Florida schools roundup: School choice, virtual schools, charters & more

School choice: Expect debates on vouchers, school grades and charter schools this year as legislators set priorities for the upcoming session. The Buzz. Lawmakers propose legislation affecting public schools, from an overhaul of Florida’s school accountability system to a “massive expansion” of school-choice and career-education programs. Tallahassee Democrat. More from The Florida Current. More than 3,000 parents and prospective students crowd into the Bradenton Area Convention Center for Manatee County School District’s first school choice fair. Bradenton Herald.

florida-roundup-logoCharter schools: The Charter School Appeals Commission recommends the state Board of Education turn down a Lakeland group’s proposal for a charter school. The Ledger. Former Gov. Jeb Bush tours the Latin Builders Association Construction & Business Management Academy Charter High School as part of National School Choice Week. Local10.com

Virtual schools: Mom Heather Tempesta lets her daughter try Florida Virtual School after all. Tampa Bay Times.

Magnet schools: Manatee School for the Arts student and teacher get to spend D-Day at Normandy. Bradenton Herald.

Education budget: Orange County school leaders say Gov. Rick Scott’s budget proposal isn’t as generous as it seems. Orlando Sentinel. Much of Scott’s proposed education spending boost would come from property taxes. The Buzz.

Governor’s race: Seventy-one percent of Washington insiders surveyed in January think that the Florida gubernatorial race is the most important one to watch for education. Education Week.

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Mr. Gibbons’ Report Card: A columnist cancels choice, Tulsa U-turns, and free public education unless you don’t pay

MrGibbonsReportCardDave Begel – On Milwaukee

Dave Begel is a columnist for On Milwaukee and he wants to terminate the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program. Begel argues that ending the voucher program will send $200 million back to the Milwaukee Public School District. Indeed, that would amount to a 17 percent increase in the district’s budget. A very large sum, just as Begel concludes.

Begel asks readers to imagine the possibilities: “Two adults in every early education classroom. A return of art and music programs. Guidance counselors in every school to help students chart their course.”

Dave Begel

But Begel seems to forget that all 24,915 voucher students would also return. That represents a 32 percent increase in the district’s student population.

While the Milwaukee Public School District spent $15,253 per pupil in 2012-13, the voucher was worth $6,442. Factoring in the budget and student population increase, the district would see per-pupil spending drop by $1,807. If it couldn’t afford two teachers per class and art and music programs and guidance counselors at $15,253 per kid, it certainly won’t be able to afford all that at $13,446.

Critics should be careful when arguing that school choice drains funds from public schools. Since pretty much every school choice program receives fewer dollars per pupil, nothing would drain public school coffers faster than terminating choice programs and sending the kids back to district schools.

Grade: Needs Improvement

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Florida schools roundup: Digital ed, SEED school, dual enrollment & more

Digital learning: A New Port Richey legislator says the governor and other lawmakers want to spend $40 million to upgrade school technology. StateImpact Florida.

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SEED school: Florida’s first public boarding school, run by the SEED Foundation, is coming to Miami-Dade County. Miami Herald.

Dual enrollment: Orange County schools start a dual-enrollment program with Keiser University. Orlando Sentinel.

Charter schools: Pasco County school board members are poised to approve two charter applications, including one for a school that caters to children with disabilities. Tampa Bay Times. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools ranks Florida eighth in the nation for its laws supporting the nontraditional public schools, notes the Tampa Bay Times.

Private schools: A couple who suddenly shut down their Milwaukee private school last month after collecting $2.3 million in state vouchers over six years is trying to get a similar program off the ground here. Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Magnet schools: The Pinellas County School Board gives the first greenlight to reopen two elementary schools as technology magnets next school year. Tampa Bay Times.

Traditional schools: The Polk County School Board unanimously approves new attendance zones for nine schools. The Ledger. 

