Today's news -- March 24, 2014



Vouchers don't offer a real choice in a child's education (by Joanne McCall)
According to the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy, Florida is already the leader nationally in the number of students and tax dollars appropriated in voucher programs. Yet policymakers continue to pursue education privatization further than any other state. In recent years, legislators have shifted hundreds of millions of dollars into programs, with little to no accountability, that serve students in private schools and those operated by for-profit educational management companies while at the same time cutting funding for public schools and ratcheting up standards and accountability measures. These changes in our education system move Florida further away from our constitutionally required system of free public schools. One of several voucher programs, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, provides private school vouchers by diverting corporate tax revenue from the state’s general revenue fund to a scholarship-funding organization. The Legislature initially capped the program at $50 million in tax credits per year, but expanded the cap to $88 million in 2003 and to $118 million in 2008. The Legislature increased the cap again to $140 million, beginning in 2010, and authorized the cap to continue to increase. By 2012, the cap on the amount of credits available to the program increased to $229 million. This year, the group administering the program is seeking further increases that could push the amount taxpayers spend on these private schools to $875 million per year by 2018. And it will grow to include students whose parents never had any intention of putting their children in public schools. And the family income level for some of these programs will grow to more than $60,000 per year under the current proposal in the Legislature. The Florida Education Association believes that all schools – public, charter and private schools that receive public funding – should be held accountable for teaching and learning, have high standards and produce rigorous programs. But that’s not the case with voucher schools. Although they now siphon an increasingly large slice of the state’s budget, voucher schools are largely unregulated, don’t have to follow state academic standards, don’t have to hire qualified teachers and don’t have to prove to the state that they are using public money wisely. They only offer a potential solution to a small number of students who attend low-performing schools.


Why voucher expansion really died in the Florida Senate

Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, explained away the withdrawal of his Senate version of voucher expansion with “there just wasn’t enough time to develop accountability provisions that everybody could agree on.” Sure. Galvano had no such qualms in voting through SB 1642, a bill that confirms Florida’s continuing accountability apparatus earlier this month. And maybe he knew that the votes just weren’t available in the Senate to pass voucher expansion this year. But Galvano’s cryptic remark that “it would be better if we took time and vetted it out, “ reveals that real problems had suddenly emerged with Florida’s Sales Tax Scholarship Program. Miami Herald reporter Kathleen McGrory broke the story last week that the CEO of Step Up for Students (SUFS), the administrative agent for Florida’s voucher program appears in a YouTube video in which he brags about the manner in which SUFS goes about its business. Doug Tuthill told a Cal-Berkley audience in 2011 that “one of the primary reasons we’ve been so successful (is) we spend about $1 million every other cycle in local political races, which in Florida is a lot of money. In House races and Senate races, we’re probably the biggest spender in local races.” Most pols don’t like the implication that their support for legislation has been bought. Nor do they like being played for fools. Tuthill is reported to have been running all over the Senate on Thursday and telling anyone who’d listen that a “well orchestrated campaign” had killed voucher expansion. It’s likeliest that Galvano pulled the bill because too many revelations -- Tuthill’s “well-orchestrated campaign” -- began to emerge about the organization he runs.


Advocates for reforming Florida school voucher system not giving up (Mark Pudlow quoted in first three) (FEA mentioned) (FEA mentioned)


Taxpayers will pay $1 billion for vouchers to private, religious schools this year


