Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness

by Pat Drago and Sue Legg



This is not an easy walk into the woods, but you need to know where the funding for charter schools comes from and where it goes. It is your money.

There is a lot money to be made and lost with charter schools, and it is public tax dollars. As usual, independent schools tend to lose it, and large charter management chains come out on top.  This is not always to the children’s benefit.  How does this happen? We looked at the audits and found huge disparities in facility and fee expenditures. This meant that instructional parts of the budgets were reduced accordingly.

We wanted to know how these facilities were financed. If State funds were creating opportunities to make real estate venture capitalists wealthy, we wanted to know how this worked. Unfortunately, public dollars that go to private companies are hard to see. The lack of transparency for their financial records provides only vague outlines. We did find some clues by looking at how facilities are financed.

We wondered what other states were doing to ensure that state money was allocated for instruction and not for profit making ventures. We found some answers. As always, different approaches have their share of unintended consequences. As we groped in the darkness, there was a glimmer of light. The brave among you are invited to go down this path with us.

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OPT OUT of Testing Consequences: New Link

letterParents all over the U.S. are considering whether or not to encourage their children not to take the Common Core assessments this spring.  In Florida, education leaders in the legislature asked the Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart to provide the legal consequences of opting out of testing students.  Read her response.

The consequences are not always trivial.



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Catching Up for Kindergarten


Last year, political horse trading got in the way of improving regulations for early childhood programs.  Representative O’Toole’s bill, HB 7069, died on the last day of the session.   The 2015 legislative session starts in March.  Senator O’Toole is the new Chair of the House Education Committee.  Things may improve for little children.  Or, we may start pre and posting testing them!   Let’s see take a look at where we are and what may be ahead.

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Florida’s Fat Cats?

yachtThe current New Yorker has a long article on Jeb Bush’s role in the development of school choice.  The outline of the story is nothing new.  Jeb Bush launched charter schools and vouchers for private schools in Florida.  He based charter school grades on individual student’s achievement gains rather than school level improvement.  This offered a way to pressure teachers, because achievement would be measured at the classroom level.

According to the New Yorker article, a Bush appointee stated that Bush saw an opportunity to break the teacher’s union because it was viewed as a stalwart of the Democratic Party.

Perhaps even Jeb Bush is surprised at the growth of the choice movement.  The real story, however, is behind the scenes.

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Come Dream With Me: A Glimpse into What Online Learning Could Be

chrystal-542488_1280I had a glimpse into the future yesterday.  Such a contrast between what is and what could be!  Believe it or not, it was the Senate K12 Education Committee meeting on video.  It started off with a review of the districts’ technology plans.  This past year, the State of Florida administered 4 million tests online.  This year, they will do 5 million.  The infrastructure is there, more or less.

I did not realize that funding for technology was recently incorporated into the FEFP per student allocation.  Thus, the increase is ear marked.  Districts are spending on average, 53% of this technology money for infrastructure.  Thirty one percent goes for assessments, and six percent for professional development.  According to the DOE, this approach is working.

Now for what could be….

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New Testing Reduction Bill in Congress

dmbtestRepresentatives Gibson and Sinema filed a bill to significantly change national testing policy.  The provisions would roll back testing from 14 to 6 required standardized tests.  The change is called ‘grade span’ testing.  H.R. 4172 would mandate testing for math and English Language Arts once in grades 3-5; once in grades 6-9, and once in grades 10-12.  This is the same requirement for science assessments.

This is a bipartisan bill sponsored by representatives from Arizona and New York.  A similar option was proposed by Senator Lamar Alexander.

Florida Tax Credit Scholarships Need The Light of Day

business-257880_1280We will do a series of posts on educational issues likely to come up in the Florida legislative session.  We would like to hear from other states as well.  Let’s begin with the accountability of the Florida Tax Credit (FTC) scholarship program.

What are the children learning; where is the money going, and how is it spent?

Keeping track of the $86 million for 67, 142 students in over 1400 schools is no easy task.  Transparency issues in reporting have arisen in charter schools.   Senator Legg, Chair of the Education Committee indicated that remedies would be made.  How can he improve transparency in the private school sector for tax credit vouchers?

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Florida capitolSenator Gaetz wants answers to a list of questions about testing. How much time do they take?  What happens if students do not take them.  Where are we on setting passing levels.  He wrote a letter to the Commissioner of Education, Pam Stewart.  She answers at the Senate Committee Meeting on Wednesday.  You can watch it.  Read on, more is happening.

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