It is Time to PUNCH

child speakingWe can continue to feed information to the public about the destructive impact of ill thought out school choice policies.  There is a danger, however, that we are simply preaching to the choir.   Those who should be aware may not be tuned in.

Our strategies to increase awareness must be more diverse.  What would prompt your neighbor, colleague, fellow parent to tune in?

It is logical that busy people preoccupied with families and jobs will respond to calls for action if they recognize the urgency and the possibility for a positive impact. 

I am working on a set of ‘headlines’ and slogans that communicate the immediacy of the need to preserve our public schools.   What do we value about our public schools?  What are the threats to public education?  Which solutions do we propose?

Can we come up with short, single sentences that encapsulate a need or something you value.   Then we can refer people to more in depth analyses and ways to respond.

Let’s see:

  • Vouchers segregate, not integrate schools.
  • Vouches for the poor pay for poor quality schools.
  • Vouchers help the rich get richer.
  • Private schools get public money with no strings attached.

OR

  • Public schools innovate, charters stagnate.
  • Public schools invite students in; charters counsel them out.
  • Charters profit from students; public schools invest in them.
  • When housing patterns limit access to quality education, fix it!

OR

  • School choice means all schools are under funded.
  • Teaching, not testing helps students learn.
  • We need more time, not more testing.
  • School choice is a distraction not an option to improve learning.

You get the idea.  Send me your captions and communication strategies.  We will hone them and use them to target issues.  We will discuss these at the League’s Orlando leadership conference in January.

 

 

 

 

 

North Carolina Gutting Public Education

cash-burningNorth Carolina has just elected a new governor; will it mean a better direction for public schools?  In this article,    Jeff Bryant from Alter Net takes on the scramble for cash to fund public schools.  A shortage of funding is only part of the puzzle.  The impact of charters on the efficiency of funding for schools is looming large.  The open enrollment policies states are enacting cause a financial planning crisis for public schools.  Not only is it difficult to estimate how many students may shift from one school to another within a district, students now are moving across district lines to charters.  Districts have to send tax dollars to charters whose students may come from somewhere else.

The issue gets more complicated as charters managed by out of state private companies grows.  Many of these are for-profit companies seeking to expand into lucrative markets.  Making money is important to these folks.  Bryant cites work done by Pat Hall and Sue Legg of the Florida League of Women Voters to explain were the profits come from.  Think real estate.  Then Bryant goes on to summarize work by University of North Carolina law professor Tom Kelley who questions the legal and tax implications of these practices.

It is time that we the people take notice.  As my colleague Pat Drago says, ‘School Choice is a diversion, not a solution.’

 

Monroe County: Secret Roadmap to Resegregation

key-west-205599_640Is it a plot or just unintended consequences of an ill thought out education system?  In this article, the ways in which Monroe County–Key West — schools are segregated are spelled out.

It is worth reading to see how an insidious resegregation of schools has evolved.  Of course, charter schools are part of the problem.  Things came to a head when a proposal for a new charter was presented to the school board.  Board member Andy Griffith erupted and asked:  How do we know this is not just another white flight school?

Charters are not the only way to resegregate schools.  Read about the:

  • School bus route trick
  • Charter school trick
  • Student tracking trick
  • No black teachers trick

The journalists ask if there is not a better way.  What is happening to schools in this community is not good.

Education Law Center Tells What to Expect and What to Do

child speakingIf the Trump administration follows through on its pledge to gut public education, and the appointment of DeVos indicates it might, then it is time to circle the wagons.  Read the Education Law Center proposals on how to fight back.  In a state like Florida, we must take the case to the people; too many legislators may not listen.

 

 

 

 

What’s at stake?

  1. Civil rights enforcement; accelerated segregation

  2. Less funding for already underfunded public schools.

3. Ignoring needed charter management reform to control self dealing.

4. Shift of $20 billion in federal Title I funding from low income public schools to private sector charter and religious schools.

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BUILDING FIREWALLS: PROTECTING PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN THE TRUMP ERA

By David G. Sciarra

With the selection of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, Donald Trump has made good on his promise to do everything possible to undermine and weaken America’s public education system. President-Elect Trump made few promises about his education agenda during the campaign, but what he did promise – $20 billion in federal funding taken from public schools to be used for private and religious school vouchers – foreshadowed his pick of a conservative billionaire who has donated considerable sums to promote charters and vouchers at the expense of the public schools and the children they serve.

