American Center for Transforming Education: Updates from Washington and Oklahoma

Discovery Institute recently launched its newest program, the American Center for Transforming Education (ACTE), to target one of the nation’s highest priority public policy objectives: improving the performance of the U.S. education system. ACTE blends a focus on increasing parental choice and empowerment with the complementary objectives of reforming certification for teachers and administrators and strengthening teacher preparation programs.

ACTE’s work is rooted in the philosophy that the education of the child is a fundamental responsibility of the family. All families, regardless of socioeconomic status, should be able to access the school that they believe will best serve their children. A ZIP code should not be the determining factor in what education a child will be able to receive.

In Washington state, the ACTE has actively supported a reversal of the Supreme Court’s decision to declare charter schools unconstitutional. Through our Facebook page, we’ve launched a social media campaign to educate citizens and policy makers about the importance of charter schools in the state. As a result of this effort, we’ve been able to reach over 345,000 people with this message. Our strategy includes a focused outreach to policymakers—including legislators, their staff, and judges—which has generated 4,600 “engagements” (a measure which includes likes, clicks, shares, and comments), with a response rate of 70%. This show of public interest in charter schools is vital to spur legislative action that would reverse the Court’s decision in 2016.

In 2016, the ACTE is excited to be partnering with local like-minded organizations, Oklahoma Council on Public Policy and Choice Matter, to expand school choice within their state. After an intensive process of research and analysis, we’ve identified Oklahoma as a state that is ripe with potential for reforms, and hope to have many positive developments to report throughout the year. Our work in Oklahoma will be modeled after that of the American Center for School Choice—an organization that is newly merged with the ACTE. The American Center for School Choice has seen previous success in Florida, where, in 2014, they were successful in working with local groups for the formation of the Florida Interfaith Coalition for School Choice. This resulted in 80,000 Florida children receiving scholarships to private schools! We are already well on our way to seeing similar progress made in Oklahoma, and have begun the process of building a faith-based coalition that will educate policymakers about the importance of providing Oklahoma parents with more education options for their children. You will hear more details as they emerge in early 2016 and the Oklahoma legislature begins its session in February.

Going forward, ACTE will continue to identify states that are poised for certification and teacher preparation reform, and develop partnerships We want to encourage and assist local groups seeking to improve the quality and training of people in our education system, which continues to be a critical element for delivering consistently better academic outcomes for American students.

Education Reform Must Begin With the Legislature Says Former Seattle School Board President

News Release
Discovery Institute
Robert Crowther
(206) 292-0401 x107
rob@discovery.org

Education Reform Must Begin With the Legislature
Says Former Seattle School Board President

This week, the Legislature begins its deliberations during this short session (60 days). The top priority will be “education” and the need to comply with the Supreme Court decisions on charter schools and funding.

The charter school issue should be the easier of the two according to Don Nielsen, former Seattle School Board President and author of Every School: One Citizen’s Guide To Transforming Education.

“Charter schools are simply deregulated public schools, and the legislature needs to pass legislation allowing public funds to be given to schools that are granted waivers from state regulations,” said Nielsen. “It they did that, charter schools would be eligible for state funding and the issue would be solved.”

The funding question is a more difficult challenge.

“My own opinion is that the Supreme Court has overstepped its jurisdiction in proclaiming that the Legislature is inadequately funding our schools,” said Nielsen, who is also a senior fellow at Discovery Institute. “First, how do they know? On what basis do they make that assessment?”

Perhaps equally important Nielsen added, is the question, “if what we are spending now is not enough, then what would be enough?”

The Supreme Court chose not to answer any of these questions and, as a result, put the Legislature in a very difficult position. In the last session, the Legislature added $3.0 billion to education funding, but it still was not enough and the Supreme Court is now fining the Legislature $100,000/day until they meet the non-defined amount of funding that the Court has decided is needed.

“Quite frankly, the best solution to this dilemma is to elect a new majority in the Court,” said Nielsen.

In Nielsen’s view, inadequate funding is simply not the issue with our schools. He maintains that more money has never increased academic achievement and it never will.

“The problem is the system itself,” explained Nielsen. “Our present system of education was established to meet a different need in a different era. It was never designed to effectively educate every child and it has successfully not done so for over 100 years.”

“The task the Legislature should tackle is the redesign of a school system,” Nielsen added. “Someday, one state in this nation is going to do that, and all others will then have to follow. Why shouldn’t the state of Washington lead the nation in that effort?”

If you’d like to interview Don Nielsen please contact Robert Crowther at 206-292-0401 x107, or at rob@discovery.org.

Intelligent Design Is Older Than You Think — A Lot Older

The modern intelligent design movement may be traced to a seminal meeting organized by Phillip Johnson at Pajaro Dunes in 1993, although the Wistar Symposium of 1966 and a persistent march of Darwinian skeptics certainly prepared the soil for that fertile meeting. But ID as a concept long predates the twentieth century. Just as modern materialism and physicalism have their roots in the ancient atomists (notably Leucippus, Democritus, Lucretius), so too ID has a deep and rich history. Continue reading at Evolution News.