INSIGHT ON FLORIDA'S "REFORM"

Florida Charter School "Boom": Warning Signs
There is a charter boom going on with too many oddities:

1) 15 of 30 "F" schools in Florida are charters. "Then last year in Florida, charter schools received 15 out of 31 of all the failing FCAT grades that went to public schools. Charter elementary and middle schools were seven times more likely to get an F than traditional public schools."
Read full article here. http://www.edreform.com/2012/04/05/charter-schools-must-be-accountable/

2) VP Joe Biden's brother is associated with charter Mavericks HS, which has accounting and performance issues - plus a desire to open 100. Third whistle blower on alleged fraud emerges. Frank Biden has real estate experience.
Read full article here.http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/pulp/2012/04/third_whistleblower_lawsuit_mavericks_palm_springs_mechato.php

3) Parents signed up for an arts-oriented charter, but were not told of its association with Scientology.
Read more here. http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/article1217694.ece

4) Duval School Board, in North Florida, followed the rules on charter applications and denied an application. The charter took it to a Charter School Appeal Board established by the State School Board. The appeal board sided with the school board and against the charter. The charter took it to the State Board (all members are appointed), which overturned the appeal board and the district. The district is taking this one to court. What are the rules? Who decides? Murky. More loss of local control?
Read more here. http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2012-03-28/story/duval-state-odds-over-virtual-charter-school

5) Then there was the recent Parent Trigger mess. Florida residents were denied opportunity to speak at committee meetings and at hearings to give opposing views, while proponents from outside the State were given that access. This is hardly an example of democracy. The good news is that the bill failed. It deserved to fail...the "devil is in the details."
Read more here http://grumpythings.blogspot.com/2012/03/parent-trigger-scholastic-snake-oil.html and here http://grumpythings.blogspot.com/2012/03/florida-parent-trigger-too-many-holes.html

6) Florida took Race to the Top funding and school districts are under strain trying to meet the requirements.

7) In Florida, former Governor Jeb Bush and his Foundation exert too much power. The Director of his foundation, Patricia Levesque, is adviser to Governor Scott. Her husband is also General Counsel to the Florida House. When voting on charter bills, he advised no conflict of interest nor ethics violation for legislators with personal ties or ties via family to vote on those bills IF the bill did not affect only that family business. Read more here.http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/the-buzz-florida-politics/content/ethics-commission-clears-miami-rep-erik-fresen-alleged-voting-conflict

8) Last week the Florida DOE issued a report on public charter progress. While some point to the report as clear evidence that charters are "better" than traditional schools, the report itself does not identify variances. One critical factor is that of the total number of public charters in Florida, the performance of only 40% are included in the report. The remaining 60% are not required to be "graded" because the size of the student population is too small to be statistically relevant and under Florida law are excluded. So while we applaud student achievement, growth, and progress wherever it exists, taxpayers still have no information that affirms that disruption leads to any return on investment. There are too many unknowns to recommend Florida's charter boom as a scalable model to replicate.
Read more here.http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/04/10/2741430/florida-releases-report-on-charter.html

What happens in Florida is worth watching. These initiatives are heralded in other states as models to follow; however, they do not hold up under scrutiny. Legislators should analyze carefully what is in the best interests of their states students, parents, community members, and taxpayers. Careful deliberation and legislative accountability is not a sign of being anti-charter nor anti-accountability; but rather a sign of doing the job they were elected to do.

MY COMMENT: Do we see a pattern here?
"These initiatives are heralded in other states as models to follow. . "
These "reform" policymakers all herald their results as models. Superintendent John White was promoted based on the "extraordinary success" of New York City's model - which is an abject failure. U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan and Paul Vallas were promoted based on their Chicago experience - which is an abject failure. Florida is touted as a model for the nation and it is a disaster as is Washington, D. C. after Michelle Rhee. It's EASY TO LIE to a complacent public whose expectation is that their Board of Education and Department of Education will do their job of supporting and improving public education. Instead we have the reality of politics and the even more pervasive influence and power of ALEC and it corporate "reform" agenda whose goal is to "transform" public education into a private, for profit, free enterprise monster.

PUBLIC EDUCATION POLICY
needs to be policy supported by the PUBLIC and designed and enacted by QUALIFIED EDUCATORS. It is by its nature a governmental agency but for it to be effective and serve the public for which it was designed, it needs to be LOCALLY CONTROLLED and HELD FULLY ACCOUNTABLE BY THOSE IT SERVES!!!

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