by Carole Hentscel
by Carole Hentscel
I have avoided posting all of the speculation about possible changes in education leadership and policy in the new administration. It is just plain hard on my peace of mind, especially when most of it will not happen. I firmly believe that the real changes will be through the change in leadership in the Florida legislature. As you know, I am not sanguine on those. You can see previous posts.
This morning, however, I ran across an article that helps us think more realistically about what change at the federal level would take. This Ed Week article reviews legislation that would have to be amended to redirect funding. It also points toward a likely push for school choice funding in the Congress. It is worth a read.
Subtle and direct violations of law have been documented in charter admissions policies. Empty seats are supposed to be filled by lottery. Yet, which student applications make it into the lottery is frequently questioned. For example, some parents and/or students are required to submit essays. Or, parents may be required to certify they will contribute a certain number of hours or donate money to cover school fees. If all else fails, charters may counsel parents that their child may not fit ‘the mission of the school’ and practice constant suspension for trivial offenses to discourage unwanted children.
In this article released by the ACLU in California, and reported by Education Justice, an expose of wide spread civil rights violations is reported.
A five year study (2011-2016) of federal startup charters in Florida, conducted by the Collaborative Assessment and Program Evaluation Services (CAPES) at the University of Florida, makes one wonder why Florida was given so much more federal money this year to launch new charter schools.
It may be a bitter pill for the federal government to swallow, but this study reinforces the NAACP’s decision to call for a moratorium on the expansion of charters.
Today’s New York Times urges the NAACP to oppose a moratorium on charter schools. The NAACP does not want to settle for second best. The Times argues that while some charters are mismanaged, well run charters are a better option for struggling students. This is a weak argument and one wonders if it is really a political one. Who benefits?
Florida already has over 650 charters schools which have not made a dent in the achievement gap or any other desirable goal. Yet, the federal Department of Education awarded more charter start up money to Florida than to any other state. This $58,454,516 million goes to start schools, share leading practices in theory to improve educational outcomes for students in high need communities. A three year study of previous federal startup charters in Florida, conducted by the Collaborative Assessment and Program Evaluation Services (CAPES) at the University of Florida, makes one wonder why Florida was given so much more money. The CAPES study found no academic achievement advantage for the charters, and where differences occurred, they favored traditional public schools with similar student populations. There were moreover, some serious problems in these federally funded schools. When teacher attrition was compared with traditional schools, two to three times as many teachers left the charters during the school year than at regular public schools. The impact on those children could not have been positive. It has already been documented that teachers are more likely to leave charters due to lower salaries and lack of benefits. To have high attrition in the middle of the year indicates something more must be happening.
There is no explanation why Florida received no funding for recognized high quality charters. One wonders why so few of these ‘high quality’ charter management firms even operate in Florida. Of course, there is the other obvious question about any charter. What makes them high quality? Is it that they too often tend to recruit more ‘promising’ students and push out those that do not live up to expectations? Do they have substantial funding from the private sector to be able to support extended days, tutoring and behavioral services? We read mostly from the political sector that more money does not improve quality, but in some cities like New York, it gives the appearance of quality. It is easy to be duped by fresh paint and laptops.
NOTE: FROM KAREN WEST: I served on the charter review committee as the “community member” for the second year. Our strategy was to highlight all the weaknesses in the CSUSA proposal when we presented it to the Lake Cty. School Board in a workshop Sept. 19. However, we did recommend approval of the application – with strong reservations – knowing that a rejection would then be handled by the appeals committee in Tallahassee which is heavily populated with friends of charter schools.
This vote by 4 of the 5 school board members was a surprise and delight to me! It may have an impact of the selection of the new superintendent of schools, which will take place after the election of two new school board members. As a representative of LWVTRI, I serve on that advisory board as well.
Many thanks to Sue M. Legg – chair of the LWVFL Education Committee for providing strong factual information about charter school companies and their financial dealings.