HB 7029: School Choice Districts Created with Less Local Control

legislation1Legal frameworks for charter districts plus the creation of the Florida Charter School Institute, moves toward a separate educational system from the traditional public school system.

This bill creates the Institute for Charter School Innovation, Charter School Collaborative Networks, High Impact Charter Networks and some greater transparency in the backgrounds of charter school service providers.

The Charter High Impact Charter Network is a structure similar to those in other states that are called takeover districts in low income areas whose public schools are turned into charters.  These take over districts have been thee source of significant community resistance and have a poor academic track record.  The bill is sponsored by Representative Bob Cortes from Seminole and Orange Counties.  HB 7029 School Choice will be heard in the House Education Appropriation Committee on Monday.

Major components of the bill are listed below.  The provisions to revise the calculation of full time equivalence for online learning and credit for End of Course exams are in the bill but not included in this summary.

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Arne Duncan Visits S. Pinellas Failure Factories

FAILED1 South Pinellas schools are a civil rights problem said Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education.  The Tampa Bay Times series ‘Failure Factories’ on the five schools seemingly abandoned by the district received national attention.  Secretary Duncan, his heir apparent, John King, U.S. Representative Kathy Castor met with parents and district officials yesterday.

Duncan said that the children were not failures, but the adults had failed the children.  They praised the efforts of the current superintendent to improve the schools, but much is yet to be done.  Duncan acknowledged that there were ‘tremendous unmet needs’ for family services and early childhood education.  A parent called for after school services and more experienced, quality teachers.

What happens next remains to be seen.  The Florida Department of Education is investigating whether or not their has been misuse of federal Title I funds designated for children from poor families.

Even though some progress has been made under the direction of the current superintendent,  the schools cannot solve the impact of their neglect by themselves.  The solution to the problems at the schools will require intensive community involvement.  Yet, only two school board members attended the event.  The Chair of the board said she was not invited. One former parent simply called the event a ‘press conference’.  Let’s hope it was more than that.

You can watch the video and read the Tampa Bay article here.

 

 

 

 

Ohio Citizens Fight Back Against Charter Corruption

money-40603_1280The exploitation by charter school management companies in Ohio makes Florida  look not quite so bad.  Understanding the problems and the difficulty of correcting them is essential.  Ohio citizens got the message and acted.  Their legislature finally approved a strongly opposed measure to hold charter management companies more accountable.  For one thing, they now have to disclose how they spend all the money that is transferred to them from the charter schools.

Many of use do not realize that school boards transfer money to a charter school non-profit organization.  The non-profit is audited, but only on how they spend money.  The boards of the non-profit often subcontract (between 90 to 95% of their money) to a for-profit management company to run the school.  They run everything including hiring teachers, managing money, building or leasing facilities, and most often providing curriculum materials.   The management company is private, so they do not have to reveal where they spend the money or how much profit they earn.  For example, the for-profit company may charge the school twenty to thirty percent of its budget for facilities that actually cost much less.

How and why these management arrangements exist is complicated.  One of the better explanations I have read lately is one from Jan Resseger’s blog.  She explains the change in Ohio law to improve oversight  of charter management companies.  She also reports the latest school district take over by charters in Youngston, Ohio.  Granted Youngston has problems.  Equally true is that other take over efforts in inner cities have done little to improve achievement in poverty stricken areas.  There is much hype, big investments, and wrenching of control from local communities.  The federal government has a target list of these cities.  The intention may be good; the implementation is fraught with controversy and devoid of meaningful results.  There has to be a better way.

Read Jan’s account here.  Do a self test.  Can you fill in the names of the corresponding players in Florida?

 

Do You Know Which of Your Charters is in Trouble?

auditWho is in trouble in your county?  The other day I posted the 2015 Florida Auditor General’s report on charter schools.  Today, I happened to look at that report again.  I scrolled down to find the list of charter schools in trouble.  Goodness, I found 3 of them were located in Alachua County.  You might want to see which ones are located in your area.

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Charter Oversight Needed Now

buck stopsby Carol Clark Hentschel, Palm Beach

Palm Beach has had more than its share of problems with failing charter schools.  Citizens there want better management oversight.  Carol is the Palm Beach League’s education team chair.  She makes a strong argument that the time is now for change.  The buck stops with us.  We have to insist on better accountability and oversight.

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Charters: Public, Private, Both: An Auditor’s View

Dave Yost

Dave Yost

Can you make a cogent argument about which regulations are needed and which inhibit a flexible, innovative school system?  It is not an esoteric topic.  With the plethora of examples of charter school fraud, waste and abuse, we know something is not working right.  What changes should be made?

Ohio’s Auditor of State, Dave Yost, has been doing some serious thinking.  He is concerned about which aspects of charter school operations are subject to public entity law and which relate to laws governing private companies.  It makes a difference in what information is subject to public disclosure.  The criteria for ethical behavior differ as well.  Charters are both public and private.  Which set of rules apply?

This piece is not a polemic.  It is a thoughtful article by a fiscal conservative who believes in small government.  He is concerned about preserving the public interest when contracting with private entities for services like schools and prisons.  It is a thorny problem we all need to ponder.

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Florida Senate Education Committee Workshop on Charters

bill montfordjohn leggIf you want to take the pulse of charter school legislative priorities, watch this video.  It is yesterday’s Florida Senate Education Committee workshop on charters.  They have a long list of proposed bills to consider, and they are looking for ways to combine bills in order to move forward.

The two most comprehensive bills were from Senator Montford and Senator Legg.    Continue reading

New Mexico to Audit Teacher and School Evaluations for Validity???

legislation1You can think of this bill SB 263 by Howie Morales as the “It is time to check the checkers” bill.  It appears that some legislators want real data with valid results.  It has just been introduced, so passage is a ways off.

The summary of the bill states that the “State Auditor shall adopt quality and accuracy audits of teacher evaluations, merit pay, and school ratings conducted by the Department of Education.  Look at what the auditor be required to do.  It will bring a smile to many.  It makes me think that others have read “Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics”.

 

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Florida Tax Credit Scholarships Need The Light of Day

business-257880_1280We will do a series of posts on educational issues likely to come up in the Florida legislative session.  We would like to hear from other states as well.  Let’s begin with the accountability of the Florida Tax Credit (FTC) scholarship program.

What are the children learning; where is the money going, and how is it spent?

Keeping track of the $86 million for 67, 142 students in over 1400 schools is no easy task.  Transparency issues in reporting have arisen in charter schools.   Senator Legg, Chair of the Education Committee indicated that remedies would be made.  How can he improve transparency in the private school sector for tax credit vouchers?

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