Erik Fresen Faces Prison Time

Remember Representative Fresen, whose sister Magdalena Fresen is Vice President of Academica, Florida’s largest for-profit charter management company?  He term limited out of the legislature this year.  His next  step is to go to jail?

Ethics Florida Style: Go Directly to Jail

The buzz about Florida is that there is more self-interest than public interest than in any other state.  Are such allegations warranted?  Information is not difficult to find. The Center for Public Integrity ranked states on a corruption index in 2012.  Florida was rated an ‘F’ on ethics enforcement agencies.  It appears there are rules that are easy to bend and break.

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Tax Credit Vouchers to Increase

SB 1314 and HB 15 increase the amount of money for tax credit scholarships to private schools from 80% of the per student funding to 88% for elementary, 92% for middle, and 96% for high schools.  While the legislation tightens up the problem of private schools collecting funds for students not enrolled, it now allows funds to be transferred by debit cards.  These scholarships are funded by personal or corporate tax credits in order to avoid the constitutional restriction on direct payments from the legislature to private schools.

This program is no gift to students.  The program provides over $418 million dollars to 1602 private schools.  There are over 78,000 FTC children enrolled in primarily religious schools.  About one-half return to public  schools.  They have no requirements for teacher certifications or state assessments.  They do not perform better academically than do public school students.  Many do less well.

The program is advertised to give options to low income students, but low income is defined as less than $63,000 income for a family of four.  Based on Florida Department of Education evaluation reports:

Students do not come primarily low achieving schools.  They are not primarily students who struggle academically. They do not achieve at a higher rate than public school students.  In fact, many do less well. 

  • FTC students sit a nationally normed achievement test.  In the most recent DOE evaluation, ten percent of the students gained about twenty percentage points and thirteen percent lost twenty percentile points.
  • Only 25% of FTC students came from public schools with a ‘D’ or ‘F’ school grade.
  • Only 23% of FTC students were in the bottom fifth of their prior public school reading distribution.

Why is the State of Florida investing in this program?  It surely is not to help children.  Let your legislative delegation know these facts.

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.

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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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Push Back to Protect Schools Makes Opportunities

It is time to think out of the box.

The jockeying continues.  According to Politico, Speaker Corcoran and Senate President Negron are negotiating over a plan to make the Schools of Hope funding competitive AND INCLUDE PUBLIC SCHOOLS.  This has some logic to it.   Districts that are serious about providing the support and supervision to turn around failing schools can participate.

There is no question that these schools need fresh ideas, new funding, and constant oversight.  Changing the status quo is a community effort.  Outside charter schools can’t do it.  It will take some thoughts about zoning, racial and socio economic balance, after school programs, health and behavioral support services and extending the school day.  It will take creative solutions to teacher and principal assignments.

Some changes have to reflect how people live.  They work one or two jobs.  Where are the children while parents work–not just poor children, all children.  How can schools and communities work together to make life less complicated? Can we create a school day that allows time for serious academics, recess, physical activities, hands on learning, and exciting cultural activities?  Why can’t this all happen on a school campus?  How can we structure our teacher’s time more flexibly?  Who can provide supervision for an extended day?   We need to ask what is the quality of our after school programs?   It is mostly a matter of coordination and thinking differently.  Are we up to it?

The League is sending out a BLAST to everyone.  WATCH FOR IT!  We need citizens to make a stand to protect our public schools and help them evolve to meet the needs of the future.  We need everyone to think out of the box.  This is an opportunity to make a difference.

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.

Budget Bills Clash: Holding Schools Hostage

It is Thursday.  According to reports, the Senate and House must convene their conference committees by Monday if they hope to finish the legislative session by May 5th.  Negotiations between House Leader Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron fell apart Sunday.  Now they are calling one another names.  What is at issue?

Reports in the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times see it this way:

 

 

 

 

 

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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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