Schools of Hope is the latest panacea in Florida for economically and racially segregated schools. Low performing schools can either be closed or turned into charters. These charters, called Schools of Hope would be run by charters like KIPP that operate no-nonsense schools in low income areas. Students who survive the harsh discipline policies can do well. The others, often as many as forty percent of students, are counseled to leave school. What happens to these students?
In Chicago, the high concentration of charters has resulted in massive public school closures. Forty nine more schools are scheduled to close. When you open charters in neighborhoods, the public school becomes under enrolled. Often, children who need the most help are excluded from charters. Thus, the local school begins a downward spiral. Chicago now plans to open alternative schools for students who have dropped out all together. These are alternative schools in Florida. They are now under investigation.
There is a logic problem in this divide and separate philosophy. The State promises to provide $200 million in additional funds for these schools for the hopeless, for that is what the name implies. The psychology is wrong. Fire teachers and principals and bring in new, inexperienced teachers who do not meet certification requirements creates more problems than it solves.
What can be done instead? First, try giving existing schools the resources now. The extra million dollars for each struggling school would allow extra hours and summer instruction. Experienced teachers can be encouraged to improve the school. Provide some capital funding so that the school can be refurbished and make the community proud. Rearrange school schedules and make schools into community centers where all can participate. Build communities, do not destroy them.