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Reading List: Murray Honored, Tennessee Eyes New Tests, Charters Unionize

While it wasn't an incredibly newsy week in the education world, here's a quick roundup of things you may have missed:

  • U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., was honored at the annual Committee for Education Funding Gala for her work on education issues. If Democrats hang on to the Senate in this year's elections, Murray is the likely replacement for Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who is retiring at the end of this year. Murray, a former preschool teacher, gave a long speech that included her now-famous "mom in tennis shoes" story, about her entree into politics. She honed in on her efforts as chairwoman of the powerful Budget Committee to bring in witnesses who could put a face to the issues, and underscored her ability to work across the aisle to get results by highlighting her negotiations with House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
  • Want to know more about charter schools that are unionizing? Education Week's Arianna Prothero has the goods. She recently explored two charter schools in Alameda, Calif., where the staff is unionized. National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen recently dropped by the schools on her trip to California to encourage more charter schools to do the same. Believe it or not, national charter-organizing initiatives from the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers date back to around 2007 and the economic downturn when, according to several union organizers, many former district teachers found themselves in charter schools because they had the only jobs available.
  • Tennessee is in the process of choosing a new standardized state test after its legislature voted this spring to delay for one year the use of the test developed by the federally funded Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, consortium and re-open the bidding process. The state's Department of General Services denied an open records request from Chalkbeat Tennessee to view the list of vendors that applied to write the test, but reporter Grace Tatter has a rundown of who's in the running for the $60 million job.
  • In what was probably the most bipartisan event on Capitol Hill in months, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle swarmed the Boys & Girls Clubs of America's congressional breakfast Wednesday, where the organization named its 2014-15 National Youth of the Year. Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, rubbed shoulders with the likes of House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Democratic Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. The high-profile lawmakers were just a handful of the dozens who made appearances. The organization, which provides mentoring, academic and other social wraparound services to students in low-income communities, is supported by more than 80 members of Congress. With such a politically star-studded cast, Ron Gidwitz, chairman of the GROUP'S?--MB board of governors, took the opportunity to press Congress for more funding. "If we're going to do the things we need to do, frankly, we need more support," he said. The organization currently gets about $40 million in federal pass-through funds from competitive grants.
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