A Local Charter Implodes: Part I, The Tip of the Iceberg

iceberg-415212_1280In the League of Women Voters, we study data, laws, rules and regulations.  We base our positions on facts.  Sometimes, the facts just do not make events seem real.

We decided to tell a story–it even has a sequel.  The facts are there, but the story is about high expectations and false hopes.  It is about how dreams go wrong.  It is a true story.




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Florida Leads the Nation in Corrupt Officials

jail-429633__180Some people like rules. They keep life simple. Others think rules just get in the way of getting things done.  Floridians have a reputation for avoiding as many rules as possible except for their traditional public schools.  They are rule bound, and some parents rebel. There is an escape clause called ‘school choice’.  For charters and private schools the rules are bent or removed.

Charters are supposed to save money, and theyprovide a way for private businesses to make money, lots of it.  The money comes from the state or from corporate tax rebates.  It is big money, about half of the State’s general fund.

One wonders if controls on ethics and conflict of interest are sufficiently strong to protect the public interest in education?  The buzz about Florida is that there is more self-interest than public interest than in any other state.  Are such allegations warranted?

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Adding New Charter Schools: Will FSU Know Best?

buck stopsWho should approve new charter schools–local districts or the state?   Would a university institute funded by the legislature do a better job?  Now the State Board of Education has the final say.  But, they do not always get it right.

Legislation moving through the Florida House and Senate includes a provision to create the Florida State University Charter School Institute.  It would review charter proposals and conduct evaluation studies.  Will FSU be able to improve the charter authorization process?  Can it evaluate local needs, or do they not matter?  If a form is filled out correctly, is that enough to make a charter school a valuable contribution to a local district?

I watched the April School Board of Education meeting.  A comment was made about how fortunate Florida was to have the DOE, the Governor, and the legislature all on the same school reform page.  Yet, when the attorney for Palm Beach County spoke about denials of charter schools, it is clear that there are practical, important issues that  are too easily dismissed.  Some checks and balances are needed.

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Florida Testing Bill Signed into Law

legislation1The Florida legislature passed the testing bill HB 7069 and Governor Scott signed it today.  There is more in the bill than just the reduction of the testing requirement to no more than 5% of the total number of school days.  Annual statewide testing remains.

I copied the staff analysis of the bill.  It requires an independent review of the Florida Standards Assessment, and the ‘A-F’ school grading system or student results will not be reported until after the study is completed.  The change in the reading requirement for promotion to 4th grade made it into law.

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New York Impasse Ends Cuomo’s Tax Credit Scholarship Support

horse trading

horse trading

In a political move to pass immigration reform in New York, the Governor linked private school tax credit scholarships to Dream Act bills.  The trade off would make undocumented students eligible for college scholarships in exchange for tax credit scholarships for poor and wealthy families.

A bipartisan coalition failed, and the Governor announced this week he would withdraw budget funding for both programs.  Reading the article in Capital magazine is like reading a political case study.

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Charter School Facilities: Your Money, Their Property


by Sue Legg, Pat Drago, and Ruth Melton

Charter schools are public schools, right?  Well  yes, but they are owned and managed by private companies.  Most of their facilities are privately owned.  If they close, the private company retains the buildings.

Charter schools should receive the same amount of money as district schools, right?  Seems fair until you think about it.

Let’s think about it.  We need to, there is a bill in the legislature.

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Class Size: Skirting the Constitution

sleight of handby Lucia Baez

In 2002, Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment to limit class size.  They did not overturn it in 2010.  How can we have classes with 45 students when the limit is 25?  Is there some sleight of hand going on?  Well yes.  The Miami Herald reported that electives were exempt, and some classes like AP became electives.  Classes that had been limited to twenty five students increased. With the severe funding cuts over several years, districts have had to somehow manage to do more with less.   They looked at the flexibility given to charters and wanted some for themselves.

Charter schools could average class size across the school.  So, some classes could be large and others small.  With the help of the legislature in 2013, districts could do the same if they called their schools  ‘schools of choice’.   Now a bill has been filed to legitimize the practice.  SB 818 was recently filed by Senator Garcia.  It is curious that it is possible to circumvent the constitution when it is convenient.

A teacher and League member from Miami has written a letter.  See what she has to say.  Her tone is gentle; her message is strong.

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Charter School Bills: Going in Different Directions

trojan-horse-277525_1280It is the best of times; it is the worst of times?  SB 1036 and SB SB1038 were filed by Senator Montford of the Senate Education Committee.  The bills could make a real improvement in the management and oversight of charters.  This has been a major priority of the Florida League of Women Voters.

Then there is Senator Legg’s bill.  It has a Trojan horse.

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