2016 Education Budget Battles:

dollar-163473_1280Money talks.  This budget battle speaks volumes about what is important in the legislature this year.  Everyone promises more money to education–sort of.  The biggest issue is over how much of the increase local property taxes must pick up.  Governor Scott allocates 85% of the increase to local communities.  Senator Gaetz has expressed concern about the tax burden on local property taxes.  He is suggesting a 50-50 split between the State budget and the local effort.   There is likely to be about a $175 increase per student which will at least equal the 2007 funding.

This is how the money wars break down:


Governor Scott:  $500 million increase with $75 million each for charters and public school facilities

House:                $601 million increase with $90 million for charters and $50 million for public school facilities

Senate:               $650 million increase with $ 50 million only for public schools

There is another battle brewing over funding for school facilities.  As long as so many charters are run by for-profit companies, it is hard to be sympathetic to charter claims that they deserve more public money for their privately owned school buildings.  Representative Fresen is leading the charge for facilities funding for charters this year.  He is trying to discredit public school construction projects.  He argues that the 650 charter schools should receive $90 million for facilities while the nearly 4,000 traditional public schools would receive only $50 million. 

The fact that Representative Fresen’s wife and brother-in-law run Academica, the largest for-profit charter management firm with 100 schools, would not factor into his thinking, of course.  You do remember that these large management firms have their own real estate companies that buy and/or lease facilities to the charter boards.  Some of these leases are over a million dollars per year.







ACTION ALERT: Oppose Bills to Gut School Districts

const amendIt is time to say ‘No’ to constitutional amendments that strip local control of schools.

The League of Women Voters has issued an ACTION ALERT.  Two bills have been filed to amend the Florida Constitution:

HJR 7059 would strip local school district authority to approve charter schools and place the authority in a state controlled charter institute.

HJR 530 would allow cities to withdraw from county school districts and form their own.

We need to OPPOSE these bills.  CLICK HERE to see how.


More Money, but Who Pays?

dollar-726881_1280Everyone wants more money for education this year, but where will it come from?  Governor Scott’s plan includes $507 million more, but 85% comes from local property taxes.  The House plan calls for $601 million with 84% from local property taxes.  The Senate plan has a larger increase $650 million, and for now a similar percentage for local effort.  Senator Gaetz, however, will roll out alternative funding formulas that could increase the state share.



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Reality Checks on School Choice

Florida and Arizona are the big school choice states.  Nationally, most (86%) of children attend traditional public schools.  In Florida, about 80% of school age children attend public schools.  Not surprising is the fact that both states are near the bottom in public school funding.  Somehow choice is marketed as a way to improve educational opportunity, but the reality is different.  Choice is cheaper but not better.  A summary of the National School Board report follows.  The full report can be accessed here.

This week is the National School Choice Week. But what does choice really mean? Where does choice exist? And most importantly, what does it do for student ​achievement?

As one of the most touted education reform strategies, let’s take an unbiased look at what choices are and what research says about their effectiveness. After all, what parents and communities want mostly are good schools. And “choice” is no guarantee for good schools. As the Center for Public Education pointed out in its report, school choices work for some students sometimes, are worse for some students sometimes, and are usually no better or worse than traditional public schools.

You might also be surprised to find out that parents overwhelmingly choose to send their children to the neighborhood public school, and that more students are enrolled in a choice school within the public school system than outside of it.

Some reality checks on choice

  • A relatively small percentage of school-aged children are enrolled in schools of choice: 16 percent in public schools of choice, 13 percent in non-public schools of choice.
  • Nearly 90 percent of children attend public schools, a percentage that has remained constant for 40 years.
  • Public schools offer choice programs including magnet and charter schools, inter- and intra-district transfer, etc.
  • The national on-time high school graduation rate in public schools is at all-time high.
  • About three-fourths of charter schools performed about the same as or worse than traditional public schools.
  • Private school vouchers and tuition tax credits (funded by tax dollars) have no conclusive evidence of effectiveness.

Check out the entire report School Choice: What the Research Says.

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Collier County Fights Over Textbook Bill

by Judy Palay, Collier County

legislation1Is it OK to read Harry Potter in school?  Collier County has a fight on its school board over the review of instructional materials in schools. Parents on both sides have organized.

There is a bill in the legislature that removes district control of instructional materials.  Judy Palay reports on the conflict and the reasons why many parents oppose SB 1018/HB 899 and others support it.

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Feedback Wanted on Proposed Constitutional Amendment for School District Changes

legislation1Representative Caldwell and Senator Brandes are looking for feedback.  Their bill HJR 530 would allow cities to withdraw from county school districts and form their own district.  Of course, cities have the revenue.  Thus, the remainder of the counties would be strapped for cash.  There is criticism about the proposal even among other Republican party members.  The bill, if passed, would become a constitutional amendment.

Since the legislators have asked for feedback, we should provide some.


Send your thoughts to:

[email protected]

[email protected]



A Dog Fight for the Soul of Education

teacher-403004_1280 (1)Last week the Alachua County school board faced some harsh realities.  The teacher shortage has hit home.  We now have long term substitutes for positions we cannot fill.  Board members attended the Rally in Tally to support our schools and teachers.  They announced that 4,000 people were there.

Perhaps the most hopeful moment at the board meeting came when a parent, Kanh-Lien Banko spoke.




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teacher-23304_1280I saw a bit of trivia in the Tampa Bay Times the other day.  It made me laugh or cry, not sure which, at life’s absurdities.

Based on VAM achievement gain scores only, 32 teachers in 18 districts had highly effective evaluations and 5 districts had elementary teachers who consistently earned unsatisfactory ratings over 4 years.  Such small numbers can only mean that VAM scores are worthless.

There are 175,006 teachers in Florida.  Could it just possibly be that VAM scores reflect which students are assigned to a teacher rather than which teacher is assigned to a class?  It does not take high level critical thinking to answer this question.

The Florida legislature could come up with a better evaluation system.  Almost any one of the options would be better if laced with a little common sense.




Church vs. State: Why?

church-414889_1280 This week’s rally against the FEA lawsuit brought out 10,000 people.  If those people lived in Ireland, many would change their views.  The Catholic Church runs almost all public schools in Ireland.  It’s in their constitution.  What does this mean for non-Catholics?

In today’s New York Times, there is a report of a growing movement to separate church and state.  Here’s why:






  • Students must be baptized to be admitted to public school.
  • Almost all public schools are run by the Catholic Church.
  • At least 1/2 hour per day is ‘devoted’ to religious training in Catholicism.
  • Students who are not Catholic are put at the end of long waiting lists to get into school.
  • Morning prayers and preparation for the sacraments are part of the day.
  • Non Catholics seldom have any alternative place in a school to go during religious instruction.
  •  While regular church attendance is down to 14% in Dublin, parents often submit to baptism requirements to be able to enroll their children in school.
  • Non Catholic parents face long school waiting lists and long commutes.

Irish law guarantees freedom of religion in public schools, but it also allows enrollment based on religious preference.  In reality, parents have little choice.

Florida’s system of choice moves the educational system toward exclusion and religious, racial, and socioeconomic segregation.  There is a lawsuit over this in Florida.  There is also one in Ireland.  Our founding fathers recognized this problem.

We need to reaffirm the need to keep church and state separate.  When the shoe is on the other foot, as in Ireland, it hurts.