Proposed Education Budgets May Force Cost Cutting Again

Once again what looks like more money is not. The House and Senate 2020-21 budgets provide Alachua County with $50 or $40 more per student. The mandated increased cost for the Florida Retirement System is $80 more per student (in Alachua County). The districts must also pay for new students and the Teacher Salary Supplement. The district must cut its budget for 2020-21. The total reduction for Alachua County in the House bill is $3,487,197 and the Senate total is $2,564,352

The House (HB 5001) and Senate (SB 2500) budgets differ in priorities. The House budget includes more funding for teacher salary supplements but less than the Senate’s allocation for turnaround schools, students with disabilities, digital technology, and support for poorer districts. Both chambers include the mandate for districts to fund increased costs for the Florida Retirement System (FRS). The two bills must be reconciled in a joint conference.

The FRS increased cost is due to an auditor’s analysis that the FRS estimated rate of return on its investments should be lowered. While the current income on investments exceeds expectations, it has not completely recovered from the 2007 recession, see kic restoration. The FRS includes 643,00 state, local, and school district employees. Their contributions support pensions for 416,000 retirees. Teachers and other district employees are nearly one-half of all participants.

Mixed Blessings: Corporate Training Programs

Most of us are looking for answers about how best to help children learn.  The latest approach is to focus on Career and Technical Education (CTE).  Not all students are college-bound.  Few middle schoolers, however, are ready to plan the rest of their lives. Knowing that, many corporations decide to run campaigns with firms such as The Marketing Heaven to bring middle schoolers closer to the programs they offer in order to pursue a satisfying career. Some of these CTE options expect exactly that.

Big corporations like Amazon, CISCO, and Ford are implementing CTE programs in schools.  In this article, Jeff Bryant explains why.  He also interviews parents who initially were excited and then concerned about the control over the K12 curriculum that these companies exercised.  Were students being trained for specific jobs in particular companies that may or may not exist when they graduate?  

In this thoughtful article, you can follow the logic and the money involved.  It is worth the time to read it carefully.  Florida has already implemented changes to high school graduation requirements for CTE programs. Beginning in middle school, students can point toward a job right out of high school,
see temecula facial oral surgery.  In some cases, those students may graduate from high school with at least a community college degree.  In others, credits for graduation are reduced from 24 credits to 18 if they enroll in a CTE program.  

Public/private partnerships may have some real advantages.  The bottom line, so to speak, is always the issue need AC installation in riverside.  Whose interest is being served, and what is the impact of corporate controlled education on communities?  What happens to the students who complete a specific training program and find that there are fewer jobs than there are students who have trained for those jobs?  

Passion to Teach Revisited

Remember the posts about Bart Nouse’s film ‘Passion to Teach’? Friday, I saw this project based approach to learning in action. It was like a science fair, but not like one in important ways.

A Community School in a local lower income area held a poster session for its seventh grade students. Last fall, groups of three or four students selected a science or medical problem to investigate. The studies defined a similar investigative process across groups but no ongoing experiments. There were poster displays and T-shirts and prizes for the most well thought out ideas.

Essential differences between this activity and the usual science fair were:

  1. The students did their studies at school and in groups during the fall semester.
  2. The groups combined regular program and magnet program children.
  3. There was no project cost to the students.
  4. Teachers contacted every community group to request mentors for each project. The response was overwhelming. Each mentor spent at least an hour each week with a group, visit oasisnaturalcleaning.com.
  5. As the projects advanced, forty University of Florida faculty members were recruited to respond to content and process questions.

It does not matter who won or who lost in this competition. As I walked around and spoke to the students, I could see their pride and recognize their learning. These students from different abilities, backgrounds and races learned together for the benefit of everyone. The teacher who coordinated the activities said, “None of this was about testing.” It showed. There was so much learning in so many ways.

There was an uneasy undercurrent to this joy of learning.  As I spoke with administrators, I learned the school had been in lock down that morning.  No guns were involved but threats by a homeless person had been made.  I saw the rigorous screening of visitors to the schools.  I learned about the unmet mental health needs of many children.

