Today's news -- May 30, 2017






Terrible Education Policy that Can’t Stand the Light of Day (by Joanne McCall)

In this day and age, we have seen many political truisms upended but the past legislative session offers a clear example that one still holds.  When legislative leaders work behind closed doors in the final hours of session, outside the purview of the public and other legislators, bad things happen for the people of Florida.  Such is the case with HB 7069. This legislation, cobbled together in secret in the final hours of the 2017 legislative session is a 278-page monstrosity that became a toxic soup of bad ideas, many of which could not have survived the full legislative process on their own.  Instead, they were thrown together, sweetened with a sprinkling of things the people want, and force fed to legislators in the form of a must pass budget bill with little discussion and no opportunity for meaningful amendments. The architects of this massive mess of bad policy are using carefully prepared talking points to focus attention on some of the sweet sprinkles to encourage Floridians to swallow the bitter soup but parents, teachers and school leaders aren’t buying it and neither should Governor Scott. House leaders are calling the bill transformational and in that regard, we agree. If signed into law, HB 7069 will transform our public education system into a disjointed collection of privatized programs taking over a woefully underfunded public good, perhaps the most important public good that government has the responsibility to provide. Here are some of the biggest misstatements being made and why they should be rejected. “It is transformational and provides options for failing schools” – WRONG.  The bill recognizes what we’ve been saying for years, that persistently low-performing schools need additional resources and special considerations for evaluating how students learn. But the provisions in HB 7069, give that assistance mostly to charter schools and the companies that run them. HB 7069 also includes the entire so-called “Schools of Hope” bill – which gives away nearly $140 million in taxpayer funds to charter companies with little oversight or accountability that would set up parallel school systems and cherry-pick the students they want to attend. “It is pro-student, pro-parent, pro-teacher” – WRONG AGAIN. HB 7069 fails to increase per pupil spending enough to keep up with inflation. Currently, Florida ranks 37th in the nation in per pupil spending and this budget will cause us to fall even farther behind. As a matter of fact, the overall budget goes one step further by DECREASING the overall student base allocation. HB 7069 fails to give teachers the true salary increase that they deserve. Florida ranks 41st in the nation in teacher salaries. The “bonuses” offered in HB 7069 are a pitiful excuse for salary increases. They are not guaranteed, they fail to move Florida any closer to the national salary average and they do not count toward a teacher’s retirement. HB 7069 amends the current best and brightest teacher bonus program and creates a new bonus for principals based on teacher evaluations. HB 7069 includes annual contract language which denies local school districts the ability to negotiate policies that will retain highly effective and effective teachers for another school year. Recess moms and the PTA worked tirelessly this session to reduce testing and ensure that children get 20 minutes of uninterrupted play. The bill only eliminated one end of course exam. It does mandate that traditional public schools provide 20 minutes a day for recess but exempts charter schools. “It provides millions of dollars to the neediest students and schools” – AND AGAIN, WRONG! Sadly, Title 1 schools, which use federal dollars for programs that serve high poverty students are the very schools and students that will be the hardest hit by the policies in HB 7069. Although Title 1 is a federal program, the money flows through the state to districts. Districts use a portion of the money to fund district-wide program and then distribute the remaining money by school based on the number of students on free and reduced lunch. HB 7069 limits the amount of federal money districts can use for district-wide programs to about eight percent. This will force schools districts to decide which schools to close and which programs to eliminate.  Some are considering eliminating full day pre-K and kindergarten, extended day and summer services, STEM programs, school-based family engagement, mentoring and tutoring.  Many are looking at the elimination of instructional positions and para professionals, including math coaches, behavior specialists, social workers and parent liaisons. The bill further dilutes Title I money by allowing a charter school’s governing board, or a “School of Hope” to be designated as a Local Educational Agency giving them direct access to federal dollars regardless of district needs. Overall, the bill benefits charter schools while harming many poor students and the public schools which serve them. Many of these schools could be forced to close or be turned over to charter management. The bill gives $140 million to charter school operators to open “Schools of Hope” to compete with struggling schools. Districts would be forced to funnel more students and money to these charter schools which don’t have to hire certified teachers and will be even less regulated and monitored than they are currently. The Legislature is also forcing school districts to give away scarce funding for badly needed capital improvement projects by mandating that funds be split with charter companies. This means that 10 percent of Florida’s students will benefit from 50 percent of the money for school improvements. Locally elected school boards have almost no control over those charter schools so that money could end up spent on leases and improvements for privately owned buildings. If a charter school closes, the building owner keeps the improvements and taxpayers get little or nothing back. These schools do not have to comply with school building codes and many local zoning restrictions. The governor has stated many times that he supports “school choice,” but the shady policies in HB 7069 are not about “school choice,” they are about underfunding our public schools and creating the conditions necessary for school privateers to step in and make huge profits. Furthermore, the way this bill was created and passed, does not pass the smell test for the transparency, fairness and due diligence that Florida’s families expect and deserve. He has an opportunity here to put aside bumper sticker politics and sloganeering, show real leadership and stand up for Florida’s families by issuing a veto of HB 7069, forcing the legislature to revisit these issues the right way.


