It is Time to PUNCH

child speakingWe can continue to feed information to the public about the destructive impact of ill thought out school choice policies.  There is a danger, however, that we are simply preaching to the choir.   Those who should be aware may not be tuned in.

Our strategies to increase awareness must be more diverse.  What would prompt your neighbor, colleague, fellow parent to tune in?

It is logical that busy people preoccupied with families and jobs will respond to calls for action if they recognize the urgency and the possibility for a positive impact. 

I am working on a set of ‘headlines’ and slogans that communicate the immediacy of the need to preserve our public schools.   What do we value about our public schools?  What are the threats to public education?  Which solutions do we propose?

Can we come up with short, single sentences that encapsulate a need or something you value.   Then we can refer people to more in depth analyses and ways to respond.

Let’s see:

  • Vouchers segregate, not integrate schools.
  • Vouches for the poor pay for poor quality schools.
  • Vouchers help the rich get richer.
  • Private schools get public money with no strings attached.

OR

  • Public schools innovate, charters stagnate.
  • Public schools invite students in; charters counsel them out.
  • Charters profit from students; public schools invest in them.
  • When housing patterns limit access to quality education, fix it!

OR

  • School choice means all schools are under funded.
  • Teaching, not testing helps students learn.
  • We need more time, not more testing.
  • School choice is a distraction not an option to improve learning.

You get the idea.  Send me your captions and communication strategies.  We will hone them and use them to target issues.  We will discuss these at the League’s Orlando leadership conference in January.

 

 

 

 

 

Monroe County: Secret Roadmap to Resegregation

key-west-205599_640Is it a plot or just unintended consequences of an ill thought out education system?  In this article, the ways in which Monroe County–Key West — schools are segregated are spelled out.

It is worth reading to see how an insidious resegregation of schools has evolved.  Of course, charter schools are part of the problem.  Things came to a head when a proposal for a new charter was presented to the school board.  Board member Andy Griffith erupted and asked:  How do we know this is not just another white flight school?

Charters are not the only way to resegregate schools.  Read about the:

  • School bus route trick
  • Charter school trick
  • Student tracking trick
  • No black teachers trick

The journalists ask if there is not a better way.  What is happening to schools in this community is not good.

Education Law Center Tells What to Expect and What to Do

child speakingIf the Trump administration follows through on its pledge to gut public education, and the appointment of DeVos indicates it might, then it is time to circle the wagons.  Read the Education Law Center proposals on how to fight back.  In a state like Florida, we must take the case to the people; too many legislators may not listen.

 

 

 

 

What’s at stake?

  1. Civil rights enforcement; accelerated segregation

  2. Less funding for already underfunded public schools.

3. Ignoring needed charter management reform to control self dealing.

4. Shift of $20 billion in federal Title I funding from low income public schools to private sector charter and religious schools.

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November 29, 2016
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BUILDING FIREWALLS: PROTECTING PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN THE TRUMP ERA

By David G. Sciarra

With the selection of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, Donald Trump has made good on his promise to do everything possible to undermine and weaken America’s public education system. President-Elect Trump made few promises about his education agenda during the campaign, but what he did promise – $20 billion in federal funding taken from public schools to be used for private and religious school vouchers – foreshadowed his pick of a conservative billionaire who has donated considerable sums to promote charters and vouchers at the expense of the public schools and the children they serve.

Ms. DeVos’s track record in Michigan provides a clear picture of her priorities as Education Secretary. She and her husband have funded campaigns to increase the number of charter schools, including for-profit charters, especially in high poverty communities such as Detroit and Flint. They have funded this effort despite the fact that Michigan’s expansive charter sector is among the least accountable and worst performing in the nation. Ms. DeVos also bankrolled an attempt to bring vouchers to Michigan, but those efforts were stymied due to a constitutional amendment passed in 1971 prohibiting public funding for private schools.

The bottom line is this: the Trump Administration will do nothing to support public education across the country. Instead, federal funding will be used as a carrot, or perhaps a stick, to force states to accelerate the unregulated growth of charters and expand existing voucher programs or enact new ones to facilitate the flow of tax dollars from public schools to private and religious schools and other private providers.

What we can also expect is a wholesale retreat from federal enforcement of civil rights protections for vulnerable student populations, from LGBTQ to ELL students. In short, it is not an exaggeration to call the Trump-DeVos education agenda an all-out assault on our public schools, the centerpiece of which is the diversion of billions of dollars from public education to private spending.

What can the vast majority of Americans who care about public education do?

This is a good time to remind ourselves that public education has always been – and will continue to be – the obligation of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. This obligation is embedded in the guarantee of a public education in state constitutions. It is the states, not the federal government, that control access, quality, governance, student rights and the bulk of funding for their public education systems.