The contrast between what could be and what is becomes obvious on a day like this.  If schools were balanced by income and race and threats were minimized,  learning can flourish.  When fear and failure become the norm due to the impact of school choice and economic segregation, everyone pays the price.  There is a better way; it is a choice communities must make.

For Tools for the Resistance, Read ‘Slaying Goliath’ by Diane Ravitch

This book is timely. It is personal. It describes real events led by passionate people who have made a difference. It gives hope.

Who is David and who is Goliath in the battle over public schools? The ‘Disrupters’, as Diane Ravitch calls them, are the corporate giants behind the move to destroy public schools. Ravitch devotes an entire chapter to those who seek to dismantle public schools and profit from public tax dollars. David is the ‘Resistance’, or the millions of parents, teachers, and students whose interest public education serves.  They are the ultimate winners in this war for the heart of our democracy. It is a classic David vs. Goliath tale.

Ravitch asserts that David is triumphing once again. She backs up her assertions by dismantling claims that testing, rewards and punishments, and school choice will result in better educational opportunities for children. She underscores her points with examples of the failure of the Disrupters in Chicago, New Orleans, New York and Washington D.C. among others. She cites evidence to underscores how Disrupters shift course as each of their assertions fails. No meaningful achievement gains have been realized. Teachers have voted with their feet as teaching vacancies mount nationally. The greed and corruption of the movement to privatize schools can no longer be hidden. Communities and even states have put on the brakes. Choice has stagnated as charters close as often as they open, and parents remove children from ineffective private schools.

Ravitch credits the many volunteers who advocate for public schools and galvanize unease into action. Parents now understand that ranking students and schools on test scores creates few winners and a plethora of losers. They recognize that students who do not ‘fit In’ are excluded. They are uncomfortable about the lack of equity among increasingly segregated charter and private schools. They are angry about how money is siphoned off as public schools struggle to repair roofs and air conditioners.sikisxxx arap pornoZ

Perhaps the strongest message from Slaying Goliath is the power of ideas. In this arena, the corporate giants become small people with limited goals. The greatest strength of The Resistance, says Ravitch, is citizens who are motivated by “a passion for children, a passion for education, a commitment to their community, a dedication to democracy, and a belief in the value of public schools”.

This is no time for complacency. The power of the purse is undisputed. No doubt major propaganda campaigns will be launched by the Corporate Disruptors to regain their edge. It reminds me of the Franklin D. Roosevelt quote: …the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. Slaying Goliath documents the assumptions and strategies of fear mongers. It provides hope that the nation is turning its attention to resolving inequities and restoring the joy of learning.
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Slaying Goliath is Out!! The Florida League is in it.

This review of Diane Ravitch’s new book underscores the importance of her work. But, her work is also the work of grassroots efforts around the country in support of public education. The work the Florida League of Education did with its charter school study is recognized in Slaying Goliath. When I was active as an educational researcher in my professional career, I was well aware of the excellent work of Gene Glass and David Berliner in the field. It is worth your time to read their review of Diane’s latest book. You too can be a David. Read Diane’s post here.

Let’s Put Florida Public Education Advocacy on the National Stage

Have you registered for the Network for Public Education conference in Philadelphia March 28? If you are an advocate for public education, you will want to be there. This is a time for Florida to get reinvigorated. The NPE conference is the place to do it. Organize some of your colleagues to join Pat Hall, Robin Jones and me as we present our panel on Florida charter school business practices. It is eye opening!! There are many other thought provoking panels as well.

Please share this post with your groups and encourage them to join us. Let’s be sure that Florida shows up. 😀

Register here.

Florida wastes $37 million on charters that never opened or soon closed

The federal grants awarded between 2006-14 for 186 Florida charters were wasted.  Forty six of these charters never opened at all.  Others closed.  You can see the list of federal charter startup grants with the amount of funds lost for each here.  A few received $25,000 planning grants and then decided not to open; others received hundreds of thousands of dollars to launch a charter and either did not open or shut down.  The Florida Times Union calls for better oversight.

