NAACP Drafts Resolution for Moratorium on Charter Schools

clause-1462955_640If this resolution passed at the NAACP convention last week in Cincinnati is approved by the National Board in the fall of 2016, it will be a major event.  In this repost of the Cloaking Inequity blog, you can read the resolution.  It deals with racial resegregation, funding inequity, charter school mismanagement, lack of charter oversight, and the resolution calls for greater transparency in charter school management.

The NAACP views charter school policies and practices as a civil rights issue.  It is.

Local School District Budget Time of Year

project-875699_640School districts across the State are holding hearings on their budgets for next year.  Our local paper had a full page notice of the 2016-17 budget for Alachua County.  There are some questions we can all ask our individual districts:

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • What is your district’s per student funding by school for 2015-16, and how and why would this change for next year?
  • Are there either local or state inequities in funding policies that the district has identified?
  • What factors impact individual differences in school funding?  Where are the greatest needs for increased funding?
  • Where are the under enrollment and over enrollment schools?  What are the plans to balance enrollments?
  • What is the funding priority for vocational education?  How is the money distributed?
  • How is Title I money distributed by school?  Do all low achieving students have access to extra time/tutoring?
  • How much time per week is allocated for art, music, PE, social studies?
  • How is the district meeting needs for guidance counselors?
  • What are district plans for online education?
  • What is the district plan and priority for competency based education?

Your local leagues may have other specific questions.  Use the blog’s ‘Comment’ space to share questions.

I saw an article about the Flagler school board budget review.  They are upset about inequities in their share of local property taxes that are mandated by the State for redistribution to low income counties.  They rank sixth in the amount of local property taxes required but 64th in thee amount returned to the district.

Another article appeared today about Highlands County which is one of the lowest income areas in Florida.  They show the stark correlation between income and school grades.  This is a county with student needs they cannot possibly meet by themselves.

  • If you are interested in a reading a one page explanation of local education funding, see this Florida Tax Watch article.
  • For a more complete explanation of the state and local funding formula for education, see: Education Funding Primer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Closing Florida’s Public Schools is NOT an Option

ballot-32201_1280The Washington State Superintendent of Schools argues that it may be necessary to close public schools to force the state to comply with the court ruling on funding education.  Could this happen in Florida?  It may be up to the voters even if the Southern Legal Counsel (SLC) wins the Citizens for Strong Schools lawsuit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Take “Public” out of charter school language

shield-123080_640What makes a public school ‘public’?  It is more than how schools are governed and funded.  It is also a matter of the ethical and legal obligation to serve all students.

In Valerie Strauss’ latest Washington Post article, she reports on former New York principal, Carol Burris’ study of the sort and select enrollment practices in New York charter schools.

These are charters that are so often held up as success stories, so to speak.  Are they?

 

 

 

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Management Priorities for Charters

communication-73331_640What should our legislative priorities be?

 

 

 

 

 

Two years ago, the League made a statewide call for better oversight of charter schools.  Major reports on charter fraud, waste and abuse made national headlines.  The FBI raided charter schools across the country.  Just this year, a new scandal erupted in several Florida cities.  The U.S. district attorney has brought charges.

The problems extend beyond corruption and enter the realm of civil rights.  The U.S. Department of Education and the President cautioned the charter movement about its tendency to increase racial and economic segregation in its schools. Charters, moreover, under represent children with disabilities.  Critics claim that these enrollment policies reflect charter school management companies’ profit seeking priorities.

Lack of charter oversight is a design feature, not a bug says PR Watch.  Charters were to be given free rein to ‘change the system’.  Accountability was to be based on student academic achievement. The appWearance of academic achievement, however, is easy to manipulate.  If charters attract strong students to begin with, their schools will be successful.  Under the school grade system, good students, not good teachers, make good schools.  Concerns about screening out students abound.

Charters have been operating long enough for the consequences to become apparent.  Federal and state authorities have begun to officially recognize the abuse in the system and make marginal efforts to correct it.

FEDERAL ACTIONS

  • The Federal Office of Inspector General reported  many incidences of conflicts of interest between charters and their management companies as well as problematic fiscal and management practices.
  • In September 2015, the U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to all state education leaders calling for better charter oversight to correct conflicts of interest, related party transactions, and improved transparency between charter and management company practices, stronger authorization practices to ensure operational and academic quality.  States were charged with investigating civil rights violations by charter schools.

STATE OF FLORIDA ACTIONS

  • During the 2016 legislative session, former Senate President Gaetz said it was ‘time to end charter school self enrichment policies’.  He followed up with strong corrective measures; some passed:
    • weighted additional 25% in facility capital outlay (PECO) funding for charters who enroll 75% Free and Reduced Lunch qualifiers and 25% students with disabilities
    • required charter applicants to provide a financial and academic history
    • required automatic closure of charters receiving two consecutive ‘F’ grades
    • required that students not be dismissed for low academic achievement.
  • Florida Department of Education set up a data base to track the history of charter school applicants.

UPDATED LEAGUE STUDY

  • The Hillsborough County League reopened its study of for profit charter management company business models.  Its interim report was the basis for an article in the Tampa Bay Times which received inquiries from ABC and CBS News interview.
  • The  League is reviewing charter  ‘student push out incidences’  that may have civil rights implications.

