League of Women Voters Launches Education 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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Scott Cites Budget Surplus

Once again there are promises on the table. As last year, Governor Scott’s budget calls for education funding increases. He would push for a $200 per child funding increase and increased revenue from property taxes. Will anything come of it?

The battle in the legislature will be over privatization once again. Proposed changes to the Florida constitution would eliminate the separation of church and state and expand vouchers. Charter school districts would create a separate school system. Expansion of who can approve new charter schools beyond elected school boards would create a back room bargaining network that would be impossible to manage.

Class sizes will continue to grow as limits disappear in proposed legislation from the Bush Foundation’s Patricia Levesque. Just think, the legislative session has not even begun, and we already are shaking our heads in disbelief. Governor Scott has a projected budget surplus with which to bargain. Let’s hope it will not be the Faustian bargain it was last year.

Gutting Class Size Limits

The latest from the Bush foundation is to gut the class size limits. Yes, the legislature has been doing this for years by exempting almost all classes. Any ‘elective’ is exempt, like American literature, marine biology, AP classes…or any school choice magnet programs, so those classes are much larger. Basic reading, writing and math courses are still covered. Scott Maxwell describes the persistent effort by the Bush ‘Excellence? in Education’ foundation to equate excellence with cheap. It’s a hard case to make, but Patricia Levesque, CEO of the Bush foundation is doing her best. Let’s hope it is not good enough to further erode the quality of our public schools.

Think about the impact of large class sizes for young children. Think about the impact of large classes we now have for children learning languages. You know more examples.

Levesque and Bobby Martinez, co-members of the Constitutional Revision Commission have filed an amendment to the Florida constitution. The voters have the final say at the November 2018 election. Read Scott Maxwell’s article and decide how you will vote.

NPE: Charter Management Exposed

The Network for Public Education summarized the dangers inherent in charter school practices that hurt children and communities. They give detailed examples. Here’s a quick list of problems and an important list of recommendations to manage the chaos that the choice system has created. Adherence to a free-market, no regulation philosophy is not necessary to have reasonable choices for children. Unregulated school choice is creating a monstrous problem with:

Charters that are not free public schools.
Charter students who need not attend school to graduate.
Charters for the wealthy..
Charters with secret profits
Seedy charters in storefronts.
Charters paying kids.
Religious charters.
Charters for political parties.
Charters faking achievement data.
Charters shedding students.
Shady charter business practices.
Charters that exacerbate segregation.
Charters that exclude students with disabilities.

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE. The NPE list of recommendations represent a growing consensus:

Impose a moratorium on charter expansion.
Ban for-profit charters and charter chains.

Make charter management companies’ accounting systems transparent.
Ensure students’ due process rights in admission and dismissals.
Ensure enrollments are representative of community demographics.
Require openly disclosed bidding processes.
Review property leases and bond issues for appropriate costs.
Revert ownership of closed charter facilities to districts.
Strengthen local district authorization and oversight of charters.

With little or no oversight, abuse is given free rein. Which is the greater evil, reasonable rules or exploiting students and families for personal gain?

Tampa Teachers are Angry: Promises Not Kept

Education is the billionaires playground, and they are making a mess of it. The school choice movement is based on the theory that competition among schools and pressure on teachers will make students learn. In 2010, Bill Gates (Microsoft) came to Tampa to show how it is done. He promised $100 million dollars if the school board would try out his teacher evaluation system. The teachers and the district bought in. It’s a pay to play system. Teachers whose ratings were satisfactory would eventually be given raises…maybe.

Gates decided his system did not work. He pulled out and took his money with him. Twenty million dollars for salary raises disappeared. In 2015, his system was scrapped.

It gets worse. The Superintendent was fired in spite of being a finalist for national superintendent of the year. She was fired because she and some pro choice members of the Tampa school board did not get along. Some are currently under fire for taking campaign money from for-profit charter schools. The public would have to fire them.

Superintendent Elia did alright; Elia was hired as New York’s State Superintendent.

The education reform system put Hillsborough schools in financial trouble. More charters have opened. More children are in low quality private schools. Now, the teacher raises promised three years ago were cancelled. Students have walked out to support their teachers. The teachers came out in the hundreds this week to protest to the school board.

The public has been duped by the reform movement. Beware of strangers bearing gifts. Beware of school board members who accept them. Beware of the myth of cheap charters. It does not take a financial wizard to recognize that if you pool your resources, you have more funding. If you divide funds into charters, private schools and district run schools, you have less.

Now the public has a choice. Support your teachers or lose them. Support more charters and vouchers, lose not only quality in the classroom, but also the quality of the classrooms. Florida already has one of the lowest cost education systems in the country. The billionaires like Gates, Waltons (Walmart) and Koch (oil) know about making money. In Florida, they are figuring out how to bleed a turnip. The public gets what is left when they are through. In Tampa, it is a mess.

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