Ms. DeVos’s track record in Michigan provides a clear picture of her priorities as Education Secretary. She and her husband have funded campaigns to increase the number of charter schools, including for-profit charters, especially in high poverty communities such as Detroit and Flint. They have funded this effort despite the fact that Michigan’s expansive charter sector is among the least accountable and worst performing in the nation. Ms. DeVos also bankrolled an attempt to bring vouchers to Michigan, but those efforts were stymied due to a constitutional amendment passed in 1971 prohibiting public funding for private schools.

The bottom line is this: the Trump Administration will do nothing to support public education across the country. Instead, federal funding will be used as a carrot, or perhaps a stick, to force states to accelerate the unregulated growth of charters and expand existing voucher programs or enact new ones to facilitate the flow of tax dollars from public schools to private and religious schools and other private providers.

What we can also expect is a wholesale retreat from federal enforcement of civil rights protections for vulnerable student populations, from LGBTQ to ELL students. In short, it is not an exaggeration to call the Trump-DeVos education agenda an all-out assault on our public schools, the centerpiece of which is the diversion of billions of dollars from public education to private spending.

What can the vast majority of Americans who care about public education do?

This is a good time to remind ourselves that public education has always been – and will continue to be – the obligation of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. This obligation is embedded in the guarantee of a public education in state constitutions. It is the states, not the federal government, that control access, quality, governance, student rights and the bulk of funding for their public education systems.

A storm of policy and public relations to promote educational inequity and disparity across the nation will emanate from Washington under the new administration. But if we turn our full attention to the states, we can – and must – energize existing coalitions and campaigns of parents, educators, students and community organizations to protect and defend the public schools. Let’s start now to erect state and local firewalls to safeguard our schools.

Here are a few ways we can begin:

1) We must press our congressional delegations to oppose the Trump anti-public education agenda, starting with the DeVos appointment but continuing to block other proposals, from dismantling the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to diverting Title I funding for vouchers under the guise of “portability.”

2) If a state constitution prohibits the use of public funding for other purposes, it’s time for advocates and activists to get ready to stand behind it. Some state constitutions contain such prohibitions or have been interpreted by courts to do so. If state law is unclear, it’s time to propose a law to “lockbox” and protect public school funding. Most states already underfund their public schools, and what our children don’t need is the federal government trying to divert any amount of that funding to private and religious schools.

3) This is the right time to start state-level conversations about rejecting offers of federal funding that come at the price of defunding public education and causing even more inequity and disparity of opportunity for students, especially low-income students, students with disabilities, English language learners and students of color.

4) Legislative campaigns for charter school reform must be reinvigorated. In many states, an overhaul of charter school laws is long overdue to ensure full accountability with regard to student access and school performance, as well as the use of public funds. Segregation of students based on disability, the need to learn English, academic risk or other factors must be fought in statehouses, including moratoriums to prevent funding loss and student segregation resulting from uncontrolled charter growth.

5) We must review state-level student and civil rights protections and develop an agenda to strengthen that critical framework. This must include enhancing anti-discrimination and anti-bullying laws; school discipline reform; open admissions for homeless children, youth in foster care, and un-documented students; and other measures to safeguard the rights of students.

On the one hand, a Trump Administration offers the opportunity to join the many advocates laboring to ensure equal and quality education for all children in their states, often in extremely challenging political environments. On the other hand, Trump’s election is a wake-up call about a fundamental, enduring lesson: education equity advances or regresses primarily through state action on funding, essential resources and programs, and students rights. Actions taken by the federal government, even those intended to promote equity in the states, can only go so far. And sometimes those actions impede progress.

Let’s not get distracted by “inside the beltway” prognostications or rarefied debates over how bad things may be. Those of us working in the states know what’s coming. It’s time to renew and redouble efforts to protect public education in our states and communities. Millions of children are depending on us.

David G. Sciarra is Executive Director of the Education Law Center, where he serves as lead counsel in the landmark Abbott v. Burke school funding litigation and directs ELC’s advocacy on behalf of the nation’s public school children.

Education Law Center Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel

Policy and Outreach Director

skrengel@edlawcenter.org

973-624-1815, x 24

 

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New Mexico: Charters Need Regulation

new-mexico
by Meredith Machen
LWVNM has a new charter school position that shows where we stand. We need to stand together to fight all attempts to drain essential resources from traditional public schools!
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LWVNM Charter School Regulation Position

Adopted by the LWVNM Board, November 12, 2016

The League of Women Voters of New Mexico believes that every student should have access to a high quality, publicly funded education regardless of race, ethnicity, family income, or geographical location.  The League believes in accountability, transparency, and equity in the use of public funds for education.