The big money went to charter management organizations.  For example:

Charter Schools of Excellence received $2,911,355

Life Skills Centers received $1,608,844

Newpoint received $2,479,612 (and the owners have gone to jail).

The most recent closure data includes even more failed charters…410.  Some of these did not receive federal start up grants.  Put it all together, and there is nearly a forty percent chance that a charter school will fail.

Charters tend to target big population centers, but even there charters close at a high rate.    Thousands of children and their families have been  disrupted.  The counties with the most closed charters are in:

Broward:  59 charters closed

Dade:  53 charters closed

Hillsborough:  35 charters closed

Orange:  18 charters closed

Palm Beach:  42 charters closed

Some in the charter industry argue that high closure rates are good; they show the market economy works.  Others argue that parents are being fed false promises.  Children are not commodities to be discarded if they are not profitable.

DeVos Report Confirms Loss of Federal Dollars for Charters

The Network for Public Education’s (NPE) two reports…Asleep at the Wheel…claimed that over a billion dollars in federal funds were lost due to charters that never opened or quickly closed. The charter industry was enraged, scoffed, and claimed that the reports were inaccurate. NPE’s Carol Burris replied in this story published by the Washington Post. Carol underestimated the amount lost! It seems that DeVos reported to Congress that two billion dollars were actually lost.

Time periods in the compared reports varied somewhat, but the problem is actually worse than NPE’s report indicated. Carol explains the differences. What cannot be explained is where the money went. Both the Congress and the U.S. Department of Education were Asleep at the Wheel.

Florida Legislators at Work….For Themselves

Remember when the three Jefferson County schools were closed and taken over by Academica, the largest for-profit charter management company in the state?  The story makes your hair curl.  Here is a report by WLRN news that details where the money came from and where it went. Find out how Academica works and how the students fared.

New funding included a $2.5 million special appropriation from the Florida Legislature, $2 million from federal startup grant funds, and a $1.9 million interest free loan from Academica’s Somerset division.  This was funding denied unless it became a charter district. Academica received $327,000 in fees in 2017-18 to manage the fewer than 800 student K12 school.  The per student cost rose to $16,600 which school leaders recognize cannot be sustained.  The state pays much less.

The behind the scenes orchestrators for the takeover were Senators Manny Diaz and Anitere Flores, both of whom have close ties to Academica. Diaz is an administrator at Doral College and is Chair of the Senate Education Committee.  Flores is deputy Majority Leader for the Florida Senate and moved from being the head of Doral College to the Academica foundation.  The current Doral College president, Rodriquez,  was named to supervise the transition of the Jefferson County schools to Academica.

In previous posts, I reported on a series of misdeeds associated with Diaz and Flores related to their association with Doral College.  The college was bankrupt and had no students or faculty when Academica took it on.  It now offers online courses to Academica students.  The credit was worthless because the college had no accreditation.  Diaz worked to get a private school accreditation agency to recognize the college.  Diaz’s personal interest is noted here.  

What is the result of the takeover?  Behavioral specialists were hired to help students, teacher salaries increased, and the physical facilities were improved. Initially, the school grades rose to a ‘C’, but the elementary school has now reverted to a ‘D’.  The increase in the percentage of students passing the FSA state examinations in order to raise the school grades may have had as much to do with discipline policies as with learning strategies.  The charter school policy created a 45 day suspension policy in which students were given a laptop and sent home.  They were to take online classes from Doral College.  Many students never returned.  It is one way to raise school grades…just limit which students take the tests.

There is no question that the years of neglect in Jefferson County created the abysmal schools.  Parents who could, mostly white, had left for private schools or for schools in nearby Leon County.  Those few students who remained had the greatest needs and the fewest resources.  No doubt some students and their families were grateful for the influx of new funding for the charter district, but it cannot last.    

This is the result of a choice system in which racial and economic segregation flourishes as described in ‘Tough Choices‘, a report sponsored by the Leroy Collins Institute at Florida State University.  It has happened in other Florida cities.  It is the dark side of a choice system that favors some at the expense of others.