Paramount Charter In Miami Closed: Obscene

How do you get the message out to parents about the lack of charter school regulation? Some charters are run well. Others have obscenities on the walls that no one washes off. When the district froze funding as an investigation by the DOE was launched at Paramount Charter, the principal took the money. The district can only do so much. Charters are privately owned and managed. It could be different. Districts could grant charter contracts and allow flexibility. They would oversee the management if the state legislature would allow it.

Read the story here:

https://www.local10.com/news/local-10-investigates/first-look-inside-nightmare-charter-school

The PACT IS UP AND RUNNING

We have gone into action here in Alachua County. We are not happy about the CSUSA proposal to open a 1100 student school in Gainesville. So, several of us formed a political action group called PACT. It’s spreading the word about for-profit charter school chains. We just don’t want a link in that chain.

You can help us. Go to our webpage: https://www.parentsagainstcorporatetakeovers.com . Like us on FaceBook. If people like the PACT, find it useful, and donate to help us do pamphlets, videos, newspaper ads and such, we will move out to other counties. We are excited about the PACT. We are asking people to sign our petition to oppose the CSUSA school. You can contact the school board and the legislative delegation.

We are non-partisan, but we will let legislators know when they fail to vote against for-profit charters. We think charters should fill a need in a county school district, not just come in to make money and take money away from other schools.

Help Us and help all of Florida’s communities to protect our schools.

Citizens for Strong Schools Appeal on Tuesday: Watch!

Southern Legal Counsel will be arguing for a high quality education for all children before the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee on July 18 at 9:00 am. Last year, in Citizens for Strong Schools v. Fla. State Board of Education, after a four-week trial, the trial court found many problems in Florida’s education system, but ruled against the plaintiffs. The court believed that he could not order a remedy without violating separation of powers. You can watch the argument live streamed at:  http://www.1dca.org/ustream.html

Listen to the Voice from Our Schools

We went to visit some of our ‘low performing’ schools in Gainesville that aren’t low performing this year. We asked: What made the difference? We wrote up what our principals told us. The Gainesville Sun published our article today. The principals know what is needed. We don’t need the State to takeover our schools; we need the State to support our schools! We ask everyone to listen!

Read the article here: http://www.gainesville.com/opinion/20170707/carole-fernandez-listen-to-voices-from-our-schools

Districts to Sue the State over Charters

The Broward School Board voted to sue the State of Florida over HB 7069’s requirement to share local capital outlay funding with charter schools. As reported in the blog earlier, this new law has a massive impact on districts. The new law violates the provision that local school boards, not the State are responsible for the oversight and operation of schools. The Schools of Hope would essentially seize schools in low income areas who have low performing students.

Sharing local property taxes with charters is also unconstitutional.

Miami-Dade, Pinellas, and Orange County are also considering joining the lawsuit.

This ‘anything goes’ legislature may find that ‘not everything goes’ especially our public schools.

See today’s Sun Sentinel

Choice Quick Quiz

Sometimes it is good to check your facts. Do a quick quiz.

What is the difference between a charter and a FTC tuition school?

Answer: Both are almost always privately owned and operated. The big difference is where the money comes from. Funding for charters comes from public schools. Funding for FTC private schools comes from corporations who get tax credits for donations to private schools.

Citation: http://fldoe.org/schools/school-choice/

How many $ must Florida districts share next year?

Ouch! Can you believe that districts must give up $96.3 million in funding for school facilities next year. This is the amount they now must send to charter schools because of HB 7069. Not exactly chump change. It is over a seven percent cut in funding that goes to privately owned charter school buildings. Their real estate companies will cheer. The Auditor General should watch how the money is spent.

