Hints about the education agendas of the Florida legislature are beginning to emerge. House Speaker Oliva (R. Miami-Dade) wants to create education savings accounts to expand schools choice. Senate leaders call for a review of school choice and improved funding for public schools. See the report by the Tallahassee Democrat here.
The trend to reevaluate school choice policy is not unique to the Florida Senate. The Fordham Institute, a pro-choice think tank, published a report called ‘The End of Educational Policy’. The authors state that the fight over education reform is a draw. The authors acknowledge that it has been a ‘Lost Decade’ for achievement gains as reflected by the flat NAEP scores for the past ten years. We can expect ‘incremental growth in school choice options, but no appetite for big, bold new initiatives’. There is, in other words, no looming take over of public schools.
What can be expected? Modest proposals for better management and oversight of charter schools for one thing. Other goals of the Fordham Institute include better teacher preparation, and improved career and technical education programs to help foster higher academic skills for high school graduates.
Nowhere in the Fordham article is any mention of improving incentives to help the teaching profession attract and retain more qualified college graduates. Nor is there any acknowledgement of the decline in funding for public education infrastructure. Instead, there is a continued reliance on testing and accountability ratings as the means to improve our schools. There is a call to focus on the achievement gains of all students, not just those children struggling to become proficient on state tests.
The Florida legislature will no doubt make some effort to curb the abuses of school choice management practices. If these measures are to be meaningful, they must address the for-profit management of charters, the lack of standards for private schools receiving tax credit scholarships, and the irresponsible creation of charters that screen and dismiss students rather than address their achievement needs. Perhaps the Senate will call for a moratorium on the expansion of choice in order to reevaluate education policy.