Florida 2020 Education Legislation Priorities

The 2019 legislative session focused on moving money and managing guns. The laws that emerged funded Schools of Hope vouchers for private schools and shifted funds from public schools to charter school privately owned facilities.   A lawsuit against the Schools of Hope vouchers is expected.  Funding increases for teachers and students were minimal, but teachers were allowed to carry guns.

The Florida Educational Association (FEA) reached an agreement to end a lawsuit against the ‘Best and Brightest’ bonus system that discriminated against minority and older teachers.  A signature from a federal judge will provide compensation to some teachers.

Teacher Recruitment. The focus of the 2020 legislative session may shift to teacher recruitment  and what is taught. FEA reported 4,000 teacher vacancies in the fall of 2019, and months later 2,000 positions remain unfilled.  In response to significant teacher shortages, Governor DeSantis is calling for a higher starting salary for beginning teachers. The impact may be mixed. Teacher recruitment may improve, but teacher retention may decline. New teachers may earn more than many experienced teachers.  At least half of these teachers did not graduate from college level education programs and will need mentoring and professional development that typically is not a legislative priority.

Curriculum Standards.  The Governor also called for a revision to the Florida curriculum standards that determine what is taught at each grade level. Draft standards have been released, and a summary of the results of public comment has been released. There was relatively little support indicated for eliminating the Common Core elements that have been in effect for the past ten years. More concerns were reported about the age appropriate level of standards particularly for children in K-3 but also in grade nine mathematics. As content taught in higher grades is pushed down to lower grades, the expectations for reading and math readiness for six to nine year old students become inappropriate for many children.

Where these concerns will lead the legislature is uncertain. Politically, the Governor has promised to end the Common Core skills that confuse parents. Practically, yet another change in standards not only changes what skills teachers must focus on, it also mandates that the state tests, school grades, and teacher evaluations  adapt. Teachers’ frustration are due to more than inadequate salary levels.  What are the expectations they must meet?

Adding fuel to the fire is the release of the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results and the SAT and ACT test results for college admission. Scores are down yet again. Achievement gaps between white and minority students are higher. Choice based on competition and test scores is not working within public schools or among public, charter, or private school voucher-type programs.

Parents from all walks of life are questioning the system that pressures students to enroll in advanced courses e.g. AP English, math and science in order to improve school grades or admission to college. For a few students, these courses are a good option. For most, it results in an unrelenting pressure to chase test scores. Once they enroll in college many retake the same course in part because the passing standard of ‘3’ is too low for success in subsequent courses. Some colleges, like the University of Florida, require a ‘4’ on AP exams to earn credit.

It is a conundrum. Students need challenging courses that stimulate their interests, and Florida ranks third in the nation in the number of students who take and pass an AP exam. Yet, less than half of Florida students who take AP pass the exam with a score of ‘3’ or higher. This score represents a ‘C’ grade at the college level. The University of Florida requires at least a ‘4’ in many subjects in order to earn college credit.  Many students would prefer advanced courses geared toward alternative career options rather than the basic college track.

How will the Florida Legislature respond to the stalemate in student achievement? More of the same test-driven competition for scores does not work. Dividing funding among public, charter, and private schools is neither less expensive nor more effective.  Teacher recruitment and retention and quality facilities are an even bigger problem for charters and most private schools.

2020 legislative priorities for professional education associations are listed below.

Florida School Board Association.

Florida Association of School Administrators.

Florida Education Association.

“An incisive and devastating critique of the Bush A+ Plan”

You have to tell it like it is, especially when so many people have so much money invested in a failing education reform policy. Read the summary of the report: Twenty Years Later: Jeb Bush’s A+ Plan fails Florida’s Children posted by Diane Ravitch. Find out the hard truth about the impact of the A+ Plan on student achievement, school grades, teaching, and communities. Insist on an end to policies that seek to destroy public schools and rob children of a high quality education.

Florida Schools for Sale

Carol Burris of the Network for Public Education has her eye on Florida’s charter abuse. You need to see it too. Seeing is believing. The problems are really bad. Read the article here We have so many bad operators that Acclaim Academy is sometimes overlooked. it should not be. Find out about what happened to the $744,148 start up money they received from the federal government.

Florida Really is the Worst!

I have always liked Peter Green’s posts, in part because I smile at the word ‘curmudgeon.’ In his post, he tells it like it is about HB 7070, Florida’s latest voucher bill. You can read it here.

For several months I have been working on an analysis of the Florida A+ Plan. It should be released soon. I have been looking at the data and asking “How bad is it?” Florida’s education policy doesn’t just have flaws, it hurts kids.

Here We Go Again: Charter vs. Public School Hype 2019

The annual comparisons of charter vs. public school achievement are out. Can you believe what you see? Hundreds of reports show that high school students enrolled in public schools tend to out perform students in charters while in charter middle schools the reverse is true. Smaller differences in elementary schools favor charters. This is no surprise. The students enrolled in charters are different! The percentage differences in student demographics account for the achievement differences. Here are the data:

Hispanics: charters 42.3% vs. public 32.5%
FRPL: charters 54.9% vs. public 65.0%
SWD: charters 9.6% vs. public 14.6%
Black: charters 20.o% vs public 22.0%

If these numbers do not convince you that the Department of Education (DOE) report is suspect, consider the implications of the difference in school grades. Forty-seven percent of charters earn an ‘A’ grade compared to 28% of public schools. School grades and family income levels are highly correlated.

Charters tend to increase segregation by race and income. Many people do not realize that the majority of charters are located in the Miami area and overwhelmingly serve Hispanic students. Are these students from the same backgrounds as Hispanics located in other areas? The DOE does not provide this information. Another question one might ask is whether students eligible for the Free and Reduced Lunch Program are similar. Do charters serve the same percentage of students who qualify for free lunch as public schools?

Finally, what are the differences in disabilities for students in charters and public schools. Unless you have a child who needs help due to a learning disability, you may not know that disabilities are categorized by level of impairment.

The bottom line as always is to beware of smoke and mirrors. The differences in achievement between charters and public schools are due to student selection. In comparison studies where students are matched by background and prior achievement, the achievement differences disappear.

Need more evidence? Check out previous studies:

Don’t be fooled by the DOE: Charters bomb in Florida cities

CHARTER SCHOOL ACHIEVEMENT: HYPE VS. EVIDENCE

Senate Advances Voucher Bill

Public money for private schools is unconstitutional, but that does not matter to the Senate. The new Parent Empowerment bill has advanced in the Senate Read the back story here. There is no pretense that these vouchers are for low income families. The income eligibility has risen.

Paying for Someone Else’s Choice

by Sally Butzin

Family Empowerment Scholarships help parents make a choice you pay for. There is a logic disconnect in this idea when there is no guarantee that the choice parents’ make is even a good choice. Read Sally’s article in the Tallahassee Democrat. She is a League member who is taking an active role in monitoring the legislative bills coming from this session. This is a bill that is contrary to all who support public education believe.