Palm Beach County Schools say ‘NO’ to Charter Schools USA (CSUSA) and duplicative, inefficient school choice. This is more than an anti charter complaint. It is a call to enforce the original legislative purpose for charter schools in Florida.
- Judge Reynolds ruled that the State has made education a top priority in terms of funding. Moreover, he states that neither the defendants or the plaintiffs established the connection between the amount of resources and educational outcomes.
- The Differentiated Accountability system needed legislative attention. The fact that schools could remain in ‘F’ status over a number of years was the judge’s primary objection to the state system. He argued, however, that the defendant’s own evidence showed that a school could be turned around without additional funding.
- Districts were part of the state system. Districts had control over local management and funding allocations and the State was not responsible for ineffective local management.
- The constitutionality of school choice was dismissed by the judge. He did not agree that charters and tax credit funded private schools had a negative effect on the system.
- Judge Reynolds wrote: “The evidence shows that many of Florida’s educational policies and programs are subject to ongoing debate without any definitive consensus in the education community. They are political questions best resolved in the political arena”, and
- “The Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgement without a judicially manageable or enforceable remedy.” In other words, the cost study sought by the Plaintiffs was not a remedy.
In Renaissance Academy for Math and Science vs. Imagine Schools, the court ruled there was hidden self dealing. The judge fined Imagine Schools one million dollars. This was just one school in trouble in St. Louis, Missouri at the time. Thirty-five hundred children had to be relocated when all Imagine charters were forced to close in St. Louis.
We all need to know how this can happen. It is not unusual.
Florida’s educational system is on trial in Tallahassee. The charge? One million Florida students cannot read at grade level. Testimony about the plight of these children can break your heart. Thousands are homeless. Most are from poor families. In some rural counties children are too hungry to learn, and schools provide three meals a day. These children, the plaintiffs argue need much more than school districts can provide with current funding.
The Florida League of Women Voters recognizes that the solutions to these problems are complex, but applauds the attention the suit brings to the weaknesses in our educational system. What are the arguments and what is the defense? What do the witnesses say?
What are these anti tenure cases really about? Are reformers convinced the workforce has more than its share of ineffective teachers? Or, are they concerned many teachers prefer to work in traditional schools where they can earn higher salaries and benefits? Thus, charters and private schools struggle to compete for high quality teachers.
There is a general anti union undercurrent, but I am continually surprised how few Floridians seem to know that tenure in Florida is a thing of the past. Why are other states filing law suits?
Pinellas is taking on its failing schools. This blog reported on the Tampa Bay Times series on south Pinellas schools that had essentially been abandoned when federal desegregation regulations were lifted in 2007. I remember Judge Reynolds’ statement a week ago in the Citizens for Strong Schools case. He said he could not believe that the Florida DOE had not intervened when schools received an ‘F’ grade four years in a row.
The testimony and closing arguments have been made. Now both sides need to put their arguments in a particular format for the judge by April 25th. He then takes the arguments under consideration and will make a ruling. Win or lose, the decision is likely to be appealed.
When you listen to the two sides, a few points stand out:
The defense (Florida) in Citizens for Strong Schools argues that districts have enough money or can get enough through discretionary millage assessment on property taxes. The problem they assert, is mismanagement and a reordering of priorities. Do they have a point? You can check out this claim in your local districts. We are looking into budget priorities in Alachua County. We have also looked at the state audits of the district in past years. The hard choices they suggest are destructive choices. They can rob the programs that the State brags about to help improve conditions for at risk kids. Some choices are just bad choices.
Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder of Fund Education Now reports about the trial underway in Tallahassee.
She provides context for the complaints against the Florida Legislature, governor, and state Department of Education. Funding, for example, is now only about $50 more than in 2007.