Author Archive | redefinED staff

FL Senate leader: If teachers union wins, vulnerable kids lose

Sen. Gardiner

Sen. Gardiner

“Vulnerable children” on one side. “Union bosses” on the other.

Florida’s incoming Senate president, Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, drew that sharp distinction in an op-ed Friday that blasted the Florida teachers union for filing suit last week against SB 850, the bill that created the Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts for students with significant disabilities, including autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy.

“These children and their families may not be a union priority, but they are my priority,” Gardiner wrote in the Tampa Tribune.

Gardiner. who has a son with Down syndrome, led the charge for creation of PLSAs. He noted that the personal connection made the bill a priority for him, then called it “deeply regrettable” that the teachers union would try to stop it.

It was not long ago when many students with disabilities were set aside in public education because it was assumed they could not learn or could not share classrooms with other students. It was the advocacy of parents that ended these discriminatory and damaging policies.

For this reason, I think it is deeply regrettable that before the first parent could even submit an application for a PLSA, the Florida Education Association – our statewide teachers union – filed a lawsuit to block it.

The union bosses can spin the lawsuit however they want. But the bottom line is this: They view every opportunity that gives parents freedom to make education choices as a threat to their power. They are advocates for the union, not your children.

Signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, SB 850 also modestly expanded the tax credit scholarship program for low-income students. (Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog, is authorized to administer both parental choice programs.) Gardner pointed to the lawsuit’s potential impact on both groups of children, and vowed to defend them.

“The good news for Florida families is that we will not turn our backs on these children. As long as I am in the process, the Senate will work to empower parents, particularly the parents of our most vulnerable children. We will not be deterred by union bosses, union politics or union lawyers.”


Teachers will thrive with school choice


Students and parents aren’t the only ones who benefit from school choice. Teachers do, too. We routinely hit on that point, and Doug Tuthill hammered it home last night on conservative news outlet The Blaze.

Here is what Tuthill, the president of Step Up For Students (which co-hosts this blog), said when asked by host Will Cain about his past as a teacher union president:

“I’ve always been an empowerment guy.  And I got into education, and I got into teacher unions, because I really wanted to empower teachers. But what happens is, teachers are really disempowered in an overly regulated system. … I wish the teacher unions in the country would embrace choice because at the end of the day, it’s good for teachers and for parents.” School choice “allows them to be innovative, entrepreneurial,” Tuthill continued. “And right now, you can’t in the current system.”

The bulk of the interview focused on something we’ve been talking a lot about over the past week – the changing definition of education accountability in an era where parental choice is becoming the norm. The Heartland Institute’s Joy Pullman weighed in on the topic this week in The Federalist, pointing specifically to recent goings-on in Florida, and Cain cited her take during the interview. By all means, click and check it out. :)


redefinED roundup: de Blasio to the rescue? Vouchers increase property values and more news

MondayRoundUp_magentaAlabama: Judge Gene Reese issues a stay on his own injunction against the Alabama Accountability Act school choice program (, Montgomery Advertiser, redefinED, American Federation for Children). The decision to lift the injunction takes uncertainty away from low-income families ( Jeff Reed, public relations director for the Friedman Foundation, says school choice thrives in the state even with the lawsuit (One News Now).

Arizona: Eileen Sigmund, president of the Arizona Charter Schools Association, and Glenn Hamer, the association’s vice chairman, say charter schools provide some of the best education in the state and are still looking to improve (Arizona Republic).

Connecticut: Education leaders in Bridgeport drop the idea of suing the state over approving six charter schools in the area after the city attorney says the district has no basis for a lawsuit (Stamford Advocate).

Delaware: Lawmakers debate education savings accounts (, Choice Media, Education Week). The News Journal editorial board supports school choice if parents pick charter schools but not if parents want vouchers or education savings accounts to choose private schools.

Florida: The Florida PTA, state teachers union and Florida NAACP urge the governor to veto a school choice bill that includes expansion of tax credit scholarships (the scholarship program is administered by Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog). (Tampa Bay Times, Orlando Sentinel).

Idaho: Terry Ryan, president of the Idaho Charter School Association, says over 19,000 children attend charter schools in the state, making support for it a winning proposition for elected Republicans (Idaho Education News). Continue Reading →


redefinED roundup: Catholics push for school choice, education races in ME and SC and more news

MondayRoundUp_redAlabama: Scott Beaulier, chair of the Economics and Finance Division at Troy University, says there is a large body of evidence supporting vouchers but the U.S. Department of Justice and others keep getting in the way ( The Alabama Education Association spent $7 million to defeat school choice and education reform supporters (Associated Press).

Colorado: A new study on public school transfers shows middle- and upper-class students are more likely to request transfers to another public school than less affluent students (Education Week). ACE Scholarships releases a study on the impact of scholarships on students in the state (

Connecticut: Education leaders in Bridgeport complain that the expansion of charter schools is hurting the district’s ability to predict student enrollment and estimate a budget (Connecticut Post).

D.C.: District lawyers claim a charter school funneled millions to a for-profit company to do work that charter school officials were already doing (Washington Post).

Delaware: A new bill will allow the Delaware Board of Education to restrict charter schools to geographic areas and by grade and academic emphasis if the board deems the charters will affect nearby public schools (Delaware Online). Republicans propose a voucher program allowing full scholarships for Free and Reduced Price Lunch students and 25 percent scholarships for students in families earning up to $110,000 annaully (WDDE 99.1 FM).

Florida: Palm Beach County wants a special property tax to fund arts education but the new tax won’t benefit the 13,000 students attending charter schools in the county (Sun-Sentinel). McKay Scholarships offer special needs students a way to find a different school that works well for them, but Fund Education Now, a group suing to enforce school uniformity, wants special ed students to have the exact same standards, instructions and method of teacher training at all schools (Sun-Sentinel). The state’s graduation rate improves (Education Week, redefinED). Continue Reading →


The future of education accountability

logo biggerAs parental choice matures, so does the definition and character of “accountability.”

