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State Ed Advocacy Group, 50CAN, Looks to Expand

Over the past few years, a pack of education interest groups have sought to put their stamp on school policy in the states. You know some of the names: Stand for Children, StudentsFirst (founded by Michelle Rhee) and Democrats for Education Reform.

Now another such organization, known as 50CAN, which currently works in a handful of states, is vowing to scale up its work to across the country. The group wants to be in 25 states by 2015, and eventually have a presence in all 50 states, according to its president and founder, Marc Porter Magee.

Ed Week readers might remember that the group's Rhode Island chapter organized a campaign earlier this year to urge state's newly elected governor, Lincoln Chafee, keep state schools chief Deborah Gist on the job. The group has also backed a host of new laws in the states, such as the passage of a measure in Minnesota to allow alternate routes to teacher certification.

50CAN says its model is to help local leaders—nonprofit leaders, former officeholders, business officials—become effective advocates for changes in school policy. What kinds of policies? 50CAN has backed charter school expansion, new forms of teacher evaluation, and the adoption of the "common core" academic standards, among other efforts. Unlike Stand for Children, which has state chapters that have political action committees and supports individual candidates, 50CAN does not have a PAC and is not involved in elections, Magee said.

This was a wild year in state legislatures, one that brought deep—and often divisive changes—in state policy. Expect to hear of the work of 50CAN in future state policy debates in the years ahead.

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