Attacking Tenure: Why?

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What are these anti tenure cases really about?  Are reformers convinced the workforce has more than its share of ineffective teachers?   Or, are they concerned many teachers prefer to work in traditional schools where they can earn higher salaries and benefits?  Thus, charters and private schools struggle to compete for high quality teachers.

There is a general anti union undercurrent, but I am continually surprised how few Floridians seem to know that tenure in Florida is a thing of the past.  Why are other states filing law suits?

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NAEP 2015: Should we worry or celebrate?

dmbtestYes, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) average scores are slightly down overall in 2015 from 2013.  The grade four reading scores did go up from 217 in 2002 to 221 in 2015.  This is a one point increase from 2007  Average eighth grade math and reading as well as fourth grade math scores declined.

  • Math grade four scores dropped one point and grade eight dropped 3 points.
  • Reading grade four was the same and grade eight dropped two points.

Do changes of a point or two have any significance?  Not really.  It is comforting when scores tend to rise, but they often fluctuate some.  It is more meaningful to look at scores over time.  This is a very revealing exercise.

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Can States Opt Out of Federal Testing and Teacher Evaluation Programs?

hat-157980_1280Annual testing is federal law, but not all states follow it.  Using test scores as part of teacher evaluations is the law, but not all states use scores this way.  The basic question is: Who is in charge of education, the states or the federal government?  Where is the line when federal support becomes federal intervention?

Can states opt out of federal testing and teacher evaluation mandates?  This really is a tricky question.

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Florida Education Funding: Holding the Purse Strings

taxes-646512_1280Does Florida short change its students?  Where does the education funding come from and where does it go?  Answers to such questions require some ‘tax literacy’.  Florida is one of seven states with no income tax.  As a percentage of personal income, Florida has the fourth lowest tax rate in the country.  Corporate taxes currently are 2.9% of Florida’s revenue.  Yet, Florida is not a poor state; some areas are quite wealthy.
Now there is a legislative proposal to eliminate property taxes.  What are the implications of such an idea?  Clearly, sales taxes would have to go up.  The question prompted me to put together Florida’s funding stream for education.  I asked some questions:
  • How much of its budget does Florida allocate for education?
  • How does Florida’s education funding compare to other states?
  • How much of the education budget is funded from states sales tax, the lottery, local property taxes and the federal government?
  • How much is diverted from the education budget by corporate tax rebates for private school scholarships?
  • How much money is diverted from school districts to charter schools?
The answers to these questions explain a lot.  We can understand the power of the federal purse when we oppose federal mandates on testing and accountability programs.  We can understand public school districts’ concerns about the attempts to privatize the educational system.  We can evaluate the impact of proposals to reduce taxes.  Most of all, we can examine our state’s priorities.

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For-Profit Charters: Whose Interest is Being Served?

money-40603_1280Lots of money easily available can lead to abuse, and it did–over and over again in Miami.  It is so much money that it may be time to follow New York’s lead and ban for-profit education management companies.  In this post we look at Academica, Florida’s largest for-profit education management firm.

Its schools are consolidated into at least four non-profit entities that allow Academica to operate legally as a contractor to its own schools. Their 100 schools are organized into the  Mater, Somerset, Pinecrest and Doral networks.  They also manage several Ben Gamla schools as well as others.  Academica operates in five states plus D.C. including Florida, Utah, Texas, Nevada, California.

The Doral and Mater charter governing boards keep appearing in the Miami Dade Inspector General reports.  There is a lot of money involved and continued poor governance citations.  You can follow the money.  Do these schools do more with less?

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“Togetherness”, the Anti-Community’s Community?

Divided Community

Divided Community

Now television is in the charter fray.  In this review of the series “Togetherness”, Joshua Leibner in Salon magazine describes its charter school subplot.  Are neighborhood schools the “bogeyman for all of society’s ills?, he asks.  He wonders if for white people of their education and class,  all the education reform nonsense might feel right for minority kids–but just not for their children?  The setting for the series is in Eagle Rock in Los Angeles.  This is a real place where both Leibner and the show’s producers actually live.  Is the show fact or fiction? Continue reading