 Charter schools are discretionary programs intended to fill unmet needs and/or to test innovative instructional strategies to produce quality educational outcomes. Policy makers must ensure that adequate funds are available for traditional public schools and define how charter schools fill unmet needs.  Appropriate instructional and support services must be provided to meet the diverse needs of individual students in both traditional public and charter schools.

Regarding the mission of charter schools, the LWVNM believes the following:

  • A charter school should not be authorized unless

its mission would serve a need the traditional schools cannot;

funds are available;

there is a demonstrated need based on student population projections.

  • New Mexico should provide flexibility and supplemental funding for magnet programs and career academies within traditional public schools.
  • Charter school innovations demonstrated to be effective should be disseminated to improve the traditional public education system.
  • The state should establish a closure policy revoking the contract of a charter school that fails to meet minimum academic, financial, and organizational standards for two consecutive years or for two of the three most recent years.

 For the sake of assuring accountability and transparency and minimizing the fiscal impact, LWVNM recommends the following:  

  • A charter school’s finances should be available for public scrutiny, and budget processes should be similar to those for school districts, which require the public to be provided with an opportunity for input into decision-making.
  • Charter school governing council members should adhere to standards and best practices as delineated by the NM School Boards Association.
  • Funding to state-chartered schools should minimize the amount allocated to for-profit management and business operations with oversight provided by state-approved auditors.
  • The school funding formula should be equitable so as not to advantage charter schools over traditional public schools. 
  • NM should develop an effective performance-based accountability system for charter schools focused on increased proficiency, academic growth, and college/career readiness standards to ensure that charter schools demonstrate positive student outcomes. Charter schools that do not meet the established benchmarks should be put on time-limited improvement plans and not allowed to increase enrollment until they have met the benchmarks.

 

LWVNM believes that public funding for virtual schools should be less per student since the schools do not require brick and mortar facilities.

********************************************************************

 

For more information about the League’s formal two-year comprehensive Charter School Regulation Study and how this position was determined through research and member consensus, please contact president@lwvnm.org. This position will be incorporated into LWVNM’s complete Education position available at http://lwvnm.org/positions.html#education.

 

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Single Gender Charters in Trouble

boy-160168_640Duval County has four single gender charter schools; two for boys and two for girls.  Evidently, there are just not enough parents to make them viable.  Total enrollment for the four schools is 349 middle and high school students.  It is not enough, the schools are $333,000 in debt.  Staff cuts are being made and donors are being sought.

Superintendent Vitti doubts the non-profit management company, Profectus Learning Systems,  operating the schools can survive.  He said that even with cuts in staff, debts are likely to grow.  The schools may not be able to provide the required academic programs.

Many people like the idea of small schools.  Some children simply do better with more personal attention and less distraction.  Others thrive on the diversity and opportunities larger schools provide.  Providing an affordable balance is difficult.  Similar problems are  occurring in other communities where charters and private schools siphon off students from local public schools.  Soon, all schools are small and underfunded.

 

Federal Education Policy Changes Afoot?

creature-1529281_640I have avoided posting all of the speculation about possible changes in education leadership and policy in the new administration.  It is just plain hard on my peace of mind, especially when most of it will not happen.  I firmly believe that the real changes will be through the change in leadership in the Florida legislature.  As you know, I am not sanguine on those.   You can see previous posts.

This morning, however, I ran across an article that helps us think more realistically about what change at the federal level would take.  This Ed Week article reviews legislation that would have to be amended to redirect funding.  It also points toward a likely push for school choice funding in the Congress.  It is worth a read.

 

Florida State School Board 2017 Priorities

priority-1714375_640What is important to the Florida State Board of Education (SBE) this year?  According to this report, the SBE is focusing on capital outlay funding, charter expansion priorities, streamlining teacher preparation programs, and online education.  As priorities from different stake holders emerge, the negotiation with the legislature will intensify.

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Bright Futures not so Bright

power-money-trap-5441169I knew that the qualifications for Bright Futures scholarships had gone up.  Now I understand the impact.  In order for the State to save money, the rich get richer.  The Florida lottery supports these scholarships.  While the revenue for the lottery is still increasing, the percentage allocated to education is decreasing.  It would be interesting to know why and how much.

 

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