Today's news -- August 1, 2017




State education — cited by DeVos— is in chaos *

The K-12 education system in Florida — the one that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos likes to praise as a model for the nation — is in chaos. Traditional public school districts are trying to absorb the loss of millions of dollars for the new school year that starts within weeks. That money, which comes from local property taxes, is used for capital funding but now must be shared with charter schools as a result of a widely criticized $419 million K-12 public education bill crafted by Republican legislative leaders in secret and recently signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott — at a Catholic school. Critics, including some Republicans, say the law will harm traditional public schools, threaten services for students who live in poverty and curb local control of education while promoting charter schools and a state-funded voucher program. The law creates a “Schools of Hope” system that will turn failing traditional public schools into charter schools that are privately run but publicly funded. The law also sets out the requirement for districts to share capital funding. The man behind the Schools of Hope initiative was Republican House Speaker of Florida Richard Corcoran, whose wife founded a charter school in Pasco County. But as this recent Miami Herald opinion piece notes, a number of Republican lawmakers in the Legislature have financial stakes in the charter industry. “Florida’s broad ethics laws are a joke,” wrote Herald columnist Fabiola Santiago. At a recent meeting of the State Board of Education, superintendents warned that the new fund-sharing requirement puts their school buildings at risk. Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho was quoted by WTVY as saying: “You really could see the potential unraveling of long-term maintenance and construction for public school systems across the state. It is not a good indicator when one of the two largest credit rating agencies declares a negative condition for school systems on the basis of a policy statement out of Tallahassee.” That’s a reference to a report issued in June from credit-rating business Moody’s saying that the fund diversion “is credit negative for school districts with significant charter enrollment,” suggesting that their ratings could be lowered. The Broward County School Board has decided to sue over legislation H.B. 7069, alleging that it violates the state Constitution, and other county school boards are expected to do the same thing, sources in the state say. Charter schools are just one of the alternatives to traditional public schools that DeVos, a Michigan billionaire who spends many weekends at her home in central Florida, has praised the state for offering to parents. The school “choice” advocate has frequently called Florida a national model for its range of school choices — including voucher-like programs that use public money for religious and private school tuition — though she doesn’t talk about the consequences of expanding these choices on the schools that educate the vast majority of schoolchildren. You don’t hear DeVos talking about the fact that Florida has for years had one of the highest annual charter closure rates in the country, schools that were closed after financial and other scandal. Or that there is no substantive evidence that voucher-like programs that have channeled billions of taxpayer dollars into scholarships for poor children to attend private and religious schools has boosted the students’ academic trajectories — even while there are no mandated consequences on these schools for poor results. You won’t hear her talk about those things because she has said that her idea of education “accountability” is in itself the expansion of school choice. By this way of thinking, the state that gives parents more options — whatever the quality of those options — is the state that is doing very well. And Florida, as DeVos says, is great at it. Underscoring this notion is a proposal by Florida education officials to ask DeVos’ Education Department for a waiver from key parts of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the massive K-12 law that replaced No Child Left Behind and lays out principles for ensuring that public schools address the needs of the most disadvantaged students. Florida, as first reported by Education Week, no longer wants to judge schools on whether they are closing achievement gaps between different groups of students, or on how well English language learners do on English proficiency tests. Will DeVos — who has said repeatedly that states and local communities should have control over their own education decisions — agree to this? And if she does, will Congress agree that she is properly interpreting ESSA?


Will fight to save Florida public education spread? *

Last month the Broward County School Board approved a lawsuit against House Bill 7069. Though legislators crammed more than 50 bills into HB 7069, the Legislature passed it with almost no debate. House leaders, including those with ties to charter schools, crafted HB 7069 in the last days of the session. Despite protests from superintendents and school boards, Gov. Rick Scott signed the legislation. A memo from Barbara Myrick, the board’s general counsel, lists five grounds for a case that the law violates the Florida Constitution:

  • Legislation must cover one subject. HB 7069 changes 69 state statutes.
  • The law restricts school district from carrying out their duty to oversee contracts with charter schools.
  • The program that allocates $140 million to so-called “Schools of Hope” sets no standard for how charter schools could spend that money and thus illegally circumvents local school boards.
  • The law seeks to create a second, private system of public education.
  • Under current law, schools can share public money with charter schools for construction. Under HB 7069, districts would have to share it.