Miami Dade alone loses $23.2 million. The Miami Herald requested the data from the Florida House. Read the article to see the impact on other counties. In districts with aging schools, this is very wrong headed. Florida’s legislature is allowing uncontrolled growth in charters. It is spreading resources much to thin without any substantive increase in quality.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article158934284.html

FLA. School Grades Out. Some wry smiles

This year everyone got smarter. I have to smile because I think of Garrison Keeler’s quip, “Everybody is above average”. Well maybe not everybody, but 57% of Florida’s schools earned an A or B grade (up from 46 percent). More than two-thirds of the schools that were being monitored through the school improvement program improved to a C or better, according to the Florida Department of Education.

The Florida DOE calculates school grades annually based on up to 11 components, including student achievement and learning gains on statewide, standardized assessments and high school graduation rate. To earn an ‘A’ schools need 62% of possible points.
 
Statewide Highlights
 
1. Elementary schools saw the largest percentage point increase in “A” schools, with 30 percent (542 schools) of elementary schools earning an “A” in 2016-17, up from 21 percent (386 schools) in 2015-16.

  1. The number of “F” schools decreased by 61 percent, dropping from 111 schools in 2015-16 to 43 schools in 2016-17.
  2. 79 percent of schools that earned an “F” in 2015-16 improved by at least one letter grade in 2016-17.
  3. 71 percent of the low-performing schools for which turnaround plans were presented before the State Board of Education in July 2016 improved to a C or greater.  
  4. Forty-eight of Florida’s 67 school districts are now graded “A” or “B,” up from 38 in 2015-16. Additionally, 50 of Florida’s school districts have no “F” graded schools in 2016-17.
     
    In the years I used to do the scoring and reporting for statewide testing programs, we always saw a drop after a new test, like the FSA, was introduced and then scores rebounded. Kids are not necessarily smarter, but they are more test savvy. So are teachers. Nevertheless, some of our low performing schools in Alachua made big gains, and I am pleased. Those schools get hit with a failing school stigma that does nothing to improve morale or the school culture for academic achievement. On the other hand, the districts can’t ignore problems that seem too hard to solve. Our schools and others like them worked hard.

Have to smile folks. Schools of Hope have just lost a lot of candidates for charter school takeover. Now, if only the legislature does not turn around and raise standards again. Give the schools and the children a chance to breathe. Maybe they could even do some project based learning that would build those critical thinking and problem solving skills they need to survive in our new economy.

Indian River Schools Lawsuit Over Shared Local Funding With Charters

Sometimes political maneuvering can come to haunt you. Indian River’s school district decided back in 2012 to share a portion of the revenue from a local sales tax initiative with their charter schools. They did not have to, but charters were only 5% of the total enrollment, and most were locally owned and operated charters. Then the world changed.

For the past two years, the Indian River School District has been in court. Local charter schools claim that money for school operations, teachers etc., that the district voluntarily provided to them is no longer adequate. Why? The charter schools’ enrollment has increased from 5% to 12%. The amount of money involved is $2 million dollars out of a total of $9 million in revenue.

The legal questions are not straight forward. By law, districts are not required to share revenue that local communities vote to provide through a sales tax or local referendum. The district agreed to share with charters when there were fewer students. Now the money involved is large enough to hurt the district schools.

The charters went to court in 2015 and won in the circuit court this year. The district is considering an appeal. At issue is at what point are there too many schools to support in an area? Should communities be forced to accept more charters even if they bring nothing new or better? Is expansion of charters for the sake of expansion a good thing?

Take a look at the Indian River charters and who they serve:

  1. Indian River Charter High School: This is a 656 student school serving about 80% upper income white students and 4% black students. It was founded in 1998.
  2. Imagine Schools at South Vero: The enrollment is about 890 students serving about 80% white, upper income students since about 2008. It was opened by what was then a for-profit management firm.
  3. North County Charter: About 321 elementary school children attend this school. They represent the county’s distribution of race and ethnicity. It is a family managed school.
  4. Sebastian Charter had 287 junior high school students who are two-thirds white and one-third Hispanic. The proportion of students on FRL is slightly higher than the district’s. They took a new school construction loan in 2012.
  5. St. Peter’s Academy is a small elementary school with about 129 black and Hispanic, mostly lower income students. It opened in 1996.

