Eagle Arts Charter in Chaos But OPEN in Palm Beach

For over two years, this scandal drags on in one of Palm Beach’s largest charter schools.  Now the school is in complete chaos.  Principals come and go within weeks of each other.  One third of the teachers have left. Books do not arrive.  The owner of the school has legal issues.  He charged the school for preparing the proposal to open the school.  He also has a combative personality.

When parents complained, he attacked.  He called the sheriff claiming a parent hacked into his computer system.  Why?  The parent had organized an online petition to clean up the school’s management problems.  Over two hundred families left the school.  He recruited more with glossy ads emphasizing an arts infused curriculum.  The much heralded dance program had no teacher.  Children wanting to play instruments had to pay extra for after school lessons.

Some children love the carefree atmosphere, but their test scores have plummeted.  The school grade is down to a ‘D’.  Forty percent of the students passed the State’s English Language Arts test and 24% passed the math.  This is not a low income school, yet it is near the bottom in academic achievement.

Who is to blame for this fiasco?  The district is investigating, but the charter school law does not give them authority to clean up the mess until serious criminal charges or total academic failure are evident.  Self dealing is evidently still allowed.

Parents are told they can leave; that is their only recourse.  The State of Florida does not intervene.  After all, even though charters are ‘public schools’, they are run by private businesses.  If a businessman wants to run the school into the ground, he can.

I watched a similar situation occur in Gainesville.  Watching was all I could do.  Half the parents and most teachers left.  The school district shook their heads.  The school is still open.  The only thing public in charter schools is the money funding them.

This is the direction the Florida legislature is headed.  If we want it stopped, they need to know.  Tell them over and over again.

 

 

 

 

The Worst of a Bad Budget

The League is adding its voice to calls for a veto of HB 7069.  Share with everyone.  We need a blitz.

The WORST of a BAD BUDGET

Florida revenue is up, but education funding has been cut.  The legislature sent a message that our schools, teachers, and students are not valued.  What’s the evidence?

House bill HB 7069:

 

 

 

 

  • Substitutes a teacher bonus system for a few rather than give all teachers a needed raise in spite of a looming teacher shortage. Teachers in most charters have lower salaries and no benefits which seems to be the attraction to many politicians even if quality is compromised.
  • Takes desperately needed local school facility funding and gives it to privately owned charters. Miami-Dade schools alone estimate an $81 million dollar loss.
  • Strips local control of low performing schools from districts and turns them over to charter chains. Then, it provides $140 million in State funds to these privately owned chains.
  • Creates High Impact Charter Systems that are independent of locally elected school boards. If things go wrong, parents must complain to Tallahassee.

The Florida House promotes school choice instead of supporting schools governed by elected school boards.  The consequences are becoming clear.  The U.S. Department of Civil Rights cited Florida for increasing segregation through its charter system.  Charters also select fewer students with disabilities and language learners.

It is time to recognize that, in the charter system, parents do not choose schools; schools choose students.  If the choice does not work, the students are ‘counseled out’.

Charters have high teacher turnover, real estate debt, and according to the national CREDO Urban Cities study, lower student achievement than comparable public school students.  After three years, Florida public school students, initially matched on test scores, clearly out performed charter students in five of seven of our cities.

Parents do have a choice to make.  Will they ask Governor Scott to veto this attempt to take over our schools?  Will they tell the legislature that our children deserve better?

Right These Wrongs, The League Says

Governor Scott is considering vetoing the entire budget as well as HB 7069, the massive education bill.  Encourage him!  (850) 488-7146.   The Miami Herald published the League call to action.

The budget:

 

 

 

  • reduces per student funding.
  • shares capital outlay with charters.  Charters already get a disproportionate amount of available state capital outlay money.  Many districts would be unable to maintain roofs and air conditioning.
  • creates Schools of Hope which are charter take overs of district schools.  The bill is acknowledged to be difficult to implement.  It gives money to struggling schools after charters take them over, not before when districts could do something to help.

Charters in Florida are not known to do as well as public schools, according to the latest CREDO Urban Cities report.  Over three years in four of six major Florida cities, public school students outperform students matched on initial achievement scores.

High performing charters in other states are known to have student high attrition.  Students who do not do well are ‘counseled out’.  Forty percent of black males leave KIPP schools between grades six and eight, according to a 2017 Ed Week report

What is the advantage of dismissing nearly half of your students?  This is the turn around Schools of Hope.  Give the funding to districts and help them succeed.  They are OUR schools.

League Calls For Budget Veto: You can too!

Choruses of voices are calling ‘foul’ on this year’s legislative budget.  The League of Women Voters sent a letter to Governor Scott detailing the savaging of public schools and the back room approach to doing so.  Short shrift for Florida Forever as well makes this budget an agenda driven attack on the public interest.  Want to call his office?  Use:  (850) 717-9337.

See the letter written by Pamela Goodman.  The announcement was made in yesterday’s Capital Report.

 

 

HB 7069 Education Train Bill Needs to be Vetoed

Legislation

The Senate narrowly passed SB7069 with a 20-18 vote.  There are reasons for concern.  The best  course now is to urge Governor Scott to veto the bill.  Here’s why:

  1. 1) For local districts to share local capital outlay with charter schools is untenable.  It will cost districts already struggling with aging facilities, millions of dollars.
  2. 2) The Schools of Hope proposal allocates $140 million for charter school takeovers of low performing public schools.  Yet, the CREDO Urban Cities report just published a devastating account of poor charter school academic performance in Florida cities.

3) Creating High Impact Charter Systems that control groups of charters surely must stress the Florida constitutional requirement for a ‘uniform system of high quality schools’.  These charter systems become their own local education agencies.  This is a legal term that is now allocated for elected school boards.  The charter systems would be able to receive funding directly with no oversight from districts.

4) Allocating Title I funds to individual students in many schools will spread funding  too thinly to support extra reading, tutoring and other services many children need.

5) Without funds in the State budget for teacher raises, the looming teacher shortage will increase.

Why would Florida want to advertise itself as anti education to a world where academic achievement attracts the kind of business and industry we seek?  This bill is the result of destructive behind closed door power politics, not rational public interest.

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.

Continue reading

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.

For more detail, continue reading.

Continue reading

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.