Veto the Florida Legislature’s harmful education budget, Governor Scott (Joanne McCall and Rich Templin quoted) (by Anna Fusco) (Anna Fusco quoted) (Sharon Nesvig quoted)


Education bill earns an F for transparency


Starting the veto clock? Scott likely to get budget today


Respect Florida's public schools and properly fund them


South Florida teachers urge Scott to veto bill affecting local schools (UTD and BTU mentioned, Antonio White quoted)


How key education issues landed in the Legislature (Michelle Dillon quoted)


Polk school officials ask governor to veto education budget and bill (Marianne Capoziello quoted) (PEA mentioned)


Broward teachers to Scott: veto the education bill


Charter school lobbyist: Education bill could end up in court (Luke Flynt quoted)


Florida labor leaders, parents urge veto of education bill (Rich Templin quoted)


Senate Democrats are ready to block override -- under right circumstances (FEA mentioned)


If Scott vetoes public school budget, here's what happens (FEA mentioned)


Floridians are weighing in on public schools bill. Most want a veto.


School boards: Education bill “substantially flawed,” “unworthy” of Scott's approval (FEA mentioned)

Florida school bill is a jam-packed scam


Legislature's education bill needs a rewrite,amp.html


Veto FEFP too, Florida School Boards Association tells Scott


State budget uncertainty has school districts “very concerned”


Putnam: Controversial education bill “fashioned completely in the dark”


Corcoran: Focus on “building beautiful minds,” not “beautiful buildings”


Politifact: Corcoran misleads about education legislation negotiations


Florida House takes to YouTube to defend its education bill in cartoon form


On this education bill, you decide who is evil


Opposed to lawmakers’ budget, Miami-Dade schools will host town halls


$650,000 in Florida budget for security at Jewish schools raises questions


Public “schools of hope” could be anything but

Misguided goals have been driving education policy in Tallahassee. Chief among these is the ill-advised rush to the effective privatization of our public schools via charter schools. Having taught in public schools for eight years (middle and high school English), I’ve seen first-hand the dedication, professionalism and struggle of our public schools. I’ve experienced overcrowded classrooms, and chaffed at being tied to standardized tests that I knew were only a snapshot of a child’s academic performance. Many public schools perform with excellence while others remain in a cycle of failure due to several factors — including poverty and violence in the community. Yet back-door privatization via an explosion of charter schools isn’t the answer. Promotion of charter schools, recently referred to as the “schools of hope” plan, fails to solve the problem. That’s because charters schools, even if they perform with excellence, cannot ever have the capacity to serve every student. We know that in some cases, traditional schools seek to remove students with behavioral and other issues – students they don’t want to teach because their academic performance brings the school’s overall test scores down. In the desperation to produce high test scores, these students are shuffled off, often finding themselves enrolled in for-profit charter schools where they may be expelled back to a traditional public school – as charters can often choose their students – or face verbal and even physical abuse by staff who likely do not have the proper training to address their needs. Teaching quality can often be low, resulting from the fact that typical charter schools pay less and offer fewer benefits for educators. We must be honest about the damage done to children when public education is used as a partisan political football or as a means of simply getting rich through for-profit charter chains (some of which failed and had to close quickly, leaving Florida parents and teachers stranded.) Our legislators would do well to remember what Florida’s Constitution says about public education: The education of children is a fundamental value to the people of the State of Florida. It is, therefore, a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.  Rather than wasting taxpayer’s money on more charter schools, which are too often allowed to operate with public funds yet little or no public oversight, Florida’s leaders should remember that public education is a cornerstone of democracy. True schools of hope would pay teachers like the educated professionals that they are, be equipped with 21st century technology, reward rather than punish teacher-longevity by reinstating teacher step increases and use tests as simply one of many ways of assessing student knowledge. True schools of hope would protect all students, regardless of their immigration status, gender identity, language background or anything else. Such schools would be a beacon of hope for American democracy in the 21st century.


