Action Alert Today

It is time to to swing into action!

CONTACT YOUR SENATORS

Support SB 1552.  This bill helps to recruit highly qualified teachers and to fund districts to provide community support services for struggling public schools.  It maintains local district responsibility for our schools and requires accountability.

Oppose SB 796.  This is the High Impact Charter Organization bill.  It would turn public schools over to private corporations to run turn around schools.  These charters have high student attrition rates in other states.  The bill is basically the same as the House bill for Schools of Hope.  The bill exempts teachers and administrators from certification, requires districts to share space in under enrolled or closed district schools with private companies, gives five year contract to private, non profit charter management firms, and designs a performance measure rather than school grades for accountability.

 

 

 

Sue Legg on Talk Radio about Vouchers

LWVUS announced a partnership with labor talk radio.  Now, the U.S. League has turned to Florida for a story about our tax credit scholarship program.  I did my homework, of course, for an interview on Tuesday, March 7th at 1:30 pm.  You can listen.  Go to their website and select the option best suited for you.  I use the Internet player .

The background for the story is historical and interesting.  Who would believe that President Ulysses S. Grant was a key player in the controversy over the separation of church and state in our schools.  Like any important education issue, the debate never ends.  It does morph as it has in Florida with the implementation of school choice policies.

Jeb Bush Supports Betsy DeVos

Many of you may know that the nominee for U.S. Secretary Betsy DeVos serves as a board member on Jeb Bush’s pro choice Foundation for Excellence in Education.  Bush has written a letter in support of her nomination.

Bush argues that opposition to school choice is based on two false narratives.  The League has no formal position on this appointment.  So, you decide.  Let your Senators know what you think.

 

 

 

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It is Time to PUNCH

child speakingWe can continue to feed information to the public about the destructive impact of ill thought out school choice policies.  There is a danger, however, that we are simply preaching to the choir.   Those who should be aware may not be tuned in.

Our strategies to increase awareness must be more diverse.  What would prompt your neighbor, colleague, fellow parent to tune in?

It is logical that busy people preoccupied with families and jobs will respond to calls for action if they recognize the urgency and the possibility for a positive impact. 

I am working on a set of ‘headlines’ and slogans that communicate the immediacy of the need to preserve our public schools.   What do we value about our public schools?  What are the threats to public education?  Which solutions do we propose?

Can we come up with short, single sentences that encapsulate a need or something you value.   Then we can refer people to more in depth analyses and ways to respond.

Let’s see:

  • Vouchers segregate, not integrate schools.
  • Vouches for the poor pay for poor quality schools.
  • Vouchers help the rich get richer.
  • Private schools get public money with no strings attached.

OR

  • Public schools innovate, charters stagnate.
  • Public schools invite students in; charters counsel them out.
  • Charters profit from students; public schools invest in them.
  • When housing patterns limit access to quality education, fix it!

OR

  • School choice means all schools are under funded.
  • Teaching, not testing helps students learn.
  • We need more time, not more testing.
  • School choice is a distraction not an option to improve learning.

You get the idea.  Send me your captions and communication strategies.  We will hone them and use them to target issues.  We will discuss these at the League’s Orlando leadership conference in January.

 

 

 

 

 

Why for-profit education fails

power-money-trap-5441169“Should anyone care that a bunch of very rich people have failed on these (for-profit) ventures?” asked Jonathan Knee in this month’s Atlantic.  Failed for-profit educational investments abound.  Rupert Murdoch’s one billion dollar investment in the Knowledge Universe companies is gone.  Last year, Murdoch and Joel Klein, the former Chancellor of New York City schools sold what was left of Amplify to Steve Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs.  She is scaling what was to be the transformation of education down to a company specializing in middle school reading materials.

Other would be entrepreneurs have also lost their shirts.  JP Morgan and Golden Sachs came up empty.  Knee explains that their vision was simply too large.  The educational market is regional, not national.  What works in one area does not work in another.  The breadth of investments also is a weakness as evidenced by the decline of K12 Inc. the Milliken distance education company.  Companies are attempting to control too many different parts of the educational enterprise.

Some investors are simply ego driven. The desire to reform education based on beliefs about what is wrong and must be changed is itself a threat to wise investment.  Knee gives some logical advice:

The possibility of doing good would expand exponentially if more investors and managers would shift their attention toward the question of what qualities are most important in building a successful educational franchise.

Private companies can target tools that help the instructional process rather than trying to design a process they know little about.  Any educator can explain that there is no single process.  Children learn in many different ways is a truism any teacher knows.

There is a “free-for-all” mentality in the education sector these days.  Some for-profit companies are making money off the backs of teachers who are now fleeing the profession.  Other more successful but limited reformers are frustrated with their inability to scale up expensive programs.  The long term impact of an unfocused educational reform movement based solely on outcomes measured by test scores is emerging.  Without enabling schools to thrive by ensuring equitable funding for low income areas and targeted instructional opportunities for at risk children, not much will change.  One wonders if educational reform is a ‘something for nothing’ example of wishful thinking.

Yet as columnist Herb Caen used to say, out of the mud grows a lotus.  Responsible, well managed, publically managed choice systems could evolve.  Magnet schools can serve to balance diverse socio-economic areas and increase access to quality education.  School programs are becoming  more flexible.  Instruction is enhanced not replaced by technology in classrooms.  Community services are working more directly with schools.  These are the goals toward which education policy is moving.

 

Today the Value of Diversity Was Affirmed

justiceAll the money pouring into school choice helps hire professionals to give a positive spin to a poor idea.  What can be wrong with giving parents choice and take state dollars with them to charter and private schools, spin masters say.

Some parents cannot resist the allure of a selective quasi ‘private education’ even if it is not high quality.  Today the Supreme Court provided a compelling ruling that can change the conversation.

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School Board Official ‘Bought’?

money-40603_1280When is it a conflict of interest for a district school board member’s campaign to be financed by a charter school management company and its associates?

The Tampa Bay Times reports that one third of a Hillsborough school board member’s 2016 election campaign is financed by the charter sector.   Contributions to local school board candidates from charter advocacy groups is becoming a national strategy.  Is this democracy in action or something more sinister?  The issue is complicated by questions about the meaning of public education.

 

 

 

 

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Lawsuit Testimony Can Break Your Heart

justiceFlorida’s educational system is on trial in Tallahassee.  The charge?  One million Florida students cannot read at grade level.  Testimony about the plight of these children can break your heart.  Thousands are homeless.  Most are from poor families.  In some rural counties children are too hungry to learn, and schools provide three meals a day.  These children, the plaintiffs argue need much more than school districts can provide with current funding.  

The Florida League of Women Voters recognizes that the solutions to these problems are complex, but applauds the attention the suit brings to the weaknesses in our educational system.  What are the arguments and what is the defense?  What do the witnesses say? 

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