Duval County: School Choice is a False Choice

cash-burningAs charters in Duval County increase, the school district faces a $10 million dollar shortfall.  Should the district give up reading coaches for traditional schools?

The options for balancing the district budget are not good.  If the district draws down its reserve fund, what do they do next year?  The district anticipates that there will be 2,000 new enrollments in charters next fall.  Charters in Duval County have their own challenges.

On the surface, it would appear that Duval County, like many counties, is facing the reality that splitting money with charters means that no one has enough to do what needs to be done.  What is going on?

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Cheating the Children

by Pat Drago

payoffSome policies are all about money.  When these come up, Fl. Representative Manny Diaz is often around.  He is the Dean at Doral College, the non-accredited place that offers dual enrollment online courses to charter school students taught by their high school teachers.  The credit doesn’t transfer, but maybe it saves money.  Now, Rep. Diaz is in the news again.  See how he wants to save money.

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Which Companies Fund Tax Credit Vouchers?

money_exchangeA report from the Orlando Sentinel says tax credit revenue from Florida corporations is down this year.  The  money is used to fund scholarships for 70,000 children to private schools.

Florida voters rejected these scholarships but the legislature has a work around.  They let corporations donate their taxes and bypass the state treasury.  One of the alcoholic beverage companies that helps fund scholarships came up $9 million short this year.  Step Up for Students, the private group that administers the scholarships will have to make up the difference.

Who are these companies?

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Adding New Charter Schools: Will FSU Know Best?

buck stopsWho should approve new charter schools–local districts or the state?   Would a university institute funded by the legislature do a better job?  Now the State Board of Education has the final say.  But, they do not always get it right.

Legislation moving through the Florida House and Senate includes a provision to create the Florida State University Charter School Institute.  It would review charter proposals and conduct evaluation studies.  Will FSU be able to improve the charter authorization process?  Can it evaluate local needs, or do they not matter?  If a form is filled out correctly, is that enough to make a charter school a valuable contribution to a local district?

I watched the April School Board of Education meeting.  A comment was made about how fortunate Florida was to have the DOE, the Governor, and the legislature all on the same school reform page.  Yet, when the attorney for Palm Beach County spoke about denials of charter schools, it is clear that there are practical, important issues that  are too easily dismissed.  Some checks and balances are needed.

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Charter vs. TPS: Latest CREDO Study Results

horse-316959_1280CREDO’s 2015 report on charter achievement in urban areas gives a different twist on the data.  You can find results by urban areas in each state.

I looked at Florida.  Our charters do not do as well as in other states.  The data is broken down by demographics, grade span, across years and annual results from 2007-2011.  Comparisons are made for achievement gains for students in charters and a matched set of students in traditional public schools (TPS) in the areas that charters serve.  And the winners by Florida school district are?

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Charter Bills Update: Florida 2015 Legislative Session

Charter school bills are moving again, at least in the Florida House.  The bills are all beginning to look more alike.  The charter school amendmlegislation1ent to HB 1145, filed this week, dropped the requirement for districts to share public school capital outlay millage with charters.  This is good news for financially strapped public schools.

It added a provision stating that charters have a financial audit that does not reveal any of the financial emergency conditions in 218.503(1) for the most recent year. On the surface, this does not sound like a transparency move.

There are some differences in provisions between the House and Senate relating to charter advisory board conflict of interest rules.  The Senate bill 1552 looks stronger than the other bills.  They just require board members to be identified and two meetings be held in the district.  Advisory boards controlled by their management companies cannot be very independent.  Details follow.

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Private Schools Respond to Public Money

church and stateThis Orlando Sentinel article turns data into description.  How Florida’s tax credit scholarships and McKay vouchers for students with disabilities impacts private schools is the topic.

Some private schools operate solely on public money.  Others combine public scholarships and tuition.  Some do not take public money.

The rules for private schools are different.  Public accountability is limited.  Teachers do not need certification.  Academic achievement is mixed.  The Sentinel story has been excerpted below.  It is a side of the story worth telling.  What we do not know is if it is money well spent.

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Main Voucher Bill in Tennessee is Withdrawn

The main voucher bill HB 1039 in Tennessee died yesterday.  This bill was similar to the Opportunity Scholarships that was declared unconstitutional in Florida.  Tennessee’s version would give vouchers to students who qualified for free and reduced lunch and were enrolled in a school with achievement scores in the bottom 5 percent.  A second bill, HB 138 survived.  It would provide vouchers for students with special needs who have IEPs.  While HB 138 has not become law, it was voted out of committee and is proceeding through the legislative process.  Anne-Marie Farmer’s post in this blog describes the bills.

Is This the Year for Vouchers in Tennessee?

directory-466935_1280by Anne-Marie Farmer

Which way will Tennessee’s legislature go?  There are two bills moving through the legislature.  One bill would make any child with an IEP eligible for a voucher. There is no accountability required.  The second bill is geared toward students in struggling schools.

In this post, Anne Marie Farmer explains the impact of the bills.  This is serious for Tennessee’s public schools.  It could be sad for their children.

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Ethics in Education Conference: Miami

ethicsI am looking forward to attending this conference on May 1-2, not just because I am a panelist.  The conference is sponsored by the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust.  Co-sponsors are the University of Miami and Miami-Dade Public Schools.  My panel is:

School Choice And Public Resources: What Are The Limits For Charter Schools And Private School Subsidies?

The other panels are very interesting as well.  They cover everything from teaching to the test,  social issues e.g. immigration, bullying, policing as well as oversight and accountability.

Details on the program and location follow.  If possible, join us.

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