A storm of policy and public relations to promote educational inequity and disparity across the nation will emanate from Washington under the new administration. But if we turn our full attention to the states, we can – and must – energize existing coalitions and campaigns of parents, educators, students and community organizations to protect and defend the public schools. Let’s start now to erect state and local firewalls to safeguard our schools.

Here are a few ways we can begin:

1) We must press our congressional delegations to oppose the Trump anti-public education agenda, starting with the DeVos appointment but continuing to block other proposals, from dismantling the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to diverting Title I funding for vouchers under the guise of “portability.”

2) If a state constitution prohibits the use of public funding for other purposes, it’s time for advocates and activists to get ready to stand behind it. Some state constitutions contain such prohibitions or have been interpreted by courts to do so. If state law is unclear, it’s time to propose a law to “lockbox” and protect public school funding. Most states already underfund their public schools, and what our children don’t need is the federal government trying to divert any amount of that funding to private and religious schools.

3) This is the right time to start state-level conversations about rejecting offers of federal funding that come at the price of defunding public education and causing even more inequity and disparity of opportunity for students, especially low-income students, students with disabilities, English language learners and students of color.

4) Legislative campaigns for charter school reform must be reinvigorated. In many states, an overhaul of charter school laws is long overdue to ensure full accountability with regard to student access and school performance, as well as the use of public funds. Segregation of students based on disability, the need to learn English, academic risk or other factors must be fought in statehouses, including moratoriums to prevent funding loss and student segregation resulting from uncontrolled charter growth.

5) We must review state-level student and civil rights protections and develop an agenda to strengthen that critical framework. This must include enhancing anti-discrimination and anti-bullying laws; school discipline reform; open admissions for homeless children, youth in foster care, and un-documented students; and other measures to safeguard the rights of students.

On the one hand, a Trump Administration offers the opportunity to join the many advocates laboring to ensure equal and quality education for all children in their states, often in extremely challenging political environments. On the other hand, Trump’s election is a wake-up call about a fundamental, enduring lesson: education equity advances or regresses primarily through state action on funding, essential resources and programs, and students rights. Actions taken by the federal government, even those intended to promote equity in the states, can only go so far. And sometimes those actions impede progress.

Let’s not get distracted by “inside the beltway” prognostications or rarefied debates over how bad things may be. Those of us working in the states know what’s coming. It’s time to renew and redouble efforts to protect public education in our states and communities. Millions of children are depending on us.

David G. Sciarra is Executive Director of the Education Law Center, where he serves as lead counsel in the landmark Abbott v. Burke school funding litigation and directs ELC’s advocacy on behalf of the nation’s public school children.

Education Law Center Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel

Policy and Outreach Director

skrengel@edlawcenter.org

973-624-1815, x 24

 

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Bright Futures not so Bright

power-money-trap-5441169I knew that the qualifications for Bright Futures scholarships had gone up.  Now I understand the impact.  In order for the State to save money, the rich get richer.  The Florida lottery supports these scholarships.  While the revenue for the lottery is still increasing, the percentage allocated to education is decreasing.  It would be interesting to know why and how much.

 

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3rd Grade Retention and Ability Grouping Tradeoffs

 

FAILED1The Florida School Board Association (FSBA) is shifting ground on third grade student retention criteria.    Such issues make me think about ability grouping in general.  Are we going overboard?

Are we putting huge pressure on kids not only to ‘get to grade level’ but also to be ‘gifted’ or ‘highly gifted’?  Do all children feel like they have a FSA proficiency level painted on their T-shirts?  This is an age old issue of grouping and tracking vs. diverse ability classrooms where children have different strengths and weaknesses regardless of “I.Q.” as measured by a test?

The FSBA wants more evidence than a single test score to determine student achievement.  Fair enough, but there is more to think about!  In a newly adopted platform, the FSBA calls for three revisions to current practice in retaining third graders:

 

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Unequal Access to Charters: It is Illegal!

directory-466935_1280Subtle 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.

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Charters are the Cheap Choice, not the Best Choice

power-money-trap-5441169Today’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?

 

 

 

 

 

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Charter School Parents Have No Rights

justiceIn charter schools, parents may have choice but no rights.  What does this mean?  In this brief from the American Bar Association, the rights that parents assume they have are valid for public schools but not charters.  According to recent court decisions in a California Appeals Court and a U.S. District Court in Hawaii, charters have the right to dismiss students in a manner that would be unconstitutional in a regular public school.

As the number of charters grows, charter parents need to beware.

 

 

 

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Suspension Happy Charter Schools

childrenCharter schools represent 7% of New York City’s school population  but 42% of all student suspensions.  Of the top 50 schools with high suspension rates, 48 were charters.  These schools are clustered in the heart of black communities in Harlem, Crown Heights, Brownsville and Brooklyn.  The problem extends far beyond New York.  Parents are pushing back.

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