“Schools of Hope” candidates announced

Who are candidates for Schools of Hope–93 schools that have received school grades below a ‘C’ for the past three years. What are the options: close the school, turn it into a privately operated charter or turn it into a district managed charter with all new teachers and administrators.

So where is the ‘Hope’? The legislature allocated funding for 25 of the 93 schools to help them turn around their low academic achievement. The money is to be used for after school programs, and community partnerships based on criteria that the Florida DOE has yet to identify. Unfortunately, the applications for the ‘Hope’ grants are due August 15. At stake is about $2,000 per student in additional funding.

So what happens to the other low performing schools? One in Alachua County just had its turn around plan denied. It’s principal has been dismissed. Does it now close? It’s in a rural area and has low enrollment. Part of its enrollment comes from another rural town whose school was closed a year ago. The district just gave that town the old school building. Will both rural cities try for charters to keep a local school? Think about the low finances and skimpy academic offerings these charters will have. Think about the impact of shifting these children to the closest nearby public school. We may end up with parents, who are able, shifting children all over town trying to get the ‘best’ for their children and to ‘get away’ from the influx of newly displaced children.

The consequences may be a downward spiral as families leave. What happens when there is nowhere else to go? Gainesville now has several under enrolled schools in one section of town. Who serves the families that are ‘left behind’?

If the answer is ‘charters’, what do charters do that districts can’t? Fire teachers easily. But, whom do charters hire–newly minted, unexperienced teachers who tend to leave the profession at an alarming rate.

What else can be done? Read the blog post on the Palm Beach problem. No easy answers, but we can ask better questions than the current legislature is asking.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article162592568.html

Why schools close: Palm Beach Example

The School Board in Palm Beach will close Odyssey Middle School. It is a ‘B’ school, but the ‘word is out’ it is not a good school. The enrollment has dropped in half. The building will become a charter, and the district will build a new school in a more popular area of the district.

Some blame the district. The school is in a mixed income area. Some sections are high poverty; others are middle class. The district did not do enough to satisfy requests for more advanced courses, and parents left. It would be good to know more about that side of the story.

The school opened in 2001 with a high percentage of children from low-income families. It took some time to get the discipline problems and school culture turned around, but it did. Nevertheless, it was not enough. So, Palm Beach will close a school, give the facility to a charter, and build a new school somewhere else? This is an expensive solution to a social problem. How could it have been done differently?

Hopefully, parents and communities will begin to be aware of the social and economic costs of a lack of attention to equity issues and the need for a community approach to solving them. What does this mean? It means thoughtful planning for zoning areas and program offering. It means tackling problems in areas rather than ignoring them and allowing them to get worse. It means understanding that charters don’t solve these problems. People do.

I remember when Gainesville schools were integrated. Schools located in between black and white areas tended to be closed. Some said the district did not want to have these schools integrated. Only one elementary school, located in a black neighborhood, had a zone to include students in a white area. Those white families joined together to support that school. White families are still there because the district turned the school into a magnet. Gainesville still has problems with concentrated poverty in some areas. There are glimmers of hope that the community is willing to work together to solve them.

How do you balance schools and maintain high quality programs to which all children have access? How do these more balanced schools create a school culture that is respectful, safe, and welcoming? If students are segregated by race and income, equity is lost. No easy answers to these issues, but if we don’t ask the questions, we will just see a bad situation become worse. I worry that school choice is like the ostrich who puts its head in the sand.

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/education/palm-beach/fl-schools-odyssey-middle-closing-20170718-story.html

Superintendents Argue Before State Board of Education

Florida’s superintendents’ association argued before the State Board of Education that the Schools of Hope take hope away from districts. These ‘takeover’ schools become charters and further drain funding from existing schools. They take capital outlay funds for school maintenance and give it to privately owned charters. Miami-Dade Superintendent Carvalho estimates the cost to his district is $23 million. Even conservative rural area districts are alarmed at the impact of current State policy on their districts.

It is time the public weighs in to support our public schools. Florida’s approach to school reform is moving toward privatizing our system. In countries like Chile, where privatization was pushed by the government, there is a three tiered system. The wealthy send their children to fully private schools. The upper middle class attend voucher supported private schools. Everyone else sends children to schools with a minimum level of funding. In other words, the privatization movement simply takes the inequities we now have and makes them much worse. For most families, privatization is a disaster. There is no pretense that families should have equal access to a free high quality education.

It may seem that it is not possible to correct our course. In fact, the only way to make changes is to insist our elected officials hear what we want. It’s up to us. Make your voices heard. Don’t take our public schools for granted.

THE BIGGEST PROBLEM WE FACE IS TAKING OUR PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM FOR GRANTED.

http://www.baynews9.com/content/news/baynews9/news/article.html/content/news/articles/cfn/2017/7/17/superintendents_to_f.html

Gadsden Turn around

http://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2017/07/17/gadsden-turnaround-plan-approved-condition-bring-charter-operator-2018/486291001/
http://www.wftv.com/news/9-investigates/9-investigates-charter-school-defends-spending-tax-money-on-commercials/548769581

A Charter Military Academy Cries Foul, You Decide

Just down the road from here, Francis Marion Military Academy received a surprise visit from Marion County school officials. What they found was alarming. The Office of the Inspector General in the Florida DOE has gotten involved. What the visit revealed was appalling. A charter school board member called the visit illegal. Is it wrong to go into a school with a history of problems? Is it wrong to discover fake classes and credits; is it wrong for students to be left alone in a locked room?

Some would think that the school was concerned that the district found out what was wrong. You can read the story in the Ocala Star Banner and find out for yourself. When is it illegal for the district to investigate a charter school?

http://www.ocala.com/news/20170713/district-report-slams-francis-marion-military-academy

WCJB TV interview today

The PACT against the proposed CSUSA school in Gainesville was on TV News today. Due to the blog technical problem, I can’t post the video. But, you can go to:

http://www.wcjb.com/content/news/Charter-school-proposal-sparks-debate-435040253.html

Just Google WCJB charter school sparks debate and the video will come up.

Why are school districts suing the State?

Most things come down to money, but not everything does. HB 7069 hurts districts in a serious way financially. It hurts the entire school system of Florida in a fundamental way. The Florida constitution requires that Florida provide a ‘safe, efficient and uniform, and high quality’ free system of education to all students. Local school boards are responsible for running it. With this new legislation just signed by Governor Scott this summer, nothing will stay the same.

Read the Sun Sentinel article that explains how we have parallel systems of education. Districts have no oversight over charters; they are on their own. Yet, it is public money.

This is the link or just google ‘Sun Sentinel public education assault.’

(Having a technical issue with the blog, so can’t embed links until it is fixed.)

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/fl-op-editorial-public-education-assault-20170713-story.html

CSUSA Just Shorted Teacher Salaries: “Glitch:, they said

Manatee charter school teachers reported that their summer checks were short changed. CSUSA spokesperson, Colleen Reynolds said that it was not just Manatee charters but was ‘system wide’. It is a shame for the teachers. There must be thousands of CSUSA teachers in the 84 schools they operate in eight states.

When did it become a good idea to have ‘national’ schools? What is happening to local schools run by local school boards?

Charles Dickens says….

I am really careful about my tone. I want to be factual and respectful. But, I had this phrase ringing in my head today about the charter school law. I will be restrained. Nevertheless, in Oliver Twist, Mr. Bumble has a classic line about inappropriate, inaccurate laws. Anyone remember what it was??