By: Alissa Bernstein
As PEJ embarks on its new partnership with the 50CAN network, I want to recognize the outstanding work of Ralia Polechronis, who has served as PEJ’s fearless leader and executive director over the past two years.
Ralia’s passion and her keen legal expertise have laid the foundation for PEJ to further its mission, pursuing education advocacy through litigation and empowering families and communities to improve public education through the courts. Under Ralia’s leadership, PEJ has launched new landmark education lawsuits in Minnesota and New Jersey, built coalitions across the country for families seeking justice, and most recently, partnered with 50CAN to strengthen the chapter in the education reform movement utilizing legal strategies for educational equity.
I first met Ralia two years ago during my interview at PEJ, and I have had the great fortune of working alongside her and learning from her ever since. Her intelligence, strategic mind and commitment to families is truly inspiring.
Today, Ralia passes the torch to me as the new executive director of PEJ. I am looking forward to continuing our work with the parent plaintiffs in PEJ’s teacher quality cases, and to launching new initiatives with the 50CAN network that will expand the scope of legal strategies improving public education for kids all across the country.
As one of PEJ’s first new initiatives, we will be forming a Legal Advisory Board to expand the network of attorneys participating in our education law reform work. This board will provide attorneys with opportunities to participate in our work on a pro bono basis, and for PEJ to learn and grow from the Board’s oversight and legal expertise. I’m thrilled to share that Ralia will be joining the Legal Advisory Board to continue her trailblazing work with us.
I speak for myself and the millions of parents and families Ralia has worked to support when I say that PEJ will miss Ralia dearly and wish her great success in all that she does. I look forward to writing the next chapter in education law reform with all of you.
By Christopher Magan | Twin Cities Pioneer Press
“Attorneys for parents challenging Minnesota teachers union laws asked an appeals court panel Wednesday to overturn a lower court’s decision to dismiss their case.
St. Paul mother Roxanne Draughn and three other parents from across the Twin Cities filed a lawsuit in April 2016 claiming that teacher tenure and other union rules protect bad teachers and worsen the academic achievement gap.
Last fall, a Ramsey County District Court judge dismissed their case, ruling that the plaintiffs’ lawsuit did not have enough evidence to show the union rules contributed to the achievement gap between poor and minority students and their peers.”
By JESSE McKINLEY and LISA W. FODERARO | The New York Times
“ALBANY — In a potential reprieve for Mayor Bill de Blasio, the New York State Legislature seemed poised to grant two years of mayoral control over New York City’s schools, ending a looming uncertainty over the nation’s largest school system and its 1.1 million students.
The shape of an agreement came into focus late Wednesday night in a special legislative session in Albany that also included deals on issues as diverse as flood relief and help for harness racing.”
By Beena Raghavendran | StarTribune
“The job security shielding veteran teachers makes it difficult to kick out the lousy ones, a group of parents from around Minnesota argues. Those parents are fighting to have their lawsuit against the state heard after a lower court threw it out last fall.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Wednesday heard oral arguments in a high-stakes teacher tenure lawsuit, the third of its kind nationally. An attorney for the parents told the appeals court that students’ right to an adequate education calls for dismantling the state’s long-standing tenure laws that can make it difficult to fire bad teachers.”
By Samantha Marcus | NJ.com
“TRENTON — New Jersey legislative budget committees voted Monday to spend an additional $150 million on schools in the state and shift $31 million from ‘overfunded’ to ones that should get more money.
The funding changes, a variation of a plan put forth by state Senate President Stephen Sweeney and state Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto earlier this month, is the centerpiece of Democrats’ state budget bill, passed late Monday by the Senate and Assembly budget committees.”
By Kathryn Green | The StarTribune
“As a school board member, there is nothing more frustrating than having to turn away or let go of an educator we know is effective and leaving a teaching position unfilled. This leads to classes and programs being cut, to the school year starting without teachers in the classroom, and to teachers having to leave their posts even though they’ve proven themselves as great educators — and even though school leaders and students want them to stay.”
By SONDRA ERICKSON AND ERIC PRATT | Twin Cities Pioneer Press
“We are grateful to Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton for his support of the historic education reforms he signed into law that raise the bar, not only to put the best teachers in our classrooms, but also to keep the best teachers in our classrooms. These measures are a fundamental shift toward viewing our educators as true professionals, by recognizing the value of their education, experience and performance in the classroom.”
By Solvejg Wastvedt | MPR News
“New licensing requirements for Minnesota teachers are set to take effect next summer after they were passed as part of the education budget last session.
The changes put more control in the hands of school districts and aim to address problems identified in a critical legislative audit last year. The audit called Minnesota’s current licensing system “broken,” citing confusing requirements and uneven standards for in- and out-of-state candidates.”
By Erin Hinrichs | MinnPost
“While debates over teacher licensure reforms, school funding and failed pseudo voucher bills dominated the education agenda at the Capitol this year, a pretty significant policy measure passed without much commotion: the “last in, first out” layoff policy, commonly known as LIFO, is no longer written into state statute as the default for districts and union leaders who can’t reach an agreement during negotiations on how layoffs should otherwise be handled.”
By The StarTribune Editorial Board
“As part of the state’s multibillion-dollar E-12 education package, Minnesota lawmakers approved two long-awaited and much-needed provisions governing teaching jobs. Under the new legislation, the state’s teacher licensing system was overhauled to make it more streamlined and less complicated. Overall, the changes create an easier, more sensible path to obtaining a license to teach in Minnesota.”