New Florida test may have ups, downs

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart's decision last week to approve a $220 million, six-year contract for a new set of tests to replace the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test holds some promise -- but poses questions as well. Stewart approved American Institutes for Research as the test contractor. Its tests are expected to be ready next spring, and to cost less than the FCAT or the Partnership for Assessment of College and Career Readiness tests. The PARCC tests were developed by a consortium of state educators in a manner similar to the Common Core Standards. As such, both were scared off the Florida scene by political extremists who equated curricula and tests developed by nationwide consortia, including Floridians, as a federal program to take over state and local education. Never mind that they were made up of individual state representatives. Florida, so far, has gotten around the Common Core problem by adjusting its math and English standards a bit, and including a cursive-writing requirement. The tweaked curriculum has been named the Florida Standards. The AIR test, chosen by Stewart, is connected to a consortium that is developing tests for the Common Core curricula, separately from PARCC. Stewart says Florida's AIR test will be exclusive to the state, reported The Associated Press. AIR's familiarity with the Common Core Standards should, nonetheless, be helpful in creating Florida's tests. More concerning about AIR's Florida connections is the miserable teacher-grading program it created for the state, known as the value-added model. The inconclusive teacher evaluations are useless. The Tampa Bay Times reported March 1 that teachers of the year and finalists for teacher of the year in Central Florida got scores from minus 36.87 percent to 21.61 percent. "After what happened with the VAM, I'm just not comfortable with AIR," said Jeff Wright of the Florida Education Association. (Mark Pudlow quoted)


Standardized tests move into their new realm


Standardized testing is a waste of time and money


Millions of kids to test new education assessments


New Florida writing test will use computers to grade student essays


A Dear John letter to Florida -- from 2010 state Teacher of the Year

Megan Allen is a veteran English teacher who was the 2010 Florida Teacher of the Year and a finalist for National Teacher of the Year. She is also a National Board Certified Teacher. But she left Florida with her morale extremely low because of a series of reforms that she felt were targeting teachers in ways that unfairly hurt them as well as their students.


Pay Pearson, go further?


Kindergarten teacher: My job is now about tests and data -- not children. I quit.


Why public schools outperform private schools


Florida teacher evaluated on scores of students she never taught


With VAM: All teachers of the gifted are “bad” teachers


VAM is junk science


Manatee district and teachers union agree on evaluation system (Pat Barber quoted)


Education venue #EDSPARK to debut at One Spark


Open enrollment opponents call for further review of Duval plan


State will not fine Lake over class-size violations


UF researchers helping to change ESOL education


Bush foundation promoting common education standards online, on air


Checking the claims in the new ad about Florida schools


About those teachers in Jeb Bush’s TV spots


Get to know the Common Core marketing overlords


Secret policymaking on school reform is on the rise


Gates loves Common Core for your kids, but not his


States using Common Core show little progress


Legislative gun play at school


Alfie Kohn on grit and its misuses


U.S. schools plagued by inequality along racial lines, study finds


Report: Loss of teachers in Louisiana due to state incompetence


Houston: A teacher struggling to survive in a “model” district


Fight over Arizona school vouchers heats up


Tennessee state Senate guts local control


Legislature and board still wrangle over control of university system


Scott’s position on tuition equity hypocritical


An interview with the FAU president


UF won't disclose consultant fees for UF Online


Florida bill calls for MOOC accreditation, FIU weighs options


Feds investigate Florida's Bright Futures scholarship program


Florida Prepaid College Program sales fall by 30 percent


HBCU leaders gather to discuss education challenges, needs


House and Senate budgets close as chambers prep spending plans


Florida didn’t bring home stimulus bacon, nor did recovery funds hit where needed the most


Recruiting jobs to Tampa Bay: three touted deals that went sour


Pinellas now ground zero in Florida's fight over voting


Florida courts should reflect diversity,0,7563182.story


Florida's undercount of child abuse deaths


Florida must do more to protect its children


Florida: Obamacare’s biggest foe is its greatest success story


Florida students assist Obamacare enrollment


Highest earners pay lowest premiums


President signs flood fix that brings Florida relief but higher bills over time


State's proposed performance measures trouble PBA


Obama ties minimum wage raise to working women's plight in weekly address


Wealth over work


Out of work, out of luck


All economics is local


America’s underappreciated entrepreneur: the federal government


Helping low-income children succeed


The real truth about Obamacare


The next health-care debate


In “largest scam of its kind,” 20,000 taxpayers bilked of $1 million


Labor rights legacy of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire


Selling millennials on a corporate agenda


The politics of black aspiration


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