Florida’s budget went up; education funding went down

This article gives perspective on the legislative priority for education. Everything else matters more. Adjusted for inflation since 2008, the state budget went from $79.9 to $83 billion. Education funding, also adjusted for inflation, went down $871.94 per student or down to $7293 per student. The percentage of the state budget allocated for education has declined from 32% to 29%. There is more money in the budget now, but less goes to education.

The drop in funding costs Marion County $24.9 million. What has it cost your county?

CRC: Nothing Subtle About This

The first Commission on the Constitutional Revision Committee has filed his proposals to amend the Florida Constitution. The one that struck me immediately was P0004 filed by Roberto Martinez. He simply struck the language prohibiting taking money from the State or political subdivisions or agency from the public treasury and giving it to religious denomination, church or sect.

Basically, this would enable vouchers to private schools which the Florida Constitution now prohibits

The voters would have to approve this amendment.

HB 7069 Lawsuit Growing

The lawsuit against HB 7069 has a law firm to represent the 11 school districts that have now joined the complaint about the Florida legislature’s attack on local public school board authority. The Florida Constitution states that local elected school boards govern our schools. The legislature believes it does. More districts are considering the suit. Thus far, only Sarasota has decided not to participate.

Bay
Broward
Hamilton
Lee
Martin
Miami-Dade
Orange
Palm Beach
Polk
St Lucie
Volusia

Sarasota voted not to join

Senator Simmons Replaced

The hero of the last legislative session fought a valiant effort for fairness and equity in education. Senator Simmons led the charge against the most egregious parts of HB 7069. As Chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Education, he was in a position to bargain. He tried to stem the flow of money to charter schools. He recognized the inequities. He saw the damage and possible unconstitutionality of taking local capital outlay from public schools and giving it to privately owned charters. His reward?

He was moved from his post on education to the appropriations subcommittee on general government. His replacement is a first term senator from Naples who just moved up from the House. The only thing I could find out about her was that she was in favor of school uniforms. She did support HB 7069, the religious expression bill and the textbook review bill. She campaigned on her record of consistently cutting taxes, so she should fit right in with Governor Scott’s priorities for the next session.

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