Taxpayers Lose Facilities When Charters Fail

payoffFlorida’s charter industry has received over $700 million in state tax dollars for facilities and capital expenses since 2000.  The Associated Press analysis reveals that closed charters received over $70 million since 2000 just for their buildings.  The money spent on closed charter facilities is lost.  The facilities are owned privately.

Many small private operators rely on state capital outlay dollars that they receive in addition to the per student funding that both public and charter schools receive for operating schools.  These funds, often called PECO (Public Education Capital Outlay) used to go to traditional public schools for renovation and maintenance.  For the last several years, the legislature designated most of the PECO funds to charter schools.  Districts feel the impact of the loss of funding as they try to upgrade aging traditional public school buildings.

Just to make the problem real, read a 2014 Ledger article from Polk County.  Alachua County has had similar concerns.  In today’s Gainesville Sun, Erin Jester reports that Alachua County received no PECO funds from 2011-2014, but its charter schools received over $163,000.  The article lists losses of over $1.2 million due to the closure of seven of the county’s 21 charter schools.

New Florida Bill: District Home Rule

daytona-beachRepresentative Taylor from Daytona Beach wants flexibility for public schools.  His bill, 0829, would exempt districts from certain laws in Florida statutes Chapters 1000-1013 governing  public schools.   What is interesting is what is not exempted:  assessment, school grading. students with disabilities, student health and safety, and various public records laws, personnel salary schedules and performance evaluations.

The purpose of the bill is to expand local control as currently authorized for charter schools to public schools in order to initiate innovation and implement financial efficiencies.  So what is gained in this bill?  It appears that facilities regulations would disappear and public schools would have flexibility in how they spend lottery money.

Will these changes help students?  Maybe not.  It could just be a way to legalize what is already happening with the class size regulations.  Public schools could adjust class sizes as long as they met the average class size at the school level.  This is the standard charters must meet.  Once more it is all about the money, not the children.




Charter Corruption and Chaos

money-40603_1280AlterNet published another story on the origins of school choice in Florida.  The story begins with Jeb Bush’s term as governor.  What  may have been intended to dramatically improve schools only turned out to be dramatic in the number of reports of corruption and chaos.  The article ties together the power brokers and the growth of for-profit charter schools.

It is a money and politics tale.   You can read it here: How Jeb Bush’s Florida Plan School ‘Choice’ Created Industry Corruption and Chaos.  You will find reports about the League of Women Vote’s study including data from Sue Legg and Pat Hall (LWV Hillsborough).



The Competition Next Door

By Margery Marcus, LWV Broward County

ft lauderdaleThe local Broward League interviewed the principal of Pinewood School.  Their story is one most districts must consider.  How do you balance student needs, financial support, and school choice in a diverse district.  School grades reflect the socio-economic backgrounds of students.  Remove a large group of higher income families, and a school’s grade goes down.  Create a magnet program in a low income school, the grade goes up.  Perhaps even more important, maintaining a reasonable balance of students from different backgrounds allows a culture of possibility and achievement to flourish.  Without a view into a larger world, schools get mired in defeat.

The League will continue to watch Pinewood in the hope that the district will not abandon it.  There is support coming for the school.

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Past State Board of Education Chair Says It is all about Money!

race-653241_1280Tax credit vouchers are supposed to give poor children an option out of a failing school.  Gary Chartrand, former Chair, Florida State Board of Education, tells it like it really is.

Chartrand makes a case that getting children from poor families out of public schools saves the rest of us money.  There may be another not so hidden agenda that Chartrand forgets to mention.

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Rawlings is Dancing…and Singing…and Acting…and Creating Art!

rawlings1Can you imagine a school like this?  It is real.  Rawlings School has been transformed.  It was one of our lowest achieving public schools last year.  Three months later there is an excitement and energy.  Rawlings is now a magnet school for the arts.

Inside the building, the space is beautiful and well lit.  It is designed for music, art, dance, and theater.  As you enter the school, music will greet you.  I plan to follow the school to see their new staff in action.  Follow it with me.

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Broward School Bonds Back in the News

ft lauderdaleBroward Schools are struggling to make things right.  Sometimes you may try too hard.  This time the district is determined to avoid corruption or even the appearance of it.  The voters have told the district to spend money and improve the schools, and getting that to happen is harder than it seems.   I am interested in how public school districts are trying to meet the challenges they confront.  I hope you are too. Read Margery’s account of a good problem that still makes the news.

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Florida LWV Legislative Priorities Due

legislation1The Florida LWV legislative priorities are coming due.  Please make your voices heard within your local leagues.  In order to be able to advocate for our Education Team issues, we have to make it into the top priorities statewide.

Make education tops for your local league.  Here is a list of topics we expect to come up in the legislative session.  Remember that committee meetings start in September.

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Charters Appeal to State Board of Education for Facilities Money

school-295210_1280On the radio this morning, I heard a story about the latest pitch for facilities funding from the charter school advocates.  This one was to the State Board of Education.

It signals the latest attempt by the charter industry to tap into facilities funding for traditional public schools.  Public schools need to renovate old buildings and upgrade technology infrastructure.  Charters do not have to meet traditional public school state facility standards.  Charters are supposed to be cheaper.  Their real estate companies are making millions of dollars.  Why give them more?

I have compiled a list of posts on this issue.  Take a look and build arguments to make charter school policies more rational.  Charters should make our educational system better, not destroy it.  You can write letters, make presentations and make a difference.

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