SCHOOL DISTRICT ACTIONS

  • Palm Beach County Schools Lawsuit against CSUSA over the right for districts to require charters fulfill an unmet need in the district.
  • Escambia County Schools investigation of Newpoint Charter Schools that resulted in criminal indictments.

Florida officials have taken small steps to improve charter school laws, but the lack of oversight over how these laws are implemented remains.  School districts authorize charters but have limited access to information about how they are run.

What more needs to be done to improve the system?

  • create guidelines for charter school facility lease and bond costs
  • improve transparency of charter management company practices to inhibit self dealing
  • improve measures to guarantee independence of charter board member from charter management companies
  • report charter school student dismissals and resignations and review civil rights violations
  • document need for new charter schools to improve financial efficiency and innovative programs
  • revise data reporting for free and reduced lunch program due to new federal guidelines that obscure the definition of economically disadvantaged students.

The next legislative session may, once again, tackle the charter school management and oversight problems.  In the past, legislators have proposed everything from creating a charter school institute to be housed at Florida State University to forming charter school districts.  There are sporadic efforts to improve collaboration between charters and local public schools, but they are often stymied by the inherent competition between the two systems.

WOULD A NEW STUDY OF CHARTER MANAAGEMENT HELP?

Identifying successful collaborative efforts, if any, could be instructive.  A 2013 Center for Reinventing Public Schools report on a Gates Foundation initiative was not hopeful.   Some argue that the Washington D.C. model is effective, but it too has had large scale scandals. The seven member D.C. Public Charter School Board is appointed by the Mayor.  A 2015 Washington Post article reports on the need for more transparency in D.C. charter school management.  It appears D.C.  has the same mismanagement problems as those in other  cities.

There is a report on different oversight models in the country.  Minnesota and New York have ‘hands on’ oversight models.  Others states are much more passive.  The U.S. has a public school management and oversight system that has survived for about 100 years.  If we need some schools to do a few different things, one would think that some incentives could be provided without using a wrecking ball to destroy one system in order to replace it with a more imperfect system over which the public has no control.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida School Grades: Fewer ‘F’ Schools. WHY?

dmbtestMiami-Dade has half the number of schools rated ‘F’ this year than last.  No, they did not give kids extra vitamins.  The State of Florida changed the definition of learning gains.

I think I like the change even if I do not the idea of test based accountability.  Here’s why.

 

 

 

 

  • The formula is much simpler.  The old system penalized schools by lowering school grades for failing to make arbitrary targets, and it gave bonus points that were easy to manipulate.
  • The system is somewhat less punitive.  Now school grades are based on the percentage of students making learning gains.  In the past, an at risk child’s increase in achievement might not have shown up in school grades because their gain was less than the state required.  So, students who started school behind were making progress that did not count.

The new grading system has subdivided the two lowest proficiency levels.  Level one scores are grouped in low, medium and high.  Level two is divided into low and high.  A child who scores at the same level but improves in the subcategory, from low to medium, for example, is counted as having made a learning gain.  The net effect reduces the number of failing schools.

Students scoring at or above proficiency level three must increase their test scores by at least one point the following year to be counted as a learning gain (unless they are already at a proficiency level of ‘5’).  The new school grade formula no longer provides bonus points.  There are now fewer schools with ‘A’ grades.

It may still seem like smoke and mirrors.  Achievement did not change, but the school grades did.  It reminds me of the marks on the wall I used to make as my children grew.  Most years the growth from one year to the next was about the same.  Once in awhile there would be a growth spurt.  The same was true for their achievement.  I did not need to measure the kids except to see if they met the height requirement at Disney attractions or were they ready for some accelerated academic program.

Annual testing tells us what we already know.  If you want to increase the school grades, change the formula.   There has to be a better way.

 

 

 

 

http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/editorials/article89947977.html

 

http://www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/5637/urlt/AccoReportTechMeeting2016.pdf

Charters are Lopsided in Whom They Serve

directory-281476_1280Hernando and Hillsborough charters have the lowest ratios of low income and minority students.  In Pasco county, 58.2% of students in traditional public schools qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch while only 36.2% of charter students qualify.  Charters in high income areas do well academically, charters with higher percentages of low income students receive lower school grades.  This is not a surprise.  Income and academic achievement are known to go together.  What is of concern John Romano columnist for the Tampa Bay Times article is:

 

 

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Democratic Education Platform: Too Good to be True?

ballot-32201_1280It is an election year.  Which way is the wind blowing?  Judging by the rift over the Democratic Party Platform, testing, accountability, and charter school management could see significant changes….or not.

The draft platform opposed for-profit charter schools.  The amended platform added even many more changes:

 

 

 

 

 

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FBI Raids Okaloosa Charter

seal-42280_640The FBI raided the Okaloosa charter school for at risk children yesterday.  The school is managed by The Radar Group based in Florida’s panhandle.  This is the same area where the Newpoint charter schools were recently indicted.  The Radar Group has other charters.  We may learn more about what happened.

No one is talking about the reasons for the raid.  It can’t be good.

In the last post, I shared the Florida Auditor General’s concerns about some charter schools.  They may have missed at least one.  Many times the League has asked for better management, transparency and oversight of charter schools.  These schools are not innovative, they are just free to manipulate.