Remember when the first Classical Charter school in Florida was founded in Collier County? Now there are several, but their reach is expanding nationwide. Their founder, Erika Donalds, was recently extolled by Donald Trump at a Moms for Liberty rally. Mother Jones magazine, founded in 1976, has put the spotlight on Donalds. You can learn about her history, issues, and associations here. Donalds is likely to be a major spokesperson for abolishing the Florida constitutional provision requiring the separation of church and state in the public funding of religious charter schools. The attacks on public education have been relentless. Do we really want our schools to be dominated by particular ideologies? Shouldn’t public schools welcome children of all faiths and ethnicities? Should public tax dollars fund private, religious schools?
This book is timely. It is personal. It describes real events led by passionate people who have made a difference. It gives hope.
Who is David and who is Goliath in the battle over public schools? The ‘Disrupters’, as Diane Ravitch calls them, are the corporate giants behind the move to destroy public schools. Ravitch devotes an entire chapter to those who seek to dismantle public schools and profit from public tax dollars. David is the ‘Resistance’, or the millions of parents, teachers, and students whose interest public education serves. They are the ultimate winners in this war for the heart of our democracy. It is a classic David vs. Goliath tale.
Ravitch asserts that David is triumphing once again. She backs up her assertions by dismantling claims that testing, rewards and punishments, and school choice will result in better educational opportunities for children. She underscores her points with examples of the failure of the Disrupters in Chicago, New Orleans, New York and Washington D.C. among others. She cites evidence to underscores how Disrupters shift course as each of their assertions fails. No meaningful achievement gains have been realized. Teachers have voted with their feet as teaching vacancies mount nationally. The greed and corruption of the movement to privatize schools can no longer be hidden. Communities and even states have put on the brakes. Choice has stagnated as charters close as often as they open, and parents remove children from ineffective private schools.
Ravitch credits the many volunteers who advocate for public schools and galvanize unease into action. Parents now understand that ranking students and schools on test scores creates few winners and a plethora of losers. They recognize that students who do not ‘fit In’ are excluded. They are uncomfortable about the lack of equity among increasingly segregated charter and private schools. They are angry about how money is siphoned off as public schools struggle to repair roofs and air conditioners.sikisxxx arap pornoZ
Perhaps the strongest message from Slaying Goliath is the power of ideas. In this arena, the corporate giants become small people with limited goals. The greatest strength of The Resistance, says Ravitch, is citizens who are motivated by “a passion for children, a passion for education, a commitment to their community, a dedication to democracy, and a belief in the value of public schools”.
This is no time for complacency. The power of the purse is undisputed. No doubt major propaganda campaigns will be launched by the Corporate Disruptors to regain their edge. It reminds me of the Franklin D. Roosevelt quote: …the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. Slaying Goliath documents the assumptions and strategies of fear mongers. It provides hope that the nation is turning its attention to resolving inequities and restoring the joy of learning.
Pam Stewart has resigned as of the date Governor DeSantis is inaugurated. Rumors abound that DeSantis has fingered former House Speaker and school privatization advocate Richard Corcoran for the job. Do you hire someone to run Florida’s public schools who wants to end public schools? Corcoran’s bio tells a lot about him. He graduated from St. Leo and earned his law degree from Regents University (RU). RU was founded by Pat Robertson as the Christian Broadcasting Network University whose goal is to foster Christian leaders. While Corcoran was a bankruptcy attorney, he soon became career politician. He first ran for office in 2008. He has now term limited out of the House and is job hunting.
The law states that the State Board of Education (SBE) appoints the State Superintendent, not the Governor The SBE typically does national searches. Florida needs qualified education leaders who have training and experience. Who we have so far is Rep. Jennifer Sullivan as House Education Chair. Sullivan wrote the curriculum for TeenPact on the proper role of government. TeenPact is sponsored by Americans for Prosperity. She was home schooled and a college drop out from a private Christian college. She says her ignorance could be an asset.
Senate Education Committee Chair, Manny Diaz, graduated from St. Thomas and earned a masters degree from Nova which may account for his support for online education. He does have experience in public schools. He also has joined the for-profit Academica charter management firm as Chief Operating Officer of Doral College, an online non accreditated school created to offer dual enrollment to high school students taught by their teachers. The credit does not transfer to any other college, but it does provide a six figure salary to Diaz.
Now are Floridians to be offered Richard Corcoran, career politician and school privatization advocate to implement legislative policy? Granted the Governomr appoints members to the State Board of Education, but are they simply to rubber stamp the Governor’s agenda? Is there any room in the policy leadership for the interests of the 80% of children who attend Florida’s traditional public schools? Will anyone have an interest in curbing the abuses of the unregulated charter and private tax credit scholarship schools? See the Tampa Bay Times’ take on the issue.
