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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.
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.
- 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.
Every year the Florida DOE compares charter vs. traditional public school performance. The report shows percentages of proficient students in each sector. Charters win, hands down in this report but not on reports from national research studies. Why is that?
- Charters enroll a lower percentage of students who qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch, disabilities and English Language Learners. Thus, given the correlation between income and achievement, charters should look better. In general they represent higher income families. See the Florida DOE chart below.
The achievement for Florida charters is dismal when compared to similar traditional public school (TPS) students. The DOE comparisons do not match students based on their test scores. The CREDO urban area study did. Look at the evidence for achievement gains, in 42 cities, between charters and traditional public school students when matched on their initial achievement levels and the amount gained three years later.
CREDO STUDY RESULTS: The picture for urban charters in Florida is not pretty. Based on results from Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, St. Petersburg, Tampa and West Palm Beach:
- Charters in five of seven cities did worse than the TPS in reading. Miami and Tampa had small charter gains.
- Charters in three of seven cities did worse in math. One showed no difference; three (Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa) did slightly better than the TPS students.
Only in Jacksonville and Miami are student demographics similar between charters and TPS. In other cities, Florida charters generally enroll a lower percentage of students in poverty and with learning disabilities. It should be noted that in Miami, while there are similar numbers of students in poverty, the charter sector is largely Hispanic. This is generally not the case in most of the urban areas studied. No matter how you look at the comparisons, something is lacking in Florida’s charter sector.
Some U.S. city charters do remarkably better than the TPS e.g. Bay Area, Boston, Memphis, Newark, New Orleans, and New York City. Most cities do not. These gains are largest for low-income black students and Hispanic English language learners.
While the data from these cities are disputed by reliable sources, it is important to look at the charter sectors in these areas to see if and how they differ from those in other cities. For example, Boston has a limited and tightly controlled charter group. New York City charters are known to have high dismissal rates. What is happening in these charter successful cities? Who do they really serve?
Is the formula for successful charters to weed out students whom they cannot help? Should traditional public schools do the same? Where does this road lead? Want to find out? Read the blog tomorrow.
Would you like a summary of what happened in the Florida Legislature this week? See The Capital Report.
Have you ever been in a maze and had trouble finding the exit? Tracking bills through the legislative process is like that. Well, it is even worse because some bills get lost and others change their identity. I tried to check on the Best and Brightest bills. SB 1552 is no longer just about teacher recruitment bonuses. It is also about school improvement. But, school improvement used to be about Schools of Hope. Forget all the old bill numbers; it is time to start anew. Here’s what happened:
Senator Simmons filed an amendment to his Best and Brightest teacher recruitment bill SB 1552. The bill incorporates many of the provisions in House bill 796 and broadens eligibility for scholarships. It adds college level tests and grade point averages etc. to those high school SAT and ACT scores that seemed such a bizarre way to select and reward teachers. The new bills are not perfect but are an improvement. They could help make teaching a more attractive option in this time of teacher shortages. At least the bill provides multiple and diverse ways to qualify for salary bonuses.
Yesterday, SB 1552 changed again. Senator Simmons filed another amendment to insert some School Improvement language from HB 5105. The League was unhappy with HB 5105 last week. It promoted Schools of Hope that took control of struggling schools away from districts. Pulling students out of the district simply weakens all schools.
Senator Simmons’ amendment not only eliminates Schools of Hope funding, it maintains district control. It provides support and flexibility that has long been needed. Schools receiving grades below a “C” will have turn around support that includes:
- An additional hour of instruction.
- Wrap around community support services provided by a non-profit entity that includes health services, after school programs, drug prevention, college and career readiness and food and clothing banks.
- Principal autonomy mostly in the curriculum.
Traditional public schools that fail to improve after three years of intensive support still face a choice to either reassign students, close the school and reopen as a charter, or contract either as a conversion charter school or with an outside agency to run the school.
It asks the Commissioner of Education to study achievement levels and their relationship to student performance and success. The Commissioner is charged to recommend changes in the meaning of the achievement levels to the Governor and the Speaker, the President of the Senate and the State Board of Education by July 2018.
This is the procedure that is required in existing law to change performance standards on the FSA. It has been tried before. What would the approximate impact be?
It’s that time in the legislative session. The proposed budgets are out. The bargaining begins. The Florida House wants money for charter schools. The Senate wants money for public schools.
Many legislators want money to expand tuition payments to private, mostly religious schools. HB 15 adds children of military families to the tax credit voucher program. The per student increases from 80 to 88% of the FEFP public school amount for elementary students. Middle school funding increases to 92% and high school to 96% of FEFP. The pretense that the Florida tax credit scholarship program saves money is gone. Corporate taxes that could help Floridians go to private schools that have little accountability and uncertified teachers.
Charter school bills feature getting a share of local property taxes for facilities, taking over struggling public schools, and creating a separate charter school system. In addition, they allow uncertified teachers in charters and require public school facilities be given to charters. There is more.
In 2011, the Miami Herald published an expose on the McKay scholarship program that is supposed to benefit students with disabilities. The article was called ‘Rotten to the Core‘. It was followed by a list of private schools that headed its “Fraud Hall of Shame“. In theory, the Florida legislature corrected the accountability problems and the DOE has posted new regulations. Not so.