Charters offer parents incentives for supporting bill

Some school choice advocates in South Florida are going so far as to offer incentives to parents in order to amplify the perception of public support for a controversial K-12 public schools bill that many are clamoring for Gov. Rick Scott to veto. At least two privately managed charter schools in Hialeah — Mater Academy Lakes High School and City of Hialeah Educational Academy — publicly advertised this week that they would give parents five hours’ credit toward their “encouraged” volunteer hours at the school, so long as they wrote a letter or otherwise urged Gov. Rick Scott to sign HB 7069. “It is IMPERATIVE that the Governor, and the rest of the State of Florida, see what a POSITIVE DEMAND there is for this education bill,” read an alert on the homepage of Mater Academy Lakes’ website. “This is the strongest legislation supporting the charter school movement since charters were first established in Florida 20 years ago. We need all of our Bear Family to show their support for HB 7069 and encourage your friends, family and children to get involved as well,” the message continued. A similar alert was blasted across the City of Hialeah Educational Academy’s website, too, offering the same volunteer-hour credit to parents if they attended a pro-HB 7069 event at the school this past Wednesday or Thursday afternoons. The school also sent email and text alerts to its parents asking them to “use all realms of social media to advocate for House Bill 7069!” Mater Academy Lakes Principal Rene Rovirosa dismissed criticism that his school’s efforts to drum up support for the bill was akin to bribing parents. He argued students were free to express their views on either side of the issue, and it was a social studies lesson for the students. “We explained the good side and the bad side,” Rovirosa said. United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats said offering parents volunteer hours and encouraging students to write letters crosses a line.  “It’s certainly disgusting, to say the least, that these institutions would utilize their influence to try to get students to be involved in something that is very political — and parents for the same reason,” she said. “For an educational institution to try to manipulate their circumstances and make children a part of that is very sad.” (UTD mentioned)

Some legislators profit at the expense of public education

Florida’s broad ethics laws are a joke. If they weren’t, they would protect Floridians from legislators who profit from the charter-school industry in private life and have been actively involved in pushing — and successfully passing — legislation to fund for-profit private schools at the expense of public education. Some lawmakers earn a paycheck tied to charter schools. One of them is Rep. Manny Diaz, the Hialeah Republican who collects a six-figure salary as chief operating officer of the charter Doral College and sits on the Education Committee and the K-12 Appropriations Subcommittee. Some lawmakers have close relatives who are founders of charter schools. One of them is the powerful House Speaker, Richard Corcoran, the Land O’Lakes Republican whose wife founded a charter school in Pasco County that stands to benefit from legislation. He was in Miami Wednesday preaching the gospel of charter schools as “building beautiful minds.” Other lawmakers are founders themselves or have ties to foundations or business entities connected to charter schools. One of them is Rep. Michael Bileca, the Miami Republican who chairs the House Education Committee and is listed as executive director of the foundation that funds True North Classical Academy, attended by the children of another legislator. Bileca is also a school founder. These three legislators were chief architects in the passage of a $419 million education bill that takes away millions of dollars from public schools to expand the charter-school industry in Florida at taxpayer expense. They crafted the most important parts of education bill HB 7069 in secret, acting in possible violation of the open government laws the Legislature is perennially seeking to weaken. There was no debate allowed and educators all across the state were left without a voice in the process. It’s no wonder it all went down in the dark. It’s a clear conflict of interest for members of the Florida Legislature who have a stake in charter schools to vote to fund and expand them. Their votes weaken the competition: public schools. It’s truly outrageous. It’s not just a giveaway, an example of corporate welfare, but a takeaway from public schools that desperately need state funding. All in the name of benefiting the expansion of an industry from which lawmakers and their families benefit.


