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Education Issues Blog

To Educate and Inform on Issues Relating to Public Education

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Our blog is a tool box. Make it work for you. Here you will find data, studies, and perspectives that inform the discussion about school choice. Send stories of events in your state. Tell us about studies that clarify issues. Do your own studies. Use the information you find here to advocate for League positions.

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Let’s Put Florida Public Education Advocacy on the National Stage

Have you registered for the Network for Public Education conference in Philadelphia March 28? If you are an advocate for public education, you will want to be there. This is a time for Florida to get reinvigorated. The NPE conference is the place to do it. Organize some of your colleagues to join Pat Hall, Robin Jones and me as we present our panel on Florida charter school business practices. It is eye opening!! There are many other thought provoking panels as well.

Please share this post with your groups and encourage them to join us. Let’s be sure that Florida shows up. ūüėÄ

Register here.

Florida wastes $37 million on charters that never opened or soon closed

The federal grants awarded between 2006-14 for 186 Florida charters were wasted.  Forty six of these charters never opened at all.  Others closed.  You can see the list of federal charter startup grants with the amount of funds lost for each here.  A few received $25,000 planning grants and then decided not to open; others received hundreds of thousands of dollars to launch a charter and either did not open or shut down.  The Florida Times Union calls for better oversight.

The big money went to charter management organizations.  For example:

Charter Schools of Excellence received $2,911,355

Life Skills Centers received $1,608,844

Newpoint received $2,479,612 (and the owners have gone to jail).

The most recent closure data includes even more failed charters…410. ¬†Some of these did not receive federal start up grants. ¬†Put it all together, and there is nearly a forty percent chance that a charter school will fail.

Charters tend to target big population centers, but even there charters close at a high rate.    Thousands of children and their families have been  disrupted.  The counties with the most closed charters are in:

Broward:  59 charters closed

Dade:  53 charters closed

Hillsborough:  35 charters closed

Orange:  18 charters closed

Palm Beach:  42 charters closed

Some in the charter industry argue that high closure rates are good; they show the market economy works.  Others argue that parents are being fed false promises.  Children are not commodities to be discarded if they are not profitable.

DeVos Report Confirms Loss of Federal Dollars for Charters

The Network for Public Education’s (NPE) two reports…Asleep at the Wheel…claimed that over a billion dollars in federal funds were lost due to charters that never opened or quickly closed. The charter industry was enraged, scoffed, and claimed that the reports were inaccurate. NPE’s Carol Burris replied in this story published by the Washington Post. Carol underestimated the amount lost! It seems that DeVos reported to Congress that two billion dollars were actually lost.

Time periods in the compared reports varied somewhat, but the problem is actually worse than NPE’s report indicated. Carol explains the differences. What cannot be explained is where the money went. Both the Congress and the U.S. Department of Education were Asleep at the Wheel.

Florida Legislators at Work….For Themselves

Remember when the three Jefferson County schools were closed and taken over by Academica, the largest for-profit charter management company in the state?  The story makes your hair curl.  Here is a report by WLRN news that details where the money came from and where it went. Find out how Academica works and how the students fared.

New funding included a $2.5 million special appropriation from the Florida Legislature, $2 million from federal startup grant funds, and a $1.9 million interest free loan from Academica’s Somerset division. ¬†This was funding denied unless it became a charter district.¬†Academica received $327,000 in fees in 2017-18 to manage the fewer than 800 student K12 school. ¬†The per student cost rose to $16,600 which school leaders recognize cannot be sustained. ¬†The state pays much less.

The behind the scenes orchestrators for the takeover were Senators Manny Diaz and Anitere Flores, both of whom have close ties to Academica. Diaz is an administrator at Doral College and is Chair of the Senate Education Committee.  Flores is deputy Majority Leader for the Florida Senate and moved from being the head of Doral College to the Academica foundation.  The current Doral College president, Rodriquez,  was named to supervise the transition of the Jefferson County schools to Academica.

In previous posts, I reported on a series of misdeeds associated with Diaz and Flores related to their association with Doral College. ¬†The college was bankrupt and had no students or faculty when Academica took it on. ¬†It now offers online courses to Academica students. ¬†The credit was worthless because the college had no accreditation. ¬†Diaz worked to get a private school accreditation agency to recognize the college. ¬†Diaz’s personal interest is noted here.¬†¬†

What is the result of the takeover? ¬†Behavioral specialists were hired to help students, teacher salaries increased, and the physical facilities were improved. Initially, the school grades rose to a ‘C’, but the elementary school has now reverted to a ‘D’. ¬†The increase in the percentage of students passing the FSA state examinations in order to raise the school grades may have had as much to do with discipline policies as with learning strategies. ¬†The charter school policy created a 45 day suspension policy in which students were given a laptop and sent home. ¬†They were to take online classes from Doral College. ¬†Many students never returned. ¬†It is one way to raise school grades…just limit which students take the tests.

There is no question that the years of neglect in Jefferson County created the abysmal schools.  Parents who could, mostly white, had left for private schools or for schools in nearby Leon County.  Those few students who remained had the greatest needs and the fewest resources.  No doubt some students and their families were grateful for the influx of new funding for the charter district, but it cannot last.    

This is the result of a choice system in which racial and economic segregation flourishes as described in ‘Tough Choices‘, a report sponsored by the Leroy Collins Institute at Florida State University. ¬†It has happened in other Florida cities. ¬†It is the dark side of a choice system that favors some at the expense of others.

 

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