Politicians’ Wives On Charter Boards

Erika Donalds, wife of Florida Representative Byron Donalds, was appointed by Governor Scott to the Constitutional Revision Commission. She is behind the current proposed amendments to Florida school boards and charter school districts. Behind the scenes, there is much more telling information about her support for charter schools. In this article by Emily Mahoney in the Tampa Bay Times, you can see her ties to Richard Corcoran’s wife Ann who also is tied to charter schools. As I mentioned in a previous post, these aren’t just any charter schools.

CRC Drops Voucher Proposals for November 2018, Charter districts still there

The Constitutional Revision Commission dropped the two voucher proposals to amend the Florida constitution. Polling by Clearview Research resulted in a 41% favorable response to amendment 4 that would give state funding to private, religious schools. There must be a 60% favorable vote in November to pass. Erika Donalds withdrew her proposal number 45 to fund educational services to private schools.

This decision does not change the current status of Florida tax credit scholarships which are funded by corporate tax rebates.
What’s left?

P43 by Donalds to have a two term limit for school board members
P71 by Donalds changes school board oversight from all schools “within” the district to all schools “established by” the district. This would remove the authorization of charter schools by elected school boards.
P93 by Martinez would allow a school board or the voters to turn an entire district into a charter district. The schools would then be exempt from the K12 school code for facilities and personnel in the same way as charters now are exempt.

Yet another plot against public schools

The Gainesville Sun editor, Nathan Crabbe, reports harassment by the Florida legislature. Buried in HB/SB 7087 is language requiring districts who place sales tax or property tax proposals on the ballot, have an OPPAGA approved audit. Districts are already required to have audits and get approval for new facilities. This measure impacts districts, like Alachua County that has a proposed facilities one-half cent sales tax. The chair of the sales tax campaign, an insurance agent, smells a conspiracy.

Other counties also will be affected. Alachua will move forward; they cannot do much else. The schools are over crowded and the facilities need repair. The constant cuts in school district funding for schools has created a crisis. Curious that the attorneys representing the State in the Citizens for Strong Schools lawsuit argued that if districts needed money, they could raise it locally. Then, the legislature makes even that more difficult. Will the State approve the request before the measure is put on the ballot?

Choice IS On the Run!

When the conservative think tank, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) agrees that choice does not improve test scores, will the legislature listen? Their report has discounted not only test scores, but also graduation rates and college entrance as valid measures of the success of the choice movement. The increase in graduation rates for all students, the authors posit, may be due to watered down standards. )The controversy over the trade off between helping students ‘pass’ vs. ensuring students have appropriate skills is not new. Credit retrieval is perhaps simply of another form.) College entrance of choice students does not correlate with college graduates. Students enter college and drop out as documented in other posts in this blog.

What metrics can be used to assess the value of school choice? Short term measures of parent satisfaction are of little use. The authors state: “The most obvious implication is that policy makers must be much more humble in what they believe test scores tell them about the performance of schools of choice”. Let’s hope that such warnings are not simply an excuse to let low performing charters and private schools continue to serve students.

Ed Week summarizes the evidence from the Brookings Institute that education and income are highly correlated, but college graduation rates in the U.S. have stagnated. There is another insight that most, in their hearts, already know. Here’s something to ponder:

“And focusing on the basics, there is clear evidence that great teachers have a impact on students. In fact, being taught by a better teacher for just one year can increase a student’s life time earnings and probability of attending college.”

It comes down to the familiar adage, you get what you pay for! As more and more students opt out of becoming teachers, a new choice will emerge. Put students in front of computers or pay for highly qualified teachers. If the legislature chooses screen time, we already know what the complaints of too much screen time are outside of school. Hmmm, excessive exposure to noise makes people deaf. Will excessive exposure to electronics make them blind??

Not everything in education is partisan

Where is the common ground? In this NY Times article, education policies turn out the vote on the right and the left. There is agreement that a good education matters according to a survey by Priorities USA. The much publicized skepticism about America’s educational system applies to other people, not to personal experience. The author, David Leonhardt, says this is the “time for big, ambitious ideas”. This translates into universal preschool to address both racial and access inequalities and free community college for which there is bi-partisan support.

Leonhardt’s article ends with “Sometimes good policy and good politics align quite nicely. The single best bet that a society or an individual can make–education–also turns out to be the rare idea that transcends today’s partisan divide”.

Hillsborough Charter Expose

For years, the Hillsborough League has studied the inner workings of charters in their county. Here is an opportunity to hear first hand of their findings. Pat Hall has chaired the education committee for years and is relentless in her research and documentation of how for-profit charters work…for themselves. Listen to the podcast by Teacher Voice.

Newpoint Charter Owner Guilty

An Ohio businessman, Steven Kunkemoeller, and the owner of Florida’s Newpoint charter school chain conspired to get kick backs and were accused of organized fraud in the management of 15 Florida charters. Kunkemoeller was found guilty today and faces up to 60 years in prison. Marcus May, the Newpoint charter owner, will face trial soon. You can read the story here.

This type of criminal activity is not unusual in the charter sector. It is a function, in part, of the privatization movement in which oversight and regulation are viewed as stifling innovation. Clearly, these innovative business practices can lead to jail time. The Florida legislature failed once again this year to pass proposed legislation to curb charter profiteering. The Senate had inserted a measure in SB7055 to control real estate and other purchasing self interest machinations, but the House deleted it. How bad does it have to get before the children’s interest replaces charter management self interest?