Gadsden Turn around

http://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2017/07/17/gadsden-turnaround-plan-approved-condition-bring-charter-operator-2018/486291001/
http://www.wftv.com/news/9-investigates/9-investigates-charter-school-defends-spending-tax-money-on-commercials/548769581

WCJB TV interview today

The PACT against the proposed CSUSA school in Gainesville was on TV News today. Due to the blog technical problem, I can’t post the video. But, you can go to:

http://www.wcjb.com/content/news/Charter-school-proposal-sparks-debate-435040253.html

Just Google WCJB charter school sparks debate and the video will come up.

Abandoning our Public Schools

by Pat Drago

Pat, a member of the State Board of the Florida League of Women Voters says it all. School choice is all about changing what we value as a society couched in deceptive language about helping children by turning them over to private corporations. Read Pat’s thoughts and share your own. Don’t just tell each other. Let your legislators know. Help others to understand the money interests behind the privatization of education


HB7069 – ABANDONING OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS
When the 2017 legislature passed the 278 bill titled HB7069 in the last days of an extended legislative session and Gov. Scott signed the measure into law, Florida’s constitutional responsibility for public education was out-sourced. And it doesn’t even have to go to the lowest bidder. No bids required.

This is the wholesale transfer of public dollars to line private pockets with no performance requirements. The entry criteria are marginal at best. Why did this pass in the last minutes of the session, with no time for scrutiny? It was because it could not stand the light of day.

What happens now? Struggling public schools in high poverty areas can be closed and students allowed to attend charter schools operated by corporate charter operators. Do they need to meet any performance measures for students? No. Do all students need to be educated by them? No. They will be eligible to receive millions in state funds. Is there any requirement that their expenditures to inure to the public? No.

In addition, after the Fl. Senate heard testimony this session on the dire situation in many districts related to deferred maintenance and deteriorating schools, what did HB7069 do, but take funds from local districts’ capital outlay and transfer to charter schools. There was very good language the senate had included that required the recipient of any of these dollars to protect the public interest and not engage in self-dealing. The final version of HB7069 deleted that language. And we have to ask ourselves WHY?

Why the last minute rush that deleted the good language and left the indefensible? Why avoid the scrutiny and benefit that debate and amendment bring to the deliberative process? Why did the governor sign it when he had thousands of Floridians who begged him not to?

It’s official – the State of Florida as personified by House Speaker Corcoran and Gov. Scott, no longer believes in its neighborhood public schools or believes it has any role to play in improving the future for its children. They also do not believe in transparent financial accountability for millions of taxpayer dollars.

Florida For-profit Charter Chain Racketeering Charge

How often do we need to hear the same thing before the legislature will act. For profit charter management is an open invitation to fraud. These charter management companies have hidden affiliated companies that do what they want out of public view.

Tbo News reports that racketeering charges have been filed against Marcus May and his associate who run 15 Newpoint charter schools in Florida (Bay County, Jacksonville, Hillsborough, Pinellas). The story underscores the League’s constant refrain: The Legislature must enact measures to correct charter school fraud and abuse. For the past two years, the legislature has rejected first Senator Gaetz’s call for reform legislation and then Senator Simmon’s measures to correct charter mismanagement. What does it take to get action?

These Newpoint related companies are a maze of legal entities that are banded together to make it impossible for local citizens to know where their tax payer dollars are going. Newpoint’s affiliated companies include School Warehouse and Red Ignition. They overcharged for computers, filed fake enrollment reports, extracted large fees, and used money to pay for expensive vacations, personal home, and on and on.

Fifty-seven million dollars of public money was given to this group. Millions were stolen. Initially they were under investigation for giving fake grades to students. Now they face charges of grand theft, money laundering, and white collar crime along with their racketeering charges. They recognize no limits.

New Education Funding Bill Filed

Representative Manny Diaz has filed HB 3A that does the following:

  • decreases local required effort from property taxes by over $1.5 million.
  • increases the state’s base student allocation from sales taxes by $43.24 from the 2016-17 allocation.

Allocations for other programs are similar to the prior measures.  This bill does very little to help public schools and less than Governor Scott requested.

Mostly this bill appears to borrow from Peter to pay Paul.  While the state portion of the per student funding (FEFP) that Governor Scott vetoed would increase slightly, the local funding would decrease.  FEFP covers school operational activities like instruction, but it does not cover the capital outlay funds for building construction and maintenance.

Keep up the pressure!

 

 

With Vouchers Parents Lose Right for Child’s Education

In this NPR interview, the plight of parents who take vouchers is exposed.  Parents explain their search and frustrating when choosing  private schools; they lose their right to have their children served.  If they are dissatisfied, their only recourse is to try a different school.  When their child has a disability, there may be no school within reach that will accept the child.  Attorney and League member Kimberley Spire-Oh provided the information leading to these interviews.

Some background on Florida public school support for students with exceptionalities provides perspective on the availability of support for these children whether in public or private schools.

Teachers certified to work with children with disabilities are scarce and tend to work for public, not private schools.  Supporting these children in private schools is expensive, and they have no obligation to accept children.  The State provides McKay Scholarships for students to attend a private school if they have an IEP or 504 program .  For students with a high level disability defined in law, Gardiner Scholarships are available.  Having the scholarship allows parents to shop in the private sector for a school.  It does not require private schools to accept those students.

Parents have the right to send their children to public schools, but not to private schools.  You can see the right for your child to be education on the Office of Civil Rights website.  An overview of the disability discrimination laws that protect children’s right to a public education are here.  The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) outlines the responsibilities that public schools have.

Support for educating students with disabilities is dependent upon funding.  This year funding for students in public schools from federal IDEA sources was reduced to $1,301 per student.

The Florida Department of Education website for Exceptional Student Education is located here.  State ESE funding is part of the FEFP per student funding formula and included $1,055,304,596.  Note that the funding is part of the weighted per student state allocation.  Weighting is the same for ESE students as for other students except for Levels four and five.  These students with higher level disabilities receive more intense, specialized services as defined here.

We need to do a study of the every day realities of providing support for students with exceptionalities.

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.