Here is Part 2 of the series I did for Diane Ravitch on where the lack of common rules governing charter and private schools leads. The simple answer is profiteering, corruption and charter school closures.
The first post “Florida Twenty Years Later: Undermining Public Schools” covers the false assumptions behind the choice movement i.e. choice saves money and spurs innovation. What really has happened the last twenty years to school facilities, teachers, and the learning process that demonstrate Florida schools are nearing a crisis? You can read it here.
Diane Ravitch asked me to do a series on my reflections about the impact of school choice in Florida. I did four articles that will appear daily in her blog.
The first post “Florida Twenty Years Later: Undermining Public Schools” appeared in her blog today. It covers the false assumptions behind the choice movement i.e. choice saves money and spurs innovation. What really has happened the last twenty years to school facilities, teachers, and the learning process that demonstrate Florida schools are nearing a crisis? You can read it here.
The second piece: “Twenty Years Later: Impact of Charter and Private Sector Schools” summarizes where the lack of common rules governing schools leads. The simple answer is profiteering, corruption and charter school closures.
The third piece: “Twenty years later: Who Benefits, Not Schools!” covers the impact of choice policies on civil rights, funding, local vs. state control, and accountability. One might ask: Who benefits in a system that generates so much conflict? Politicians and profiteers, but not the public may well be the answer.
The fourth piece “Twenty Years Later: The SociaI Impact of Privatizaton” covers resegregation and the result of the ‘separate but equal’ philosophy governing school choice. Separate is not equal.
In 2016, Pinellas County schools were in a crisis they made themselves. Five schools were labeled “Failure Factories”. They were the result of a 2007 school board decision to end busing and allow the resegregation of schools. Prior to 2007, Pinellas was under a federal school integration plan. When busing ended, south Pinellas schools became very segregated. In theory, these mostly minority schools were promised district support; in practice little support was given. As a result, they could not keep teachers or students and achievement levels plummeted. Of the 187 Florida schools whose students were from families as poor or poorer, only seven had lower achievement scores than the ‘Failure Factories’. The pattern of the increase in the achievement gap as schools became more segregated is a national problem.
In 2016, Pinellas school district launched a massive effort to turn around these five schools and to eliminate the achievement gap in all schools, by infusing data driven instruction, faculty training to change expectations for their students, teacher bonuses, and a host of other support programs for students and families. The report is out for the first year. Schools improved slightly on five measures: graduation rate, advanced coursework enrollment, ESE identification, minority hiring, and student discipline. On the sixth measure, closing the achievement gap between white and black students, there was no change. Approximately one-third of the black students earned a level 3 score, indicating proficiency or near proficiency levels in math and English language skills.
Pinellas set a ten-year goal to end the achievement gap. It is too early to predict how well students will fare. Some schools made more progress than others. Gains may be uneven from year-to-year. Why this is so matters. Is it a difference in attitude of students and the school community, a meaningful difference in the implementation of the plan in particular schools, or changes in socio-economic differences in student backgrounds within schools? Student enrollment within a school can change dramatically from year-to-year as families move around or enroll and then withdraw children in charters and tax credit supported private schools. These are the questions the district must address to give meaning to the data. Numbers do not tell the real story; they just shine a light on a problem.
It is short sighted to put fingers of blame on the districts alone. Elected school boards reflect community values. The entire community must be committed to providing equal access to a high quality education for all students. Finding ways to create equal access within and across schools is a challenge thwarted by the more segregated housing patterns that have evolved in the last twenty years.
A newly released report by Integrity Florida underscores the Florida League of Women Voters concerns about charter school policy and its negative impact on public schools. Remember that charters are funded by public tax dollars but run by private companies. The report focuses on the abuse and negative impact of for-profit charters in Florida.
It’s all here.
- Page 17-18. For-profit charters like Academica, CSUSA, Imagine and S.M.A.R.T. perform less well than similar students in traditional public schools.
- Page 19: For-profit charters hurt public schools…substantial share of public expenditure…extracted for personal or business financial gain.
- Page 21: Lease and management fees are largest income source of for-profit charters.
- Page 22: 373 charters have closed.
- Page 24: Corruption continues even after 2016 legislative reforms.
- Page 25: Charters cherry pick students to reduce costs and services for struggling students.