We asked some of the sharpest minds in the choice realm to help us understand the challenges ahead, as parental choice becomes more and more mainstream. We’ll be running their responses in a series of posts, beginning Monday.

Here’s the prompt:

In education, as in all other fields, accountability involves a combination of government regulation and consumer choice. Generally, as consumer choice increases, government regulation decreases, and vice versa. This is certainly true in education today. Charter schools, vouchers, homeschooling and tax credit scholarships are all less regulated than the neighborhood district schools students are required to attend by law.

The challenge we face today and moving forward is the wide variation in parental choice and government regulations in various sectors of public education that are operating side by side. This is sure to lead to tensions and complications. For example:

  • Some parents do not understand why their traditional district schools – which they like – must comply with standardized testing and school rating regimens they consider excessive, while voucher-receiving private schools do not.
  • Choice critics often successfully exploit these differences in “regulatory accountability” to undermine legislative and public support for parental choice by arguing that these programs are not accountable.
  • Choice supporters are divided over how best to balance parental choice and governmental oversight, as the debates over government-mandated testing and sanctions for low-performing voucher schools show.
  • The question of regulatory accountability would seem to become more complex as educational choice moves down to the course level, with an explosion in options and providers.

So, here’s the question. What should education accountability look like in the year 2025? Continue Reading →


redefinED roundup: Scholarships under legal attack in FL and AL, Catholics rally for choice in NY & more

MondayRoundUp_redAlabama: A state judge struck down the tax credit scholarship program on procedural grounds while ignoring the teacher union claims that the program violated separation of church and state (Montgomery Advertiser, Education Week, AL.comWAFF, Watchdog). Lawyers for the state and parents file a motion to lift the injunction against the program ( Parents and teachers react to the judge’s ruling (WSFA 12). Judge Reese, who declared the tax credit scholarship program unconstitutional, is a Democrat and has thwarted Republicans on education issues in the past ( Katherine Green Robertson, a senior policy counsel for the Alabama Policy Institute, says the court decision was a political attack on students and school choice (

California: Campbell Brown spotlights Vergara v. California, where nine students are suing the state over education policies they argue worsen quality (The Daily Beast).

Colorado: A group opposing education vouchers takes their case to the state Supreme Court (Chalkbeat).

D.C.: A proposed bill will make it easier for children of charter school teachers to enroll where their parents work (Washington Post).

Florida: The first proposed charter school conversion in Broward County awaits approval (Miami Herald). A group amends a 2009 adequacy lawsuit to include McKay Scholarships, tax-credit scholarships and charter schools as culprits for the alleged under-funding of public schools (Orlando Sentinel, redefinED). The Florida League of Women Voters release a report critical of charter schools (Jacksonville Free Press, Orlando Sentinel, Tampa Bay Times). Charter school advocates call the report “flawed” (Palm Beach Post). Henry Fortier, the superintendent of Catholic schools for the Orlando Diocese, says school choice doesn’t pit private schools against public schools (Orlando Sentinel). Leaders in Pinellas County react to changes in the law including the expansion of school choice in the state (Tampa Tribune). School choice critics ask the governor to veto the new laws expanding school choice in the state (WJHG).

Illinois: The Chicago Tribune hosts a debate between school choice supporters and opponents (Huffington Post). The senate votes to require charter schools to accept special needs and English language learners (Sun Times).

Indiana: A group opposing vouchers and charter schools previews a documentary to teachers, union members and school administrators (Muncie Free Press). Enrollment at Indiana Cyber School doubles but the school is still in debt (Trib Town).

Kentucky: Jim Waters, president of the Bluegrass Institute, says charter school critics shouldn’t focus on administrator salaries when some school districts have more employees making over $100,000 a year than the state capitol (Times-Tribune).

Louisiana: The last five traditional public schools in New Orleans close their doors for good (Washington Post, Gov. Bobby Jindal roasts President Obama over many issues including parental choice (Times-Picayune). The House votes 73-15 to allow students to transfer out of  lower-performing schools (New Orleans Business Journal). Test scores for voucher students improve (Times-Picayune). Continue Reading →


Catholic superintendent: School choice doesn’t pit public vs. private

fortier2Henry Fortier, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Orlando Diocese in Florida, offered a comeback today to a column by Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell.

In his piece, entitled “Like zombies, school vouchers rise from dead,” Maxwell wrote that the tax credit scholarship bill now awaiting Gov. Rick Scott’s signature “isn’t about reform.”

“It’s about taking money from public schools, shifting it to private ones — and not even making sure it’s being spent properly or that kids are learning anything. And just like “Night of the Living Dead,” that’s darn scary.”

In his response, Fortier highlighted Artayia Wesley, a scholarship student who attends Orlando’s St. Andrew Catholic School, which is designated a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. He also noted how the education landscape is changing in response to parental choice, and how those parents do hold private schools accountable. Here a few choice graphs:

Today’s public-education students enjoy an expanding menu of options, including open enrollment, magnet programs, career academies, online courses, International Baccalaureate, charter schools and scholarships for disabled students.

There is no reason to view any of these options as being in conflict with one another, or any of them as an attack on the traditional neighborhood school. We know from numerous independent financial evaluations on the tax-credit scholarships that they save tax money that can be used to enhance district schools. We know from academic research that the public schools most impacted by the loss of scholarship students are themselves achieving commendable test-score gains for low-income students.

While the private schools that participate in the scholarship don’t follow all the same rules and tests and grades as public schools, they are indeed held to account for how they spend their money and how well their students perform. Continue Reading →