School Discipline Policies: Helpful, Hurtful, Both?

Do out-of-school suspensions help or hurt school climate? Are student discipline problems getting worse or better? Betsy DeVos has eliminated the Obama era policies of federal oversight of discipline policies that may impact some student groups more than others. She charges that the Obama policies that are intended to reduce inequitable discipline practices have made problems worse. When teachers are afraid to refer students to the principal, and schools are afraid to suspend students acting in a dangerous way, are school classrooms becoming a ‘free for all zone’? Some teachers may think so. Others claim that minority students are often subjected to harsher penalties than white students for the same offenses. Suspending students, moreover, may simply make student problems worse. It is a conundrum.

There is a report: School-safety that addresses these concerns and the need for more attention to factors within and outside of schools that impact student safety. There are best practices identified from which states and local district are urged to select those that fit their circumstances.

One has to wonder if this data driven educational system based on student test scores and a ‘test and punish’ mentality is also at fault. Students’ schools are labeled as failing or near failing; so are the students themselves. Even students who are achieving at grade level may feel alienated when they do not qualify for a particular magnet program or other selective program. Students feeling tense, left out, and inadequate may well act out.

Some parents opt out of local schools only to find that they enter into a separate system of schools where take it or leave it policies prevail. What they are forced to put up with in many charter and private schools has little to do with student achievement. Discipline and discrimination, moreover, may be even more rigid and arbitrary. These schools have everything to do with which kids get in, which do not and who gets kicked out. There is a better way, a more equitable way, where students and parents from diverse backgrounds feel a sense of belonging. These schools exist. How can we create more of them?

NPE: Five Reasons Why Charters Can Not Be Reformed

Some charters are innovative and productive; most are not. Why not? Here are five reasons why Diane Ravitch and Carol Burris believe that no reform of the ‘charter system’ will work. I have listed the reasons below, and you can read the rationale for these inherent flaws in the charter school system here. It’s good to have the five points at your fingertips as you talk about your concerns about school privatization.

  1. Freedom from regulation and oversight through public governance has resulted in persistence and undeniable patterns of waste and fraud.
  2. Defacto discrimination is baked into the charter school model.
  3. Charter schools bleed money from the public school system, which results in either a lesser education for public school students or an extra burden on tax payers.
  4. Charter schools eliminate democracy from school governance, and this lack of voice is most acutely felt by parents in disadvantaged communities.
  5. Loose laws around conflict of interest combined with a lack of transparency regarding spending have provided a fertile ground for profiteers and grifters.

The Ban the Book Brigade

Florida Citizen’s Alliance has an agenda to censor textbooks. Which books?
1. Anything with sexually explicit text e.g. Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved’; LBGTBQ transgender themes e.g. ‘Being Homosexual’ by Richard Isay
2. U.S. History texts, World History, Understanding Economics and other books that are charged with issues such as having a ‘left bias, opposition to right to bear arms, failure to emphasize federalist vs. anti federalist conflicts, bias against supply side economics, and stating evolution as a settled fact.
3. Religious indoctrination e.g. books about Islam
4. Science e.g. books about environmental dangers such as global warming; Darwin’s Theory of Evolution that do not explicitly say that these are ‘theories, not facts’.
5. Common Core Math critical thinking, problem solving methods

The FCA is headed by Keith Flaugh who is part of the coalition centered around Erika and Byron Donalds and others who support the Christian conservative charter schools known as Classical Academies. They typically challenge text book adoptions at local school boards in Florida. They are included in the DeSantis education transition task force.

State Board of Education to Vote December 17

There may be no search, no discussion, not even a meeting. The State Board of Education is having a conference call to vote on Richard Corcoran as State Superintendent of Schools. The conference call number is: 1-888-339-2688 Passcode 817-040-81.

Want to know who is on the SBE? They are all leaders in their fields. Click on the links to see the bios.

Marva.Johnson, Chair
Andy.Tuck, Vice Chair
Gary.Chartrand
Ben.Gibson
Tom.Grady
Michael.OlenickJoe.York

DeSantis Appoints Education Transition Team

Read the goals and see the list of advisors in the article here.

I looked at the list of appointees for the governor’s new education transition team. It is pretty obvious to whom he intends to listen. He won’t have to hear much about public schools, only three districts are represented. Higher education does better, and prochoice advocates do best of all. Missing is a voice for teaching and learning.

Politicians: Bob Cortes, Don Gaetz, Governor Scott Chief of Staff
Ed Related Companies: New Teacher Center
Higher Ed Representatives: FIU, Higher Learning Advocates, Polk State College, Broward College, Pensacola College, University of Florida Trustees, Tallahassee CC Board of Trustees, Independent Colleges and Universities,
FSU, State Board of Education,
K12 Groups: Walton County Superintendent, Hillsborough schools govt relations, Miami-Dade school board,
Political Commentator: Annenberg School lecturer Felzenburg
Pro Choice Advocacy Groups: Home Education Foundation, Erika Donalds alternative school board group, Florida Citizens Alliance (2), Florida Consortium of Charter Schools, CSUSA, Lake Highland Prep, Teach Florida, Step Up for Students, lift Academy, Charter School Alliance, Academica
Business: First Coast Energy, Career Source, Physicians Dialysis, Bags, inc., Vestcor, Apple.
Community Group: Urban League

Will Florida’s Education Leadership Be A ‘One Trick Pony’?

