Boy, did I fail to read the fine print on SB 830. This is an anti local school district bill that would authorize the State Board of Education to grant charters instead of local school boards. In an earlier post, I commended Senator Stargel for not allowing charters to discriminate in admissions against students with poor academic records. Further down in the bill, I see why she did so. This is a major attack.
Senator Brandes, representing South Pinellas County, home of the Pinellas ‘Failure Factories’ filed SB 808. The bill will allow municipalities to authorize charter schools. Current law requires municipalities to submit charter proposals to the county school board. This bill would allow cities to create charters without school district approval. It would appear to be another effort to weaken public school districts.
There is a Municipal Charter School Foundation based in West Palm Beach that evidently was founded in 2013. It offers support to cities that wish to open charters. Its financial statement does not show much activity, so it is unclear if this group has had any input into Senator Brandes’ bill.
SB 808 also eliminates the prohibition of a charter school to open more than one high performing charter in a given year.
Neither of these provisions address current problems with inadequate charter school oversight or with the lack of district support for struggling south Pinellas schools. At some point the Legislature will have to focus on real problems and real solutions to inequities. An under funded charter school cannot do miracles, and neither can an ignored, under funded public school.
The State of New Jersey took over Newark’s public schools in 1995. Fifteen years later, Newark schools were still struggling. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame, donated $100 million to the district in 2010. The Education Commissioner, Chris Cerf, had formerly served as deputy chancellor of New York’s schools. Prior to that he was president of Edison Schools Inc., a private for-profit management company that failed. He hired Cami Anderson, former head of Teach for America and New York’s District 79 at risk schools. What happened next is alarming. It could lead to something constructive.
By Margery Marcus
The Broward County School District is upset. Broward County has nearly two million people who live in relatively small cities. Ft. Lauderdale, its largest city has fewer than 200, 000 people. It is one of those pretty, but large beach towns. One third (100) of their schools are charters, but they enroll only 15% of the school population. Thus, there must be a lot of small charter schools.
Some charters with a high percentage of children from lower income families do well. Some charters have very nice facilities. There is once again, more to the story. Margery’s report will give you some clues about what is happening.
Are you aware of the Spencer Foundation’s Charter in Perspective Project? Issues are presented from different perspectives e.g. parental choice, preservation of public schools, and test beds for innovation.
Just for fun, here are some quick questions drawn from information on the site.
- What percentage of students are enrolled in charter schools in the U.S.? What is the percentage in New Orleans?
- Is public opinion about charter schools well informed?
- On average, how do traditional and charter students compare on achievement gains?
If you prefer a Common Core critical thinking question, you might ask:
- How would you account for the difference between the reasons parents give for sending children to charters and the charters parents actually select?
The answers and much more follow.
The Florida State Board of Education is expected to vote on a rule change next week that could help weed out poor charter operators.
Let’s hope they do the right thing.
It is hard to say what our local charter’s parents have learned from the upheaval at the school. It reminds me of stories about running any small business. So, I looked up some. I found a classic. Top Ten Reasons Small Businesses Fail was published in the New York Times a few years ago. It may have been written by a former charter school owner: money woes, poor management skills, personality driven operations that can lead to big problems. The author states: Rarely does the owner’s finger point to the owner.
Charters are supposed to have governing boards that supply expertise and perspective on operations. Too often, they do not. Instead boards are often cronies; friends of the owner. They preside instead of work at the task of evaluating operations. They rubber stamp. They may mean well, but they do not know what they do not know. What should they know? What should our legislators do? We have collected a list. It is time for the League to go to work.
Parents care not only about the quality of education offered but also the mix of children in a school. How does the premise that “More choice should produce a better educational fit between what parents want for their children and ultimately lead to better educational outcomes” work out over time?
This study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research looks at data from North Carolina. We all need to understand the consequences of choice.
Who should approve new charter schools–local districts or the state? Would a university institute funded by the legislature do a better job? Now the State Board of Education has the final say. But, they do not always get it right.
Legislation moving through the Florida House and Senate includes a provision to create the Florida State University Charter School Institute. It would review charter proposals and conduct evaluation studies. Will FSU be able to improve the charter authorization process? Can it evaluate local needs, or do they not matter? If a form is filled out correctly, is that enough to make a charter school a valuable contribution to a local district?
I watched the April School Board of Education meeting. A comment was made about how fortunate Florida was to have the DOE, the Governor, and the legislature all on the same school reform page. Yet, when the attorney for Palm Beach County spoke about denials of charter schools, it is clear that there are practical, important issues that are too easily dismissed. Some checks and balances are needed.