What has happened in Indian River is common in other communities. Most charters are either mostly white, mostly black or mostly Hispanic. A few are more balanced. As these schools grow, they need more money. It has to come from the same pot of money the district has. Soon, funds get tight and relationships get tense.

At some point, the State of Florida has to decide whether to curb unregulated charter growth that does not result in improving education for everyone. It makes me think of the old adage of ‘Robbing Peter to pay Paul’.

Catching Up: Which bills are signed? Another look at the Court

Schoolhouse Consulting Group brings us up to date with federal and state education actions. Their take on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision is less certain than the NEA’s. No doubt there are members of the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission who will use this decision to attack the Blaine Amendment. Voters will have to decide if they want public money to cover vouchers to private schools. Of course it indirectly does now through the tax credit scholarships. At some point citizens have to decide if all those standards and tests required for public schools should be required for private schools. What’s the expression? Isn’t it ‘What’s good for the goose is good for the gander’?

Here’s the summary from Schoolhouse:

Federal
 
The U.S. Supreme Court today overturned a Missouri law that could have ramifications for Florida’s Constitutional prohibition of state or local funds being used directly or indirectly in the aid of any church, religious denomination or sectarian institution, the so-called “Blaine Amendment.”
 
The 7-2 ruling case involves denial of state funds to a church as a grant to use shredded scrap material from tires for its playground. The high court ruled the Missouri Blaine Amendment language violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The ruling can be viewed here.
 
In Florida, efforts to create scholarships or vouchers for students to attend sectarian schools began in 1999 with passage of the A+ Plan. A 2006 Florida Supreme Court decision ruled “opportunity scholarships” unconstitutional, but not based on Article 1, section 3. In 2012, voters defeated (44.5 “yes” vote with 60% needed to be adopted) Amendment 8 that read: (Article 1, Section 3) There shall be no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting or penalizing the free exercise thereof. Religious freedom shall not justify practices inconsistent with public morals, peace, or safety. No individual or entity may be discriminated against or barred from receiving funding on the basis of religious identity or belief. No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution. Underlined wording was new and strike-though language would have been removed.
 
Both U.S. Education Secretary Betsy deVos and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush were quick to hail the ruling. For Florida, it will likely lend support to a renewed effort to put something similar to Amendment 8 on the 2018 ballot, either through the Legislature or Constitutional Revision Commission. It may also spur some in Congress to re-open Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and seek a scholarship/voucher-like program in the coming months. In addition to Florida and Missouri, 37 other states have similar constitutional language.
 
State
 
Governor Rick Scott has now signed nearly all education bills that passed the regular and special sessions. Today, of note, he signed HB3A which is the special session bill appropriating an additional $100/students in the Florida Education Finance program. He also signed:
 
HB 0015 Relating to Educational Options (Sullivan) – expanded Gardiner and Florida Tax Credit scholarships
HB 0781 Relating to Designation of School Grades (Porter) – defined how school centers having grades K-3 will be graded
HB 0899 Relating to Comprehensive Transitional Education Programs (Stevenson) – Authorizes Agency for Persons with Disabilities to petition for appointment of receiver for comprehensive transitional education program
HB 0989 Relating to Instructional Materials (Donalds) – clarifies right of parents and residents to provide input to district selection/adoption of instructional materials and sets appeals process to be conducted by a hearing officer
HB 1079 Relating to Pub. Rec. and Meetings/Campus Emergency Response for Public Postsecondary Educational Institutions (Rommel) – Provides exemption from public records requirements for specified portions of campus emergency response for public postsecondary educational institutions;
HB 1109 Relating to Private School Student Participation in Extracurricular Activities (Antone) – allows students at non-FHSAA schools to be eligible to play for local FHSAA schools
HB 1239 Relating to School Bus Safety (Eagle) -Provides for mandatory noncriminal penalties, fine, driver license suspension, & driver license points for certain violations resulting in serious bodily injury to/death of another person.