Massive Last Minute Education Bill Emerges

A new mega bill HB 7069 for education was released last night–278 pages long.   It combined provisions from other bills.  The funding is dismal; for most districts there will be less money next year.  Local district capital outlay funds do not increase and must be shared with charters which seriously harms districts.

Other provisions impact teacher bonuses and scholarships and expansion of charter schools by taking over schools in low income areas without requiring district oversight.

Testing and accountability have minor changes–Algebra II EOC is no longer required and the testing window is pushed back by allowing paper and pencil test for grades 3-6.  Districts may determine data for teacher evaluations.

Schools of Excellence and Schools of Hope are created.  It seems as though current state regulations now apply only to schools earning a grade of ‘B’ or ‘C’.  The others are granted flexibility.   The logic is flawed there.  The needs for the middle (or most students) are ignored.

For more detail, continue reading.

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LWV Action Alert on Education

This is a critical time to make your support for public education heard.  Please contact your House and Senate representatives.  Whether you are a League member or not, share our ACTION ALERT to as many people/groups as possible.  We have a chance right now to make a difference.  See:

ACTION ALERT – EDUCATION
The Florida House wants Charter Schools of Hope. The Senate wants to support public schools. The two chambers are about to go to conference committee to bargain. We do not want a Faustian bargain! If the House succeeds in privatizing schools, every one of us loses. This affects all schools and all communities. It could affect your child.
We ask you to call your Representative and Senator in your district. Ask them to support:
  • SB 1552 that funds districts, not charters, to help struggling schools.
  • the Senate budget proposal for per student funding at $7,414.26.
  • the Senate proposal to restore local capital outlay funding for district school facilities. Sharing this funding with charters that duplicate traditional schools is neither cost efficient nor cost effective.
  • SB 926 that reduces the number of tests required for graduation and moves testing to the end of the year where it belongs.
This is a battle over privatizing our schools. The House would rather create a $3 billion slush fund than to fix our aging school buildings or to help districts turn around schools. This is not about money; it is about who controls our schools. We do not want private companies to run our schools. We have elected school boards to do that. 
 
IT IS TIME TO TAKE A STAND. THE HOUSE NEEDS TO HEAR US. THE SENATE NEEDS SUPPORT TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT FOR OUR CHILDREN.
In League,
Pamela Goodman
President, LWV of Florida
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Florida’s Top High Schools

U.S. News and World Report high school rankings are out.  Thirteen Florida schools made the top 100.  To achieve that ranking, data is collected on the state reading and math scores.  Schools that perform better than expected are identified.  This includes disadvantaged students who score better than the state average for comparable groups e.g. minority and low income groups.  The college readiness index include students’ scores on AP tests. Graduation rates are also factored into the rankings.

Rankings never tell the whole story.  The list below gives the national rank for Florida’s top schools along with the percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch.   If you go to the U.S. News and World Report site, you can click on each school to get a glimpse of their curriculum.  Note how innovative most schools seem to be.  Note also that only two of the thirteen top Florida schools are charters.

 

 

 

 

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Negron Trades Schools for Reservoir

A draft budget compromise has been reached that gives the House its Schools of Hope and provides no capital outlay increase for public school facilities.  In exchange, Joe Negron gets the reservoir in South Florida.  If the Senate approves, public schools are left in the lurch once again.

No real details are out, but no reason to cheer.

Action Alert Today

It is time to to swing into action!

CONTACT YOUR SENATORS

Support SB 1552.  This bill helps to recruit highly qualified teachers and to fund districts to provide community support services for struggling public schools.  It maintains local district responsibility for our schools and requires accountability.

Oppose SB 796.  This is the High Impact Charter Organization bill.  It would turn public schools over to private corporations to run turn around schools.  These charters have high student attrition rates in other states.  The bill is basically the same as the House bill for Schools of Hope.  The bill exempts teachers and administrators from certification, requires districts to share space in under enrolled or closed district schools with private companies, gives five year contract to private, non profit charter management firms, and designs a performance measure rather than school grades for accountability.

 

 

 

California Charters Are A Poor Investment

April 14, 2017; Salon

There are cracks in the charter school system in California.  I grew up there.  We used to be arrogant enough to think we got everything right.  The charter school explosion, however, has caused cracks in the system.

California has twice the numbers of charters than Florida.  They have enough to see the serious consequences when there is unregulated growth and little accountability.

Meredith Machen sent this Salon article.  It spells out the quandary in which California finds itself.  Florida and others states are going down this road.  Read it and don’t weep, tell people!

 

 

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Be Aware: Don’t be shut out

Why are the House and Senate education committees operating differently this year?  There has been relatively little discussion about differences in the policies offered by each chamber.  All of a sudden, bills in the Senate have replaced House  bills.  There are no committee hearings open to the public on these changes.  Instead, the House and Senate bills go to the conference committee that includes leaders from each chamber.  They negotiate the final bills in secret.

The Miami Herald published an article questioning this approach.  They are skeptical that any real input from the public will be heard.

The differences in policy have huge financial impact.  For example:

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Horse Trading Time

The House and the Senate are at the horse trading part of the session.  The Senate bills by and large are supportive of public schools (except for SB 796).  The House bills support charter school expansion.   Both chambers are concerned with struggling schools.  The House wants to shift these schools to the private sector.  Senate bills focus on making it possible for public schools to improve.

Remember our Action Alert on 5101, 5103 and 5105? Everything is now different.   Some things are better, at least for now.  Here’s the latest:

 

 

 

 

 

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Be Happy Today

Last night, SB 376 (Simmons) replaced HB 5103.  The amended version of SB 376 by Senator Farmer had all we hoped for.  It inserted language that gave districts’ discretion on whether to share local facility capital outlay with charters.  It controlled the mismanagement and self enrichment due to charter real estate practices.

Now the bill goes to the conference committee to negotiate with the House.  Will SB 376 survive?  Who knows.  Be happy today.

Money, money. Who gets it?

Wednesday the House (HB 5001) and Senate (SB 2500) budgets are aired.  They are very different when it comes to education.  Money for school facilities is at the heart of the issue.

The House bill provides $100 million dollars for about 650 charter school facilities and $20 million for the over 4,000 public schools.  The Senate bill provides $75 million each for public and charter schools.  Remember that charters are called public schools, but their buildings are privately owned.

The priority of the House is to expand charters.  Originally, charters were intended to be low-cost alternatives to meet Florida’s population growth, and the need, at that time, for more schools.  Now, nearly forty percent of charters are run by for-profit companies that make most of their money from real estate.  Rents and leases often are excessive.  The House wants local districts to share local funds with charters, and they want more state PECO funds to go to charters.

There is very little PECO money.  The funding sources are drying up.  The Senate wants to float bonds.  The House does not.  Where will the House get the money for these privately owned facilities charters use?  It wants to take over public school facilities.  See this News4Jax article for more insight.

Some charters fill a legitimate need.  Too many simply duplicate what public schools offer.  Instead of putting money into real estate, the legislature should put money into instruction.  Schools need to offer extended days and summer programs.  They need funding to improve aging schools.  They do not need charters whose only purpose is to make money.