School choice contributes to increasing segregation, researchers say


Proposed state law would steer federal money away from poor students


Orange offers extra pay to lure top teachers to Carver Middle (Wendy Doromal quoted)


Calhoun teachers union and school district ratify first contract (Russell Baggett quoted)


Polk district, union await special magistrate ruling (Marianne Capoziello quoted)


Pasco teachers raise concerns about fairness of district finals (Kenny Blankenship quoted)


Palm Beach teachers union rejects recount (Justin Katz and Gordan Longhofer quoted)


Marion district says it’s time for recess (Chris Altobello quoted)


Teachers hit back at Port St. Lucie council for comments critical of schools (Vicki Rodriguez quoted)


Union urges teachers to use common sense regarding social media (Kathy Gundlach quoted)


Half of Jefferson teachers lose jobs


Santa Rosa teachers need a change (by Carol Poterek, Catherine Wilson and Melanie Peters)


Santa Rosa school district, teachers union await next step


Frustrated, talented teachers leave classrooms in droves

Noah David Lein has always loved teaching. And if you believe the state of Florida, the honors English teacher at Winter Springs High School is precisely the kind of instructor we want in our classrooms. He sparks kids' curiosity and was among only 4 percent of the region's teachers to receive the "Best and Brightest" bonus for "highly effective" teachers last year. Lein still loves opening students' minds and introducing them to complex thoughts. But not in Florida. Not in a state that continually beats teachers down. So when the school year ends, Lein plans to walk out of the classroom for the last time ... and in to a career in sales. It wasn't an easy decision. To put it bluntly, Lein said: "I kind of threw up in my mouth at the thought of abandoning the profession I always wanted." But Florida politicians keep pushing good teachers away. With a lack of respect. With obsessing about standardized testing over learning. And with cruddy salaries. Lein, 32, said he started working in 2007 with a salary of $37,000. Nine years later, he makes $40,300 for his family of three — and started working weekends at a catering company to make ends meet. "I've spent my last ounce of energy to make a difference to my students, but it isn't making a difference to me and my family," he said. "I'm exhausted, I'm bitter, and I'm grasping for something to be hopeful and positive about." If you care about public education, Lein's loss should depress you. But it should disturb you even more to know that he's not alone. Rather, he's part of a trend — of Florida teachers leaving the profession they once loved. The exodus is so intense that state records show that 40 percent of new teachers leave within five years after they start. Florida's attrition rate for new teachers is 15-20 percent higher than the national average, depending on the year. They are teachers like Lein. And like Lisa McIntosh, who will also leave her job next week as a third-grade teacher at Wekiva Elementary School. "It saddens me to see the current state of education, but the increase in testing and the focus on testing has taken a great deal of the joy out of teaching," she said. "At this point, I no longer want to be a part of this situation." McIntosh is leaving to work for a nonprofit that focuses on combating drug abuse. Now, multiply that story over and over until you get thousands of teachers leaving every year — some retiring, but many opting for other occupations or private schools with more freedom — and you start to see the magnitude of the problem. The constant turnover costs us money — $130 million a year, according to a 2014 study. It costs us talent. It deprives students of professionals who studied and train their whole lives to work with students. The stories go on and on. The teachers have plenty to say. Florida should start to listen. Tallahassee politicians constantly bemoan the state of education, yet spend most of their time talking to each other about the issue. They should start listening to the people who actually teach for a living. This state has convened work groups and task forces about everything from crime and insurance to oil-drilling and gambling. How about one that simply asks teachers what they most need to actually do their jobs? We know salaries are an issue. (Florida ranks 39th in the nation, according to the National Education Association.) But there's much more. The teachers who are sticking it out have ideas about everything from curriculum to parental involvement. Ask teachers to name the top 10 ways to improve the classrooms where they spend all their time. Not another test, regulation or byzantine bonus based on 30-year-old test scores. Let teachers teach. And don't punish those willing to teach in schools with impoverished populations. The teachers want to stay. Some might even come back. Lein said he would. In fact, he said "Absolutely" without even a pause. But that won't happen until Florida politicians stop yapping and start listening.


Sorry, inspiring Florida teacher. No bonus for you!

