Florida Twenty Years Later: Profits, Corruption, Closure

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.

Florida Twenty Years Later: Undermining Public Schools

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.

Want to hear Diane Ravitch and Me on Louisville Radio?

Prior to the Louisville, Kentucky Save Our Schools forum on Thursday, Diane and I were interviewed by the local radio. Diane is on the first seven minutes. I follow her. We cover privatization of schools and testing. We also covered social issues such as racial and economic segregation, charter vs. public school achievement, tax credit scholarships, teacher turnover Then, we cover for-profit charter profiteering. We close with the funding drain from public schools and describe the consequences for public school facilities and programs. We even mentioned the PACT campaign against for-profit charters. We closed with some signs of hope.

If you would like to listen, click here. The link is for October 11th and appears at the bottom of the screen.

Civics vs. Politics: Amendment 8 won’t go away

Amendment 8 is off the ballot. Using civics education to promote teaching creationism or to justify any other aspect of the ultra conservative ideology is still in play. The Tampa Tribune highlights civics education as a political issue in the Florida campaign for governor. It is not a surprise. Civics education was part of Amendment 8. It was not just a cover for the proposal to create a separate educational system for charter schools. It was part of a larger strategy to build support for privatizing our public schools.

Below find earlier posts on the civics issue in Florida. You can also get a preview of what to expect in the next legislative session by watching the video of the views of the two candidates for Florida’s governor.

https://lwveducation.com/politics-in-science-and-civics-curriculum/ What would be taught in a ‘new’ civics curriculum?

https://lwveducation.com/governor-graham-on-crc-education-amendment/ Civics education is a political ploy.

https://lwveducation.com/whats-going-on-with-civics-education/ College level civics test stalemate over how to define what will be covered in a new test.

Would you like to see and hear how the two Florida candidates for governor differ on education policy? Watch the video here.

Florida State School Board Overturns Leon County’s Vote on Classical Academy

The expansion of Classical Academies in Florida is part of the push by Senator Negron, Representative Corcoran and the pro Amendment 8 coalition. These are the charters sponsored by Hillsdale College, the conservative Christian college backed by the DeVos family. They do not call their curriculum religious. They call it the development of ‘moral character and civic virtue’. This is the same group behind the Classical Academies with which Erika Donalds is associated.

It is no surprise that Leon County’s rejection of this new charter school was overturned. At times school districts have had to resort to the courts when the State Board refused to support local school district decisions. In 2017, the Court of Appeals rejected the SBE decision to overturn the Indian River school board’s decision to block two for-profit charters that had shaky a financial management plan.

The Governor appoints State Board of Education members. There is no mechanism to balance its membership. School policy simply becomes political.

Integrity Florida Nails the For-Profit Charter Industry

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.

KEY EXCERPTS

  1. 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.
  2. Page 19: For-profit charters hurt public schools…substantial share of public expenditure…extracted for personal or business financial gain.
  3. Page 21: Lease and management fees are largest income source of for-profit charters.
  4. Page 22: 373 charters have closed.
  5. Page 24: Corruption continues even after 2016 legislative reforms.
  6. Page 25: Charters cherry pick students to reduce costs and services for struggling students.
  7. 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.
  8. 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:

  1. Limit charter expansion.
  2. Report for-profit charter expenditures and profits by school.
  3. Fund public schools sufficiently to remove competition.
  4. Limit the amount of public funds for leases.
  5. 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.

District-Charter Compacts

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.

Continue reading

Death by a Thousand Cuts

Valerie Strauss, in the Washington Post, shares an article outlining the history of school privatization….and why it matters.

The history, written by Joanne Barkan, is well documented. It centers on the backlash from desegregation, and ties it to the increasing role of the federal government in education. For example, the first federal charter school legislation was signed by President Bill Clinton. Yet nearly twenty-five years later, support for charters and vouchers is waning. The reasons are spelled out in the discussion of the following topics:

*Sowing the seeds of market based reform
*Building a movement from the top down
*Anatomy of vouchers and charter schools
*Charter school performance
*A closer look at vouchers
*Corruption and segregation
*Shifting landscape

Even in a world where facts matter less, it is possible to help people become aware of what they can lose in the ‘world of choice’.

What are Parents’ Real Choices with Schools?

Do Floridians want one school system that is equitable or several, each with its own rules? In today’s Gainesville Sun, the League asks three critical questions to help parents decide which choice to make for their schools: Who pays?, Who is in control?, and What does it matter? In an expanded system of choice, local voters are asked to pay more than the State to compensate for less funding and cost inefficiency due to expanded choices. Go to a charter and pay more in hidden fees and transportation. Go private and select a cheap school or pay the difference in tuition. Go public and worry the funding may not fix the air conditioning.

The State and private education management companies take control away from locally elected school boards. Parents lose their voices in how choice schools are owned and managed. “Don’t like it, then leave” is the response to complaints.

All of this matters. Schools are becoming more segregated by income and student ability while our nation is becoming more diverse. Student achievement stays flat in our choice system. The reason is clear; students learn better when they learn together. Isolate poor children, and they feel they have no stake in the system. Isolate high income children, they don’t learn the real world skills needed to be successful. The kids in the middle disappear; no one is thinking about them.

Students who learn only in like minded groups will be ill prepared for the diverse world in which they will work. Learning to live together starts in schools. The real choice is whether we value the diverse world in which we live or try to escape it by creating mini school clusters of like minded people. You can read the article here. It comes out under our local president’s name.

Hillsborough Charter Expose

For years, the Hillsborough League has studied the inner workings of charters in their county. Here is an opportunity to hear first hand of their findings. Pat Hall has chaired the education committee for years and is relentless in her research and documentation of how for-profit charters work…for themselves. Listen to the podcast by Teacher Voice.