Supporters of the law, which became House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s priority, stuck the controversial provisions into a must-pass budget bill because most couldn’t have passed on their own. Some of the potential damage already is clear. Depriving school districts of construction money could harm their credit rating. Given that prospect, the Broward County School Board acted correctly in approving $25,000 to recruit an outside law firm. Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie told the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board that HB 7069 would create “a parallel school system that could be privately managed without the requisite accountability. It would be a shadow, private system that runs on public dollars.”


School districts gear up to sue state over HB 7069 (Joanne McCall quoted)


Palm Beach School Board to sue state over charter school millions


Pinellas School Board hashes out the details about joining lawsuit against HB 7069


Lee County School Board votes to join districts planning lawsuit over education law


Volusia School District to join other districts suing state


Bay District joins lawsuit against HB 7069


Miami-Dade schools move toward joining lawsuit against state education law


Pinellas asks legislative delegation for help against unjust funds for charter schools


Orange School Board mulls joining lawsuit over new education law


Duval School Board considers lawsuit


Alachua School Board may join lawsuit against state on charter bill


Polk School Board weighs joining lawsuit challenging House Bill 7069


Sarasota County school district faces decision on joining lawsuit


Manatee School Board supports lawsuit against state over ed-reform bill. Sort of.


No word on potential appeal by Indian River over charter lawsuit


State education bill meets resistance (Apryle Jackson quoted)


Public school activists take aim at state’s support of charter schools (Karla Mats quoted)


Superintendents to SBOE: Charter giveaway will hurt classrooms


DOE releases guidance on charter giveaway, new school improvement rules


Charter schools bill is a bad law


Law boosting charter schools faces justified lawsuit


Florida: The corruption and conflicts of interest behind the charter industry


The school year begins with more kids in charters. What's the impact?


Lots of questions but few answers


Florida's micromanaging of public schools


As lawmakers expand vouchers for disabled children, critics question motives (Sharon Nesvig quoted)


Volusia school district pares down new hires despite expected growth (Andrew Spar quoted)


“Our schools are struggling due to broken promises” (Letter by Judy NgYing; Andrew Spar and members pictured, FEA mentioned)


Volusia School Board chair leading statewide fight for fairer funding


Hukill makes another pitch for a study


GOP state senator seeks to reconsider school funding formula, testing inequities


Polk School Board still doesn’t have state budget calculations (Marianne Capoziello quoted)


Teachers union “beyond disappointed” after meeting with Brevard negotiators (Dan Bennett and Anthony Colucci quoted)


Brevard School Board's tentative budget includes teacher raises (Dan Bennett quoted)


Education budget jeopardizes raises for Brevard's struggling teachers (Vanessa Skipper quoted)


Pembroke Pines, charter school teachers at impasse over raises (Anna Fusco quoted)


District to Hillsborough teachers: Suggested pay raises would break the bank (Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins quoted)


Report on Hillsborough's financial woes blames everyone but the district (Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins quoted)


School board members want to talk about money. But will they? (Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins quoted)


New job for Pinellas mentor to first-year teachers (Kali Davis quoted and PCTA mentioned)


South Florida schools search for new ways to find teachers (Justin Katz quoted)


Palm Beach School Board approves budget, public speaking policy (Justin Katz quoted)


Miami-Dade School Board tentatively approves budget, lower tax rate (Monica Howell quoted)


Orange charter school shuts down due to low student test scores (Joanne McCall quoted)


State ignores the success of Miami-Dade public schools


Survey shows employees praise, fear Hernando superintendent


Gadsden turnaround plan approved -- with the condition it bring in charter operator


Clay superintendent says charter likely to close after 2 Fs


Elementary to become community school in Polk pilot program


Here are eight ways Florida's public schools will be different this year


Florida schools to see slight bump in enrollment


Rigorous state test creates concern for state teachers


School districts tasked with filling math, science teacher shortage


Advocates argue state's public schools are failing homeless students


With recess mandate set, some worry schools will water it down


DOE: Schools can hold recess inside classrooms


New law lets public challenge school materials


Does public education get a passing grade? Appeals court to decide.


