Oh Goodness! Nothing is as it seems at Academica

Frank Biden, Joe Biden’s brother, was president and CEO of Mavericks, a for profit charter chain with multiple schools in Florida. They did not fare well. There were scandals. Frank Biden has turned up at Academica, Florida’s largest for-profit charter chain. Yes, this is the charter management firm that Erik Fresen’s sister and brother in law run. Fresen is going to jail now that he is no longer in the Florida House.

Biden and Academica attorney Moskowitz gave presentations about a proposed new charter, Parkland, in Broward. Except it wasn’t for Parkland. Broward had no proposal for it. It did have one from Academica for Somerset Beach Academy charter school. Confused? The parents in Broward also were confused. One school was being described to parents while the proposal was for a very different school. This story is just plain strange. You should read it.

Hope Vouchers Move On in the Florida House

Anne Hartley, SPEAK for Collier County posted this report on HB 1 the “bullying bill”. House Innovation sub committee brief notes on each member’s comments and their votes follow. HB 1 is the ‘anti bullying’ bill that would send any child who felt harassed to a private school at tax payers’ expense. Yes, this is the bill that sales taxes on new cars would fund.

The League spoke at the meeting. You can listen on the Florida Channel. Go to: 1:28:30

The Hope Scholarship bills will move forward through the House. Vote followed the party line 9 up to 5 down, decided at this afternoon’s PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee meeting.

Speakers against (public school allies):
Rosanne Wood, past alternative school teacher and Leon County school board member 1:17:45
Hannah Willard, Equality Florida
Scott McCoy of SPLC
Mary Claire Leman of Common Ground
League of Women Voters 1:28:30
Lisa Robertson, principal of FL’s largest HS, public school advocate 1:35:50, Florida Education Association 1:37:43

Speakers for (school choice backers):
Cesar Grijales, Coalitions Director of the Libre Initiative spoke for the bill, affiliated with Americans for Prosperity. Cited 2011 FDH stats: 256,000 FL public HS students subjected to “experienced some form of bullying, teasing or name-calling,” 31% hispanics. Andrew Hossick, Americans for Prosperity, Foundation for Florida’s Future, Florida Virtual School waved in support.

Debate Notes 1:47:00

Santiago advocates for school choice – wants private schools held accountable. Voted yes.

Killigrew has many concerns, but if the bill doesn’t change, he’ll vote against. Voted yes.

Lee – sometimes when you go along, the real issue isn’t addressed. Don’t just deal with a part of this bill. What about 10,000s kids who won’t be able to get out? Need to fix situation. Situation will only get worse. Was victim of bullying. Need to find funds to stop bullying. Voted no.

Asencio – worked in public schools, concerned about unintended consequences of this bill. Transferring kids to go into another school that aren’t regulated, not accountable to legislature. Operate by own means. Can’t guarantee their safety. Liability too high. Voted no.

Sullivan – there are measures to prevent bullying on books, Russell knows bullying exists everything, but this bill gives victims the choice with transportation voucher. Don’t lose signt of victims. Voted yes.

**Abruzzo – major policy shift. Tax dollars of every Floridian could go into this program. This will not end here. Vouchers are the problem. Now corporations can contribute through the Tax Credit Scholarship Program. This bill shifts it to auto fees, hitting every Floridian. 1:56:35 Voted no.

Massullo – Parents need to be in charge of their children’s education. He thinks it addresses the bullies as well. Will see bullies treated differently because they won’t want to lose students. Giving parents a choice. Voted yes.

Williams – have to move the bully, not the victim; not good to send public funds to private schools. Voted no.

Ponder – yes
Fischer – yes
Spano – yes
Russell – no
Latvala – yes
Leek – yes

Douglas County Defeats Dark Money for Vouchers

Douglas County, next to Denver, Colorado school board races are national news and funded nationally. Why? It is a target area for school privatization. So much money is involved that candidates form coalitions. The pro choice/voucher group is called ELEVATE. The anti voucher group is called Community Matters. Evidently, community does matter in Denver. The four anti voucher school board candidates won by 60%.

The district began a voucher program in 2011, but it has been stalled in the courts. The U.S. Supreme Court told the Colorado Supreme Court to reconsider its decision that vouchers in Colorado were unconstitutional. The decision by the voters is likely to slow privatization of schools in Denver.

The race was touted as a test case for school vouchers. Americans for Prosperity, funded by the conservative Koch Brothers faced off against the teachers union. Politico estimated that the race cost over $800,000 dollars. Democracy is getting very expensive with all that dark money pouring in from billionaires. This time, the citizens won.