Pam Stewart has resigned as of the date Governor DeSantis is inaugurated. Rumors abound that DeSantis has fingered former House Speaker and school privatization advocate Richard Corcoran for the job. Do you hire someone to run Florida’s public schools who wants to end public schools? Corcoran’s bio tells a lot about him. He graduated from St. Leo and earned his law degree from Regents University (RU). RU was founded by Pat Robertson as the Christian Broadcasting Network University whose goal is to foster Christian leaders. While Corcoran was a bankruptcy attorney, he soon became career politician. He first ran for office in 2008. He has now term limited out of the House and is job hunting.

The law states that the State Board of Education (SBE) appoints the State Superintendent, not the Governor The SBE typically does national searches. Florida needs qualified education leaders who have training and experience. Who we have so far is Rep. Jennifer Sullivan as House Education Chair.  Sullivan wrote the curriculum for TeenPact on the proper role of government.  TeenPact is sponsored by Americans for Prosperity.  She was home schooled and a college drop out from a private Christian college. She says her ignorance could be an asset.

Senate Education Committee Chair, Manny Diaz, graduated from St. Thomas and earned a masters degree from Nova which may account for his support for online education. He does have experience in public schools. He also has joined the for-profit Academica charter management firm as Chief Operating Officer of Doral College, an online non accreditated school created to offer dual enrollment to high school students taught by their teachers. The credit does not transfer to any other college, but it does provide a six figure salary to Diaz.

Now are Floridians to be offered Richard Corcoran, career politician and school privatization advocate to implement legislative policy? Granted the Governomr appoints members to the State Board of Education, but are they simply to rubber stamp the Governor’s agenda? Is there any room in the policy leadership for the interests of the 80% of children who attend Florida’s traditional public schools? Will anyone have an interest in curbing the abuses of the unregulated charter and private tax credit scholarship schools? See the Tampa Bay Times’ take on the issue.

Charter School Teacher Unions Strike

Some charter school teachers in Chicago have gone on strike. Part of the allure for management companies to open charter schools is that they are not part of the teacher unions…or are they? In Louisiana, the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that charters are not a subdivision of the state. Therefore, they are subject to the National Labor Relations Act. The court declared that even though New Orleans was a charter dominated system, it was the public school system. It was not, however, a politically accountable entity. Basically, the court argued that since the state could not control the charter board membership, the charter was independent. Independently run charters must allow employees to unionize. Teachers can then bargain to be covered in health insurance and retirement programs or increase salaries.

In Chicago, the teachers, both public and charter, are fighting for their profession. Some charter teachers have organized their own union, and/or join the public school system unions. It gets complicated! Nevertheless, in 2016, the union bargained with the mayor to put a moratorium on charter school expansion. Teaching conditions have not improved. Now, 500 charter school teachers who did unionize, have gone out on strike.

The issues for Chicago charter school teachers are real. They work longer days and have a longer school year…about 20% longer. Their class sizes are larger and their salaries are smaller than for public school teachers.

Florida has a strong teacher’s union, but it is hampered by an agreement to ban strikes. Back in 1968, Florida teachers launched the nation’s first statewide teacher strike. The settlement included a ban on future strikes. So, teachers like parents must choose to accept what is offered or leave. Many are. It is one way to raise awareness that when some groups are treated unfairly, everyone suffers. Surely, there must be a better way!

An interesting question comes to mind. Are Florida charter teachers public employees? They are hired by private companies, not school districts. Can they organize and strike?

Will Richard Corcoran Replace Pam Stewart?

Politico reports that the new Florida Commissioner of Education is rumored to be former House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Stewart had announced her plans to retire at the end of Governor Scott’s term, but the State Board of Education asked her to remain to ‘groom her successor’. Corcoran pushed for Schools of Hope to replace struggling public schools with charters. He also supported the Hope Scholarships to give students who were bullied Florida tax credit scholarships to private schools. The State Board of Education is already solidly in the pro choice camp, so they likely will rubber stamp this nomination.

A preview of the conservative agenda for education is available from the Florida Citizens Alliance advocacy group. They anticipate that Governor-elect DeSantis will expand choice programs to include vocational programs that focus on apprenticeships, ending proprietary testing, and ending Common Core Standards. (I do not see where DeSantis makes any statement about K12 testing policies.)

Amendment 8 proposals to expand civics education, term limits and centralized charter systems are likely to resurface. DeSantis has made civics education a priority. This is a national priority of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative coalition of legislators. The idea is to focus on concepts that, according to Betsy DeVos, lead young people to support socialism rather than a conservative ideology that is anti-government.

If this agenda succeeds, Florida’s educational system will once again be in turmoil.

LWVF Files Lawsuit Over Duval County Schools Gun Policy

Duval County schools want an inexpensive way to have armed guards in schools. They used the school guardian provision of the Florida law to hire ‘safety assistants’. These SSAs will carry concealed weapons in 100 schools in Duval County. The LWVF lawsuit contends that there are better and safer ways to protect schools than to hire armed guards. These guards must be high school graduates with 200 hours of training with the Jacksonville Police Department and the Duval County School Police Department. You can see their qualifications here. These SSAs, however, receive much lower pay than police officers.