An uneasy feeling: It is happening here.

Will teacher certification standards tumble? Have you followed the story about SUNY’s (State University of New York) charter committee program to ‘certify’ teachers? It’s the anybody can teach approach.

With four hours of instruction by a qualified teacher holding a Master’s degree, a new teacher can become certified. You can check out the proposed New York regulations. Is it happening in Florida? Well….take a look.

Buried in HB 7069 is the teacher mentor program. For Florida district schools, teachers who hold temporary certificates and achieve a ‘highly effective’ rating do not have to sit the Professional Education Test (PET) or take additional course work.
Charter schools and charter management companies can certify their own teachers with ‘competency based programs’. They just have to have DOE approval for these programs.

The details and standards of these alternatives approaches to certification must be provided by the Florida DOE by December 31st, 2017. Districts and charters must submit their programs for approval by June, 2018.

The legislation clearly intended to improve retention of beginning teachers. Many begin teaching with temporary certificates, and about one third leave the profession without having completed the certification requirements. Four percent of district teachers leave each year, and ten percent of charter teachers leave.

Why is the charter school teacher attrition so high—low salaries, lack of retirement benefits and no teacher mentoring programs, according to a University of Florida study.

The legislature decided to fix the mentoring problem in HB 7069. See page 49. The impact of this provision could have ominous implications. The teacher shortage is real and is likely to become worse. The legislature is responding to a real problem by trying to find ways to certify teachers ‘on the job’. This has consequences that cannot be ignored.

Will small charters certify their own teachers? Will for-profit charter chains manipulate their own certification process to maintain teachers with questionable competence? Will districts maintain standards when faced with shortages? How will anyone know?

Everything is about saving money. How far down the road of lower standards will we have to go before the State recognizes that this piecemeal policy has disastrous consequences and does not address the problems we face? I remember a State Board of Education member telling me that “Teachers don’t teach for money; they teach because they love it.” Wishful thinking. Teachers have to eat too.

The Free and Reduced lunch income qualification for a family of four is 1.85 times the poverty level income or about $45,000. After twelve years, a Florida teacher average salary is $45,723. It just could be that it takes more than love to teach.

Downgrading certification standards will not contribute to the ‘love factor’, nor will it improve the quality of our schools. What are we willing to do about it? We need a continuing chorus that reaches the ears of those who do not listen carefully.

The PTA and HB 7069: The Poison Pill

After listing some of the ‘sweeteners’ in HB 7069 like recess and minor revisions to state assessment policies, the PTA got down to brass tacks. Here are their ‘poison pills’ in the bill for public schools:

  1. sharing local capital outlay with charter schools thus diminishing the ability of districts to maintain their facilities.
  2. a limit of 25 traditional public schools eligible for Schools of Hope wrap around funding.
  3. transfer of a portion of Title I funding away from schools with a high percentage of vulnerable students.
  4. a cap of the percentage of Title I funding that can be used for parental engagement.
  5. elimination of school improvement plans for schools grade A – C thus reducing the scope of School Advisory Committees and parental involvement in school governance.
  6. elimination of the DOE report comparing traditional public and charter schools as well as requiring charters to make this information public.
  7. excluding charters from the mandatory recess requirement.

How significant are these poison pills? Very. Most come at the expense of traditional schools which harms most schools for the benefit of a few. Then, the accountability that comes from collecting comparative data is taken away. Even though the Florida DOE report was not a valid comparison of charters and district run schools, it made the data available for meaningful comparisons by others. Studies that compare students based on their initial achievement levels and which control for retention and student dismissals provide insight into whether charters contribute to improved learning gains. Parents have the right to know!

Mom Guilt: Are charters a good choice?

A quote from the Tampa Bay Times article on the movement toward charters: “You don’t want to be the mom who made the wrong decision”. What is behind this concern:

  1. Children are leaving Lutz elementary, a well thought of district school, because they want to be first in line for a charter middle school.

  2. Why a charter middle school? Middle schools draw from a larger areas and parents are concerned that discipline problems increase during those years. The big take away is that some parents worry that district schools are less ‘safe’. Charters can dismiss students which parents can use as a warning to their own children.

Other parents and educators see the impact of choice on their communities. As one parent said, “I know we are not going to be a great city without great public schools.”

The choice system extends divides by class, race, opportunity and ideology. The public district choice options are to offer magnet programs and magnet schools. The advantage is that there is district planning and oversight which reduces fraud, abuse, and other mismanagement problems. It makes district planning more cost effective. It does not, in its current form, solve the equity problems for less affluent families. It’s only a step in the direction of equal access to high quality education.

I just read a column in the New York Times where David Leonhardt came down on the side of charter schools based in part on his reading about the positive impact in Florida for students who graduate from charter schools. I posted three summaries of studies re Florida charters:

  1. Charter High School Long Term Effects. Interesting that in Florida, the data from the study were from charter students entering high school back in 2002.  Those charter school 8th graders who went on to a charter high school were more affluent, less likely to be black, more likely to be Hispanic and not have an ESE designation (p.16).  Soooo, the conclusion is that charter school students who graduate from a charter high school do better on most out come measures e.g. college attendance, income etc. than 8th graders from charters who did not graduate from a charter high school.   To put it another way, in South Florida which has a high proportion of Hispanic students in charter schools, these students do better in the long run than lower income black students who return to district high schools.  Should this surprise anyone?

I also posted these additional studies:

  1. CREDO Urban Study shows in 5/7 Florida cities, charters did less well than comparable public district schools. Charters performed better in only one city.

  2. National Alliance of Public Charter Schools reports that, “despite consistent growth by charter schools in Florida, the schools have lagged on quality, diversity and innovation.” 2016.

Academic achievement aside, many decisions are about feelings. What do we do about the uncertainties we all face? I remember the famous saying from President Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. At the time, there were riots, food lines, and the looming prospect of war. Plenty to worry about. We made it then; we will make it through this time.

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.