Model Legislation for School Reform: Bush Style

legislation1Want to know where much of the school reform legislation comes from?  Go to the Excellence in Education Foundation website.  The foundation was created by former Florida governor Jeb Bush in 2007-8. It is run by a former Bush deputy chief of staff, Patricia Levesque, whose husband is Florida Senate Counsel.  You can see model legislation that the foundation develops and also assists legislators who plan to introduce it.  Maybe you can, if you register.


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Education Bills Passed in 2016

legislation1Some of you have interest in particular education legislation.  Here is a list of what was passed in the 2016.  The school choice and principal autonomy bills passed.  I have not reviewed all of the others, but if you would like to see one, just google it e.g. “SB 0012 Florida 2016.”

The topics are varied and include health, mental health, social problems, students with disabilities, Bright Futures and transportation.  Some funding bills passed as well.  Nice that so many of the really destructive bills did not make it.

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Public Schools With Community Support Can Solve Problems

woman-1172721_1280Some problems that seem too big to solve, may get better when communities work together.

In 2012, the Gainesville Police Department uncovered some disturbing facts, black youth were four times more likely to be referred to the juvenile justice system than white youth for similar offenses.  GPD developed:







  • alternatives to arrests with the help of Meridian Behavioral Services and the Corner Drug Store.
  • options other than arrest for officers and supervisors to use.
  • demanded Civil Citations rather than arrests for first time misdemeanor offenses

In order to intervene early before bad behavior becomes chronic, GPD:

  • engaged in officer training
  • coordinated meetings to improve mental health services delivered to students and schools
  • developed a System of Care to provide resources to families (mental health, outreach, tutoring etc.)
  • tracked progress through data collection
The Center for Children’s Law and Policy gave GPD a grant (only one of two awarded in 2012); the initiative grew and arrests plummeted.  On campus arrests dropped 31%.  Total black juvenile arrests decreased 44%.  Teen courts were used for many offenses.
Dozens of agencies had stepped up.  Then the program had to be institutionalized to ensure it would continue.  Alachua County Schools stepped up.  The System of Care began in seven schools–4 elementary and 3 middle.  Ten percent of the students with serious disciplinary problems were identified.  Fifty-three parents agreed to participate.   Each school had a social worker to coordinate care.  After only eight months, some children are thriving.  Others are making progress.
Now the challenge is to scale up the program to serve more families.  The League held a Hot Topic last week to help spread the word.  We learned about ways communities can work together to help children with traumatic life events find ways to cope.  The school is the center of a community hub.  Bringing services in to the center may be a more efficient and effective way to help children.  Helping some children helps all children feel safe and secure.  In the long run, suspending children leads nowhere good.


The Education Train HB 7029: Car by Car


locomotive-60539_1280The final version of SB 7029, the charter school bill, took awhile to locate.  Here it is!  There is along list of provisions, some minor and some major.  The highlights follow.  They are easy to scan.  Most do little damage.  Some good things happened.  Considering what could have been, we can put our energies toward making good things happen next year.


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High Suspension Rates in Charter Schools

whistle-149678_1280Lake Wales charter school in Florida had one of the highest suspension rates (45.3%) in the nation.  A U.C.L.A. Civil Rights Project study gathered out of school suspension rates for all 5,250 charter schools from 2011-12.  They compared them to traditional public schools.




Charter schools had a somewhat higher rate on average.  What was startling was how variable the suspension rates were among charter schools.  Some were extraordinarily high.  This is not just about suspension rates, however.  Half of all black students attending charter high schools were enrolled in 270 schools that were hyper segregated (over 80% black).  Their suspension rate was 25%.  Other disturbing findings were:

  • Over 500, about 10%, of the charters had higher suspension rates than traditional public schools.
  • 235 charters suspended half of their students with disabilities.
  • Over 1,000 charters had suspension rates for students with disabilities that were at least ten percent higher than traditional public schools.

As one might expect, suspensions were lower in elementary schools than in high schools.  The study questioned, however, the number of charters that reported no suspensions.  Twice as many charters reported no suspensions than did traditional schools.

Interesting or alarming is the fact that Florida’s suspension rate of black high school students is 30% which is higher than in California, Texas, New York and Illinois.

Inquiries into harsh disciplinary practices in charter schools has raised questions about civil rights violations.  The core recommendation of the study is that charters should curb overuse of disciplinary exclusion and replace them with more effective alternatives.  There should be no exemptions or excuses for charter schools.