Indian River Charter Schools Sue District

dollar-726881_1280Florida’s districts can ask voters to help fund schools through a local referendum.  Charters in Indian River want a share.  Five charters: Indian River Charter High School, Inc., Imagine Schools at South Vero, North County Charter School, Inc., Sebastian Charter Junior High, Inc., and St. Peter’s Academy, Inc.,  have filed a lawsuit.  In 2012, voters approved a .6 mills increase in property taxes to fund their local public schools.  Charters backed the referendum and want a pro-rata share.

Most districts do not and are not required to share funding from a local referendum with charters.  Nevertheless, the competition for money goes on.  The case was assigned to Administrative Law Judge Cathy M. Sellers.

 

 

Spectacular Charter Fraud in Michigan

Diane Ravitch posted a story from Michigan.  It could have happened in Florida.  I am reposting it here.  When Senator Gaetz said it was time to end the private enrichment schemes in Florida’s charters, he was right.  Unfortunately, his version of the choice bill did not make it through the 2016 legislature.  It would have tied public money to public ownership of school facilities.

Michigan has a greater percentage of for-profit charters than does Florida.  They have little oversight.  The same is true here.  We really do not want to play the ‘who has the greatest scandal’ game.  We need to push our legislators to curb the exploitation of public funds.

The Education Train HB 7029: Car by Car

 

locomotive-60539_1280The final version of SB 7029, the charter school bill, took awhile to locate.  Here it is!  There is along list of provisions, some minor and some major.  The highlights follow.  They are easy to scan.  Most do little damage.  Some good things happened.  Considering what could have been, we can put our energies toward making good things happen next year.

 

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High Suspension Rates in Charter Schools

whistle-149678_1280Lake Wales charter school in Florida had one of the highest suspension rates (45.3%) in the nation.  A U.C.L.A. Civil Rights Project study gathered out of school suspension rates for all 5,250 charter schools from 2011-12.  They compared them to traditional public schools.

 

 

 

Charter schools had a somewhat higher rate on average.  What was startling was how variable the suspension rates were among charter schools.  Some were extraordinarily high.  This is not just about suspension rates, however.  Half of all black students attending charter high schools were enrolled in 270 schools that were hyper segregated (over 80% black).  Their suspension rate was 25%.  Other disturbing findings were:

  • Over 500, about 10%, of the charters had higher suspension rates than traditional public schools.
  • 235 charters suspended half of their students with disabilities.
  • Over 1,000 charters had suspension rates for students with disabilities that were at least ten percent higher than traditional public schools.

As one might expect, suspensions were lower in elementary schools than in high schools.  The study questioned, however, the number of charters that reported no suspensions.  Twice as many charters reported no suspensions than did traditional schools.

Interesting or alarming is the fact that Florida’s suspension rate of black high school students is 30% which is higher than in California, Texas, New York and Illinois.

Inquiries into harsh disciplinary practices in charter schools has raised questions about civil rights violations.  The core recommendation of the study is that charters should curb overuse of disciplinary exclusion and replace them with more effective alternatives.  There should be no exemptions or excuses for charter schools.

 

New Mexico: The Charter Debate Escalates

by Meredith Machen, New Mexico
New MexicoThe New Mexico charter debate is particularly interesting because the state has tried to responsibly regulate charter management.  In yesterday’s post, I mentioned the 59 state managed charters, but there are also 43 district chartered schools.  Clearly the state’s Public Education Department is overwhelmed even though they only manage a few more than half of the charters.
New Mexico’s dual charter management system: state and local, should be a caution to Florida’s charter advocates.  Central state management as proposed by some in Florida, has overwhelmed the New Mexico Public Education Department.
Meredith, President of the NM League sends more background information on the charter management problems.

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LWVF ACTION ALERT ON SB 7029

LWVF Logo (better resolution?)

Take Action Now
INCREASE CHARTER SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY!
HB 7029 School Choice passed the House and is now being considered by the Senate. Late on Friday night, Sen. Don Gaetz filed a strike-all amendment with good language that sets standards for charter schools. This language also bans charter schools from receiving capital funds for private enrichment. This one quote taken directly from the bill encapsulates the most reasonable position on charter school funding:
“It is the intent of the Legislature that the public interest be protected by prohibiting personal financial enrichment by owners, operators, managers, and other affiliated parties of charter schools.”
The language puts in place guidelines for charter schools receiving funding, including mandating that the charter school is owned and leased at a fair market value. The language provides additional funding to schools in which at least 75% of the population is eligible for free or reduced lunch, or at least 25% of the population has a disability.
This language has been added by Sen. Gaetz to another bill that deals with charter schools, HB 7043.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
 
The Senate is in Session right now. Your immediate action can make the difference!

1. CONTACT your Senator and ask that they vote YES on HB 7029 and 7043. Click here to find your Senator.
In League,
Pamela Goodman
LWVF President
If you can, please help support our advocacy with your voice AND a much needed donation for administrative support at this crucial time! To help us to keep up the fight, click here to DONATE NOW to the League of Women Voters of Florida Advocacy Fund.
 
“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Margaret Mead
League of Women Voters of Florida, 540 Beverly Court, Tallahassee, FL 32301-7530

Senate Session has overlapping Education Bills

legislation1SB 524 has the same improved charter school management provisions embedded in HB 7029.  See line 1447 in HB 7029.

HB 7043  relates to performance standards for higher education, and it includes the Best and Brightest program.

The Senate is meeting this morning.  7029 was put on temporary postponement at about 11am.

The LWVF supports the improvement in charter school management in these bills.