- Page 26: Charters use money and influence to affect policy outcomes. $2,651,639 was spent on committee and campaign contributions in 2016 alone. John Kirtley, who heads many of these committees also is chair of Step Up for Students which distributes a billion dollars in corporate tax credit scholarships to private schools. All Children Matters, run by Betsy DeVos, gave over $4 million to Florida political committees between 2004 and 2010. The Walton family gave over $7 million between 2008 and 2016 to Florida’s All Children Matter. Large contributions by the Waltons, John Kirtley, CSUSA, Academica, Gary Chartrand, and others were also made to the Florida Federation for Children. For profit charters have spent over $8 million in lobbying in Tallahassee.
- Page 35: Conflict of interest claims in the Florida legislature have been made against current and former legislators including Richard Corcoran, Manny Diaz, Anitere Flores, Michael Bileca, Eric Fresen, John Legg, Seth McKeel, Kelli Stargel, Ralph Arza, and Will Weatherford.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?
There are a number of management practices recommended including the publication of charter contracts, prohibition of advertising for students, and increasing local school district oversight authority. Other specific recommendations include:
- Limit charter expansion.
- Report for-profit charter expenditures and profits by school.
- Fund public schools sufficiently to remove competition.
- Limit the amount of public funds for leases.
- Report number of charter student drop outs, withdrawals, and expulsions.
California has gone a step further. Last week the governor signed a bill to prohibit further expansion of for-profit charters.
The League of Women Voters case against Amendment 8 wins in the Florida Supreme Court. It will be removed from the November 6th ballot. The vagueness of the amendment language and its misleading title: “School Board Term Limits and Duties; Public Schools” was the basis for the justices’ 3 to 4 ruling. This is significant in many ways.
The decision puts a roadblock in the effort to create an alternative charter school system. This is a basic goal of the school privatization effort. No doubt some legislators will continue to push proposals to remove any local school board control of charter schools. In reality, local public schools have little ability now to oversee these charters, but they must authorize new charters. Removing this power to authorize charters is seen as limiting the expansion of charters.
The amendment included three unrelated proposals. In addition to the proposed removal of local school board authority to authorize charter schools were two additional proposals. The first one was to impose term limits on school board members. The second proposal was to require civics in K12 curriculum. Civics is already required in the Florida curriculum; it just was not in the constitution. All three proposals are now removed from the ballot.
This is just another step in the long journey to reaffirm the importance of our public school system.
Public education is about the value and necessity of providing equal access to high quality education. As public funds get diverted to private schools and entrepreneurs, the public school system gets more and more fractured. There is less money as cost inefficiencies mount. More communities are fractured by race, income, and academic programs. In areas where privatization is dominant, parents must search for a school to accept their children. If transportation is a problem, as it often is, they may not have good choices because available schools may be segregated racially, economically and/or by achievement levels. They may not even have a way to evaluate the quality of the available options.
By design, no one really knows much about where the money is spent and what is happening in privately operated schools. Parents who question are invited to withdraw their children. Children who do not ‘fit in’ are invited to leave. There are people in leadership positions for whom children can be ploys in policies to implement a political and/or religious agenda. Proponents celebrate their successes without regard for the children they exclude, dismiss or serve poorly. Parents learn this the hard way.
Most private schools are openly religious. Many charters are covertly supporting particular religious orientations e.g. those housed in religious facilities or that espouse a particular set of ‘Christian or other values’.
Many charters and private schools do not support children with special needs or who are learning English as a second language.
The Schott Foundation and the Network for Public Education analyzed data to assess support for public education in each state. Overall, Florida received an ‘F’. You can see state-by-state results here.
The criteria include:
1. Types and extent of school privatization
2. Civil rights protection of students in private school voucher and charter programs
3. Accountability, regulations and oversight
4. Transparency of voucher and charter programs
5. Other charter school accountability issues
Florida’s low grade is due several factors:
1. It has the most school privatization of all states.
2. Students receiving vouchers and tax-credit scholarships are not required to participate in the state testing or teacher certification programs. Private schools are not required to be accredited. Thus, most are small religious schools of unknown quality. Private schools are also exempt from federal civil rights protection. Children can be denied admission or expelled for any reason.
What would improve accountability?
1. Comparable pubic and private school student achievement measures.
2. Transparency in how money is spent for charter and voucher ESE students by individual schools.
3. Comparable attrition and discipline measures for public, charter and private schools.
4. Public accountability of spending by charter management firms.
5. Stronger provisions to avoid conflict of interest between charter board members and management companies.
6. Return school facilities to the public if charters close.
This is worth more than a glance. You can see the impact or lack thereof, of a Gates Foundation program to improve collaboration between districts and charters. The evaluation of this effort gives specific examples based on 23 District charter collaborations formed across the nation since 2011. The Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) report cited what was and was not accomplished and why.