Tuesday’s newspaper featured a heartwarming story about Mary Rock, a second-grade teacher at Shenandoah Elementary who made such a difference in the lives of her students that a group of graduating seniors, some now valedictorians, returned to her classroom this week to thank her for shaping their lives. Inspiring, right? Precisely the kind of teacher we want to reward with a top bonus, right? Not according to the state of Florida. As soon as I saw the story, I thought: As good as she is, I bet she didn’t even qualify for the state’s boneheaded “Best and Brightest” bonus plan — the one that allegedly rewards good teachers. It was a safe bet. Many of the state’s best teachers — including teachers of the year — haven’t qualified. Why? Because the plan doesn’t reward teachers who change lives, open minds or inspire students. It’s based on test scores — student scores, but also the scores that the teachers themselves earned back in high school … which, in Rock’s case was more than three decades ago. Rock confirmed that she didn’t get the bonus. But she wasn’t bitter. “I love my students — good, bad or indifferent,” she said. “Rich, poor or middle class.” Exactly the kind of response you’d like to hear. Still, Rock noted that basing pay on test scores overlooks the complexities of life. “Does the Department of Education really care if Johnny’s dad died of an overdose and he is having a hard time dealing with it?” she asked. “No. Does it care that Fred’s family lives in a trailer and there isn’t enough food to go around, and his parents oversleep and never provide him support with school? No.” But what does Mary Rock know? She’s just a woman who dedicated her life to education and affected student lives so profoundly that students are still giving her credit a decade later. Legislators — many of whom don’t send their own kids to public schools and few of whom have spent time in a classroom — think they know better. That’s why most Republicans voted earlier this month to extend this score-centered bonus plan. Rock is retiring soon but said: “My hope and dream is that legislators will make an effort to listen to teachers and the needs of students." I hope so too, Mrs. Rock. In the meantime, readers, if you have teachers you appreciate, thank them. Because the state probably won’t.,amp.html


With many parents “on pins and needles,” state releases third-grade reading results


10 percent of state seniors retaking state reading test pass


State DOE pulls proposed teacher certification rule changes


Education commissioner stands by tests teachers keep flunking


Florida will stay the course with ESSA planning


Florida prekindergarten access among nation's best, but funding among worst


Responses continue to arrive in Florida third-grade lawsuit


Religious liberties bill faces opposition while awaiting approval


Big Wellington charter school: Are children being educated?


South Florida charter school in deplorable conditions, parents say


Hillsborough's stance on charters gets complicated as they take in more students


Pinellas School Board approves plan that aims to close achievement gap


Quelling candidacy chatter, Carvalho vows to remain Miami-Dade schools chief


“Online credit recovery” may be selling students short


School bus driver shortage across Northeast Florida


Educational choice, not school choice, making moves in Florida


Charter schools and voucher schools are virtually identical


Do charter schools serve special needs kids? The jury is out


States struggle with oversight of online charter schools


The charter school company store


Mandatory retention laws are failing students (Shyrelle Eubanks quoted)


Does money matter in education?


Deconstructing the myth of American public schooling inefficiency


The little-known statistician who transformed education …


… then there’s Eric Hanushek


How Google took over the classroom


There are better ways than suspension to discipline kids


Trump backs deep cuts to public schools for “choice”

Funding for college work-study programs would be cut in half, public-service loan forgiveness would end and hundreds of millions of dollars that public schools could use for mental health, advanced coursework and other services would vanish under a Trump administration plan to cut $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives, according to budget documents obtained by The Washington Post. The administration would channel part of the savings into its top priority: school choice. It seeks to spend about $400 million to expand charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools, and another $1 billion to push public schools to adopt choice-friendly policies. President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have repeatedly said they want to shrink the federal role in education and give parents more opportunity to choose their children’s schools. The documents — described by an Education Department employee as a near-final version of the budget expected to be released next week — offer the clearest picture yet of how the administration intends to accomplish that goal. Though Trump and DeVos are proponents of local control, their proposal to use federal dollars to entice districts to adopt school-choice policies is reminiscent of the way the Obama administration offered federal money to states that agreed to adopt its preferred education policies through a program called Race to the Top. The proposed cuts in longstanding programs — and the simultaneous new investment in alternatives to traditional public schools — are a sign of the Trump administration’s belief that federal efforts to improve education have failed. DeVos, who has previously derided government, is now leading an agency she views as an impediment to progress. (Lily Eskelsen García quoted) (Randi Weingarten quoted) (Lily Eskelsen García quoted)


Here are K-12 education programs Trump wants to eliminate in budget


Trump’s education budget takes aim at the working class


Trump’s education budget: cruel and unusual punishment


Educators fear budget’s impact on students, public schools, and working families (Lily Eskelsen García quoted)


DeVos promises “the most ambitious expansion of education choice” (Randi Weingarten quoted)

DeVos refuses to rule out giving funds to schools that discriminate


Five startling things DeVos told Congress


DeVos: Traditional public schools are Blockbuster in age of Netflix


This is the new DeVos speech everyone should read


Education secretary has long history of financing politics

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