Common Core: Pasco County teachers learn how to leverage the new state standards. The Tampa Tribune. Continue Reading →

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Howard Fuller: 60 years after Brown, parental choice is key

Editor’s note: Howard Fuller,  chairman of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, will speak Thursday at a spotlight National School Choice Week event sponsored by the Florida Alliance for Choices in Education. The  focus of the event is the connection between the Brown v. Board of Education decision 60 years ago and today’s school choice movement. Here, Dr. Fuller offers a taste of what’s to come Thursday:

The historic 1954 Brown v Board of Education decision was important not only for its impact on education. It was also an important element of the larger struggle to end the legal discrimination against Black people within the United States. Today, we have a different problem; children of low-income and working-class Black families are trapped in schools that are not providing them with a quality education.

brown v boardIntegration is not the lever of power that is needed at this point in history.

We should heed the words of Judge Robert Carter, who, as a young attorney had the responsibility to put the social science literature before the Supreme Court in the Brown case. He said, “Integrated education must not be lost as the ultimate solution. That would be a disaster in my judgment.  For the present, however, to focus on integration alone is a luxury only the black middle class can afford. They have the means to desert the public schools if dissatisfied, can obtain remediation if necessary, and can get their children into colleges or some income-producing enterprise.”

In today’s world, ultimately the place where integration  that counts takes place is the market place. If low-income Black students arrive at the market place ill-equipped to compete they will never be integrated in the mainstream of this society. Not only will they not be able to function as economically productive citizens, they will also not be able to be effective participants in the effort to engage in the practice of freedom – the transformation of their world.

These families need the capacity to choose better educational environments for their children. Parent choice is one of the levers of power they need in that search for a better education for their children.

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Study: FL charter schools grads stay in college longer, make more $

Sass

Sass

Students who attend Florida charter high schools are more likely to persist in college and earn more money than their counterparts in district schools, an “especially striking” finding given little differences in test scores, according to a new working paper. (Hat tip: Colin Hitt at Jay P. Greene’s Blog).

The paper is co-authored by four researchers, including Tim Sass, formerly an economics professor at Florida State University and now at Georgia State University. It builds on earlier research that found students in charter high schools in Florida and Chicago were more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college than like students in traditional public schools. (Both groups examined attended charter schools in eighth grade.) The more recent data continues to show the same thing. But the researchers also found:

  • Charter high school students in Florida persisted in college for at least two years at a rate 13 percentage points higher than like district students.
  • Charter high school students in Florida earned an estimated $2,347 more annually, when they were 23 to 25 years old, than like district students.

In both cases, the researchers found the differences to be statistically significant. They write in their conclusion:

“Exactly what charter schools are doing to produce substantial positive effects on educational attainment and earnings is an open question. Charter high schools might be able to produce positive effects on initial college entry merely by providing better counseling and encouragement to apply and enroll. But that could not explain higher rates of persistence in college or higher earnings, suggesting that charter high schools are endowing their students with skills that are useful for success in college and career but that test scores do not capture. The fact that charter high school students have higher earnings even if they do not attend college further supports this interpretation …

“Positive impacts on long-term attainment outcomes and earnings are, of course, more consequential than outcomes on test scores in school. It is possible that charter schools’ full long-term impacts on their students have been underestimated by studies that examine only test scores.”

In Florida, those studies include this, this, this and this.

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Florida schools roundup: Catholic schools, charters, magnets & more

Catholic schools: Catholic leaders hail small growth in school enrollment as a hopeful sign. Florida Times-Union. Publicly funded, private school choice programs in Florida are a big reason for the increase. redefinED.

florida-roundup-logoCharter schools: A charter school company in Lee County gets a second chance at opening a school this fall after coming close to a district denial. Fort Myers News-Press.

Magnet schools: Pinellas County school leaders need to ensure reopening shuttered schools as magnet-style schools doesn’t widen the gap between the lottery winners and the remaining students, writes the Tampa Bay Times. Pinellas school officials hope reopening those schools as technology magnets will reclaim students who left for private schools or are on waiting lists for other choice programs. The Tampa Tribune.

Traditional schools: The Hillsborough County School Board moves forward with a plan to buy new school busses and offers orientation for new principals. Tampa Bay Times.

Education budget: Florida Gov. Rick Scott says his recommendation for lawmakers to increase education spending would be enough to push it to a record high of $18.84 billion. The Buzz. More from the Tallahassee Democrat, News Service of Florida, Fort Myers News-Press,  Palm Beach Post and Sun Sentinel.

Common Core: Brevard residents rally against the new education standards during a Republican Liberty Caucus of Eastern Florida forum. Florida Today.

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FL Catholic schools show enrollment growth, again

rising trend lineAgain defying national trends, Catholic schools in Florida showed enrollment growth for the second year in a row this year.

Enrollment in PreK-12 reached 84,750, up from 84,258 last year, a modest increase of 0.6 percent, according to data released Monday by the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Enrollment was at 81,632 two years ago.

By contrast, Catholic school enrollment nationally, on the decline for decades, fell another 1.5 percent last year.

Publicly funded, private school choice programs in Florida are a big reason for the difference. Florida Catholic schools enroll students who use pre-K vouchers, McKay scholarships for students with disabilities and tax credit scholarships for low-income students. (The latter is administered by Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog.)

According to the conference, tax credit scholarship students in Florida Catholic schools increased 23 percent last fall, and 46 percent in fall 2012. McKay students jumped by 12 percent and 7 percent over the same span.

The latest numbers come as schools around the country celebrate National School Choice Week and National Catholic Schools Week. For a more detailed look at what’s going on with Catholic school enrollment in Florida, check out our story from last year.

Update at 12:10 p.m. on Jan. 28: The Catholic school enrollment numbers in Florida are on the upswing even if you exclude Pre-K. According to the conference, there were 73,714 K-12 students in Florida Catholic schools in 2011-12, 75,969 in 2012-13 and 76,500 in 2013-14. Percentage-wise, the K-12 increase over the past two years is 3 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.

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From segregation to school choice

Howard Fuller

Howard Fuller

In the 60 years since the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, the mission to offer every student equal access to a free and quality public education has made great strides. But there’s more work to do, say education advocates gathering this week for National School Choice Week.

More than a dozen groups representing everything choice – from charters to religious schools to district virtual schools – will meet Jan. 30 in Coral Springs, Fla., for a panel discussion reflecting on the historic Supreme Court ruling and whether its vision is being fulfilled.

Brown was an important part of the struggle to end legal discrimination but today “we have a different problem,” longtime school choice supporter Howard Fuller said in an email to redefinED. “Children of low income and working class Black families are trapped in schools that are not providing them with a quality education. Integration is not the lever of power that is needed at this point in history.”

national-school-choice-week-logo1

The Florida event is one of 5,500 taking place during the fourth annual celebration of educational opportunity.

Speakers include Fuller, a distinguished professor and board chairman of the Black Alliance for Educational Options; Georgia Rep. Alisha Morgan, a Democrat and school choice supporter; T. Willard Fair, a civil rights activist and the youngest chapter president in the history of the Urban League; Julio Fuentes, president of the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options; Rabbi Moshe Matz, director of Agudath Israel of Florida; Vincent Boccard, mayor of the city of Coral Springs; and Jonathan Hage, founder, president, chairman and chief executive officer of Charter Schools USA.

The event is hosted by Florida Alliance for Choices in Education (FACE), a roundtable of school choice and parental empowerment organizations that work to expand and strengthen educational options. Partners include Step Up For Students, the nonprofit that administers the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship (and co-hosts this blog); Florida Charter School Alliance; PublicSchoolOptions.org;  Charter Schools USA; Coral Springs Charter School; Florida Virtual School; McKay Coalition; HCREO; Agudath Israel of Florida: StudentsFirst; Pasco eSchool; National Institute for Educational Options; and K12 Inc.

The event will be held at the Coral Springs Charter School, 3205 N. University Drive, Coral Springs, 33065. The reception starts at 5:30 p.m. with the discussion at 6:15 p.m. For more information, email FACE director Wendy Howard, wendy@flace.org

You’ll be able to watch a live webcast of the event here on the blog. You can also follow via Twitter @redefinedonline. Search for #SCW and #FLchoice.

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