't happen in Washington but in cities and towns all across America-where parents, teachers and community leaders work together toward a common goal."

During Tuesday's Q&A session, Duncan was asked what the biggest difference between an Obama and Romney administration in education and he did not mince words.  "I think the difference is pretty clear and frankly it's stark and the country's going to have its say on it: That we fundamentally see education as an investment, and they fundamentally see education as an expense."

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Arne Duncan • Issues • Policy • Voices
What are 'parent trigger' laws?
Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal star in the pro "parent trigger" film "Won't Back Down."
October 2nd, 2012
01:06 PM ET

What are 'parent trigger' laws?

By Jamie Gumbrecht and Donna Krache, CNN

 (CNN) – The movie “Won’t Back Down” squeaked into the box office Top 10 last weekend, reloading debates around the country about so-called "parent trigger" laws.

Haven't heard of them? These are laws that allow parents whose kids attend failing schools to band together and "trigger" a change - usually by gathering support from more than half the parents, then changing who's in charge.

"Won't Back Down" is a dramatic retelling of how the laws might work, a Hollywood version "inspired by actual events" that stars Academy Award nominees Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal. They play moms who overcome their own challenges to change a failing Pittsburgh school, despite pushback from union leaders and teachers. Reviews are mixed - it's gained the support of education reformer Michelle Rhee and politicians like Jeb Bush, but was panned by teachers groups. Oh, and film critics: Some lauded the acting and emotion, but more knocked it for “grossly oversimplifying” the issues, for serving as a "propaganda piece"  and loading its cast of big Hollywood names with a story of “Hollywood clichés.”

The film "represents everything that’s wrong with the present way we talk about school reform – and everything we need to talk about more in the future," education advocate Sam Chaltain wrote on CNN's Schools of Thought blog.

So what do these laws and situations look like off the big screen? Here's a run-down of how parent trigger laws work, and whether they could affect your schools.

How do parent trigger laws work?

State proposals and laws vary, but in essence, if a school’s students fail to reach predetermined academic benchmarks – test scores, for example – a majority of parents could decide to dismiss some or all teachers and administrators. New staff would then be brought in or students would receive vouchers to attend other schools. Some state’s trigger proposals say parents could close schools altogether, or hand over a school’s management to a private corporation or group that would re-open it as a charter school.

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Faith leaders sound off on role of church in public education
October 2nd, 2012
04:21 AM ET

Faith leaders sound off on role of church in public education

By Tomeka Jones, CNN

(CNN) – Dozens of faith leaders from across the country recently gathered to attend The Stand Up Education Policy Summit in Atlanta, Georgia, to talk education reform. The daylong conference was hosted by education organzations StudentsFirst, founded by Michelle Rhee and Stand Up, led by her husband, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. The purpose of the event was a call for action for clergy to take part in the national movement to transform public education.

CNN spoke with some prominent religious leaders in the African-American community to find out their views on the role faith institutions should play in public education.

Rev. DeForest Soaries, Jr., a senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey, laid out what he believes are three roles of the church in education.

"One is programs. Some churches have their own schools that would be on the programmatic level, after school programs and literacy programs. The second is political dealings with the various political forces that impact and control public schools: Making sure people run for school board, making sure people vote for school board, and monitor what's happening. And, the third is policy: Advocating for policies that enhance the likelihood of success."

According to Rev. Soaries, who was featured in CNN’s "Black in America: Almighty Debt", not every church will engage in all three roles but there’s a common theme for each religious institution and that is “to do something.”
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Filed under: education • Policy • Practice • Religion