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There is a vision for what should be and could be. Community schools. These are schools that draw families in. They include pre school education and after school care. They offer help to families in need and work together to give children the options best suited for them. They do not divide communities. They build communities where all children feel welcome.
This is a different mindset than the current school choice policy. School choice encourages parents to find schools like them. Communities splinter. Schools become more segregated, and students more isolated from the world in which they live. Students aren’t taught to be good citizens; they are taught, by example to seek advantage for themselves at the expense of everyone else. It’s all about competition. Or is it? See: Public Loss; Private Gain. How School Vouchers Undermine Public Education.
The wealthy pose as benefactors while they reap profits from double dipping tax benefits for their donations to privately run schools. (See May 18 New York Times). This does not make better schools. It makes opportunistic schools.
Our schools have shaped our democracy. They are splintering because our social fabric is splintering. There are those who mine that division for their own benefit. This does not have to happen. We can organize our communities around our schools. We can make our schools serve our needs. It is up to us.
Where do we start? Find out what a community school could be and should be. Read about it here. Look at schools in your community. Ask how they measure up. The Children’s Home Society has started some in Florida. Howard Bishop middle school in Gainesville has started in that direction.
If school choice is about competition, then let’s compete to provide the best and most inclusive educational system.
We knew this was coming, and next week it will be here. According to the Washington Post, the education budget for public schools will be cut by $10.6 billion dollars. The cuts include:
- Work study cut in half; student loan programs revised
- End of public service loan forgiveness
- Mental health, advanced course work and other services cut
- After school programs gone
- Teacher training and class size reduction gone
- Childcare for low income college students gone
- Arts education gone
- Gifted students gone
- Career and technical education cut
- and on and on
A significant change in Title I funding will impact low income public schools. The new Title I program would allow $1 billion to go to choice schools. Thus, low income public schools would receive even less support than they now have. Money saved goes into charter schools and vouchers for private, religious schools. Some funds go to increased choice for public schools. Is this a recipe for quality schools or a disaster?
As Senator Lamar Alexander’s spokesperson said, ‘The Congress passes budgets”. We elect congressmen and women. Let them know what you think.
In this NPR interview, the plight of parents who take vouchers is exposed. Parents explain their search and frustrating when choosing private schools; they lose their right to have their children served. If they are dissatisfied, their only recourse is to try a different school. When their child has a disability, there may be no school within reach that will accept the child. Attorney and League member Kimberley Spire-Oh provided the information leading to these interviews.
Some background on Florida public school support for students with exceptionalities provides perspective on the availability of support for these children whether in public or private schools.
Teachers certified to work with children with disabilities are scarce and tend to work for public, not private schools. Supporting these children in private schools is expensive, and they have no obligation to accept children. The State provides McKay Scholarships for students to attend a private school if they have an IEP or 504 program . For students with a high level disability defined in law, Gardiner Scholarships are available. Having the scholarship allows parents to shop in the private sector for a school. It does not require private schools to accept those students.
Parents have the right to send their children to public schools, but not to private schools. You can see the right for your child to be education on the Office of Civil Rights website. An overview of the disability discrimination laws that protect children’s right to a public education are here. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) outlines the responsibilities that public schools have.
Support for educating students with disabilities is dependent upon funding. This year funding for students in public schools from federal IDEA sources was reduced to $1,301 per student.
The Florida Department of Education website for Exceptional Student Education is located here. State ESE funding is part of the FEFP per student funding formula and included $1,055,304,596. Note that the funding is part of the weighted per student state allocation. Weighting is the same for ESE students as for other students except for Levels four and five. These students with higher level disabilities receive more intense, specialized services as defined here.
We need to do a study of the every day realities of providing support for students with exceptionalities.
The Florida News Service reports the mounting pressure on Governor Scott to veto HB 7069 and part of the State budget. We need to keep the pressure up. Call his office and send a message:
Email http://www.flgov.com/contact-gov-scott/email-the-governor/ (Note that emails become public record.)
Tell the Governor that:
- The budget results in a net loss for many school districts.
- Sharing capital outlay funds with charters is not cost effective. Many small schools increase facility costs and decrease needed maintenance.
- Charter take over of public schools solves nothing. Charter students in five of seven Florida cities do worse than similar students in public schools.
The Senate proposal for education was a practical, reasonable approach to education funding. Ask the Governor to reconvene the legislature and do what is needed.
This article from the League was published in the Gainesville Sun. It delineates the consequences of School Choice in Gainesville. For-profit, self dealing CSUSA charter schools want to come to Gainesville.
The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research says that 58% of people don’t know much about charter schools. Even more, 66%, know little or nothing about private school vouchers. Nevertheless, 47% favor expanding charters and 43% would expand vouchers. Media headlines say most Americans support choice, but this is misleading. Most Americans either are opposed or have no opinion. The report found that four in ten believed that the country in general would benefit from more choice.
The poll has value. It made me think. See what you think!