Here's one way state courts can measure a quality education


Students with failing scores on state tests might need higher marks on alternatives


Florida's top court leaves ruling intact on “opt out” testing case,amp.html


Judge rules against charter schools in funding case


As Scott touts sales tax holiday, tax group labels it poor policy


Teacher tests test teachers (FEA mentioned, Randi Weingarten quoted and NEA mentioned)


School choice -- past and present (by Randi Weingarten)


DeVos’ plan to sell out public schools is a Koch brothers dream come true


Teachers union boss skewers DeVos on vouchers, likening them to segregation (Randi Weingarten quoted)


DeVos: Trump's illiberal ally seen as most dangerous education chief ever (Randi Weingarten quoted)


Deeply unpopular, DeVos and ALEC in lockstep in trying to destroy public education


DeVos speech greeted by protesters she calls “defenders of the status quo” (AFT mentioned) (Randi Weingarten quoted)

DeVos: Backlash to school choice a “badge of honor”


Why is DeVos hiding from the press?


In D.C. rally, hundreds protest Trump's planned cuts to education (AFT mentioned)


What the “government schools” critics really mean


NAACP sticks by its call for charter school moratorium


Charters are constantly burning out teachers -- and they often like it that way


What’s happened to the millions already spent on vouchers?


Scientific American roasts Trump administration for pushing school vouchers


The Supreme Court and the law of motion


High-stakes testing may push struggling teachers to younger grades


Wanted: Teachers willing to work “in the middle of nowhere”


Transgender students turn to courts as government support erodes


Why Americans think so poorly of the country's schools


A detailed critique of a PBS-run education documentary


All political issues are education issues (NEA mentioned)


Would teachers be better off with a 401(k) than a pension? Don't believe it


Indiana legislators don’t care about negative results of vouchers


The story of Indianapolis and the movement to destroy public education


Indianapolis public school leaders strip a public school of its teachers union


Massachusetts professor identifies dark money funding parent group


Utah lawmakers consider eminent domain for charter schools


Philadelphia: KIPP gets whatever it wants, despite poor performance


New York City: Teachers evaluated using test scores of students they don’t teach


DeVos faces backlash over sexual assault policies (Randi Weingarten quoted)


DeVos echoes “men’s rights” activists on campus rape


Every student deserves to be heard (by Lily Eskelsen García)


Defending students from sexual assault (Randi Weingarten quoted)


Myths about sexual assault on campus from the U.S. Education Department


I was a victim of campus rape, and we cannot let Title IX protections slip


A tangled quest for fairness as students accused of campus sex assault push back


I’m a college president. DeVos should help me deal with campus sexual assault.


Francis Rooney backs off criticism of college “safe zones”


How the Trump administration is undermining students of color


The next casualty of DeVos? Civil rights protections on campus


Tallahassee residents file second suit against state over university funds


Scott cautions universities over spending increases


Negron touts higher ed changed despite veto


Yes, college is a good thing for America and Americans


A warning, a crusade, and a public reckoning at UF


Trump administration is sitting on student debt forgiveness claims


Nelson seeks support to cap student loan rates at 4 percent (Marshall Ogletree quoted)

Brogan to retire as leader of Pennsylvania’s public university system's-public-university-system-to-retire


State imprisonment rate is 23 percent higher than the national average


State withholds essentials from prisoners


Just another crazy week for Florida government


Unions fight for living wage for Disney workers


Florida's jobless rate looks great -- but 25 other state rates look even better


Auditor general reports shows AHCA not properly monitoring Medicaid contract


Lawsuit to challenge state 24-hour abortion ban


Abortion rights face a full-on assault at the state level


Scott asks court to throw out lawsuit over justices


State will pay more than $1 million in legal fees over “docs vs. Glocks”


State’s cost for losing lawsuits keeps growing


Water agency boss who bucked scientists put in charge of Enterprise Florida


Uncertainty surrounds state’s $85 million fund for jobs


Miami lobbyist's business made $1 million profit on state anti-hazing contract


Local officials say higher homestead exemption could reduce government services


Storm clouds over flood insurance fixes


Corcoran rearranges House deck chairs; more changes ahead


How Florida explains our polarized politics


Scott's political team helping directly shape administrat

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