Dual enrollment funding for private school students remains unresolved

Despite the efforts of private schools and some lawmakers, the Florida Legislature this spring didn’t resolve concerns that more private schools could end up paying for their high school students’ dual enrollment courses.

Last year, the Legislature changed the way the state funds dual enrollment courses, requiring school districts to pick up the tab for courses their students took on college campuses. That led to concerns that private schools could face similar charges, potentially reducing their students’ access.

Potential remedies were floated during the recently concluded session, but didn’t stick.

The House, for example, proposed adding language to state law ensuring private schools would be exempt from any of those payment provisions.

Private-school supporters spent the final week of the session emailing and calling legislators. But in the end, the plan to exempt private schools from the payment requirement did not prevail, nor did separate 
legislative efforts by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland.

The final legislation did make some tweaks, though. It provided, for example, that the Legislature could cover the cost of dual enrollment courses taken over the summer.

While it’s not clear what the impact will be for private school students, James Herzog, the associate director for education at the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he was worried it could create a “chilling effect” if more colleges start billing private schools for the costs of dual enrollment courses.

Howard Burke of the Florida Association of Christian Colleges and Schools said parents of private school students should be able to enroll their children in the same college-credit courses as their public school peers.

“They’re paying the same taxes the public school child’s parents are paying that have dual enrollment,” he said. “They should have equal access.”


Florida roundup: Budgets, teachers, legislation, Common Core and more

Legislature. StateImpact reviews the legislative session and talks about parental choice legislation with Senate Education Chairman John Legg.


Private schools. A man hopes to open a small private school to better meet the needs of some children. South Florida Times.

Common Core. The Miami Herald captures Gov. Rick Scott on video as he explains his stance on the standards to a crowd of protestors.

Teachers. Pinellas County public school teachers feel they are over-worked and students are over-tested. Tampa Tribune. Several Broward and Palm Beach County teachers face state discipline. Sun-Sentinel.

Budgets. Palm Beach County school district is projecting a budget shortfall. Extra Credit. School board members worry a last-minute budget blitz in the waning days of the legislative session could backfire politically. Extra Credit. Pasco’s superintendent plans to start re-investing in school staffs. Tampa Bay Times. Collier County schools expect to dip into their reserves. Naples Daily News.

Special needs. Exceptional students in Jacksonville – including those who attends Christian schools – learn about art at a local museum. Florida Times-Union. A program helps them prepare for careers. Naples Daily News.

School district employees. Palm Beach County’s internal schools watchdog is accused of retaliation. Sun-Sentinel. A former Manatee school board attorney is feuding with the district. Bradenton Herald. A former Manatee High employee said her firing was a case of retaliation. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Facilities. A Pinellas County high school is set to be torn down and rebuilt. Tampa Bay Times.

STEM. Middle schoolers  learn about DNA. Bradenton Herald.

Moms. Hernando County graders read mothers-day poetry. Tampa Bay Times.

Lunch. Manatee County’s district food and nutritional director receives national recognition. Bradenton Herald.


Report shows uneven spread of school choice in Florida

While school choice in Florida has continued to mature, the array of options – and the information parents receive – can vary greatly from one school district to the next.

That’s one of the findings from a recent report produced by the state Department of Education, which is intended to measure school districts’ compliance with state school choice policies.

The data can be surprising. The proliferation of charter schools might get a lot of ink in Florida’s seven largest urban districts. But as a percentage of enrollment, they play a larger role in a handful of rural areas and exurban enclaves.

In Franklin County, a single charter school serves nearly half the district’s students. In Glades County, a K-8 devoted to preserving the traditions of the Seminole Tribe serves nearly 15 percent of the student population – a larger proportion than urban Miami-Dade (where charters serve about 13 percent of students) or Palm Beach (7 percent).

The enrollment figures are from last fall, and they’re derived from the last enrollment survey of the 2012-13 school year. They paint a nuanced picture of a state where more than a million students take part in some kind of educational choice program.

In 13 Florida school districts, charter schools make up 10 percent or more of total school enrollment. Source: DOE surveys, choice access report.

In 13 Florida school districts, charter schools make up 10 percent or more of total school enrollment – an example of the variation in school choice options from one county to another. Source: DOE 2012-13 survey 5, choice access report (2014).

Continue Reading →


Florida roundup: Nation’s report card, turnarounds, transportation and more

Nation’s report card. The latest grades for America’s high school seniors are “dismal.”  Associated Press. Scores are largely flat in Florida, too. RedefinED. More from the Sun-Sentinel and StateImpact.


Personal learning accounts. A new Florida program could be the state of the art in parental choice, Matthew Ladner writes for the EdFly.

Tax credit scholarships. The program doesn’t hurt public schools, the Tampa Tribune editorializes.

Turnarounds. Pasco County schools honor the gains of students who started out struggling. Tampa Bay Times.

Transportation. The Hillsborough school board grapples with problems in its bus system. Tampa Bay Times. Tampa Tribune. Hernando schools officials decide to preserve busing for students living near their scores. Tampa Bay Times.

Transgender students. A transgender student hopes to become prom king. Tampa Bay Times.

School boards. The Leon County School Board delays a meeting on contracting practices. WFSU. Tallahassee Democrat. A Democrat editorial calls for an explanation of the ongoing controversy. The Palm Beach County debates disciplining its top corruption watchdog. Palm Beach Post.

Real estate. The Miami-Dade school district considers selling some of its land. Miami Herald. The Manatee County school district rejects a $1.1 million land deal. Bradenton Herald.

Catholic schools. A Catholic high school in Fort Myers taps a local to be its next principal. Fort Myers News-Press.

Teachers. A Polk County teacher is a finalist for state recognition. Lakeland Ledger.

School safety. A bomb threat keeps middle school students at school in the afternoon. Ledger.

Graduation. The Palm Beach County school district prepares to recognize graduates bound for the military. Extra Credit.


National test scores mostly flat for Florida 12th-graders

Reading and math scores for Florida high school seniors remained flat between 2009 and 2013 on a respected national test, according to results released Wednesday.

NAEP chartFlorida’s reading scores moved from from 283 to 286 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, better known as “the nation’s report card,” while its math scores inched up from 148 to 149. Neither increase is considered statistically significant.

Nationally, NAEP scores were also flat in both subjects. In math, 25 percent of students tested at proficient or above; in reading, 36 percent. (The corresponding numbers for Florida: 19 percent and 36 percent.)

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called the results “troubling.”

“We project that our nation’s public schools will become majority-minority this fall – making it even more urgent to put renewed attention into the academic rigor and equity of course offerings and into efforts to redesign high schools,” he said in a written statement. “We must reject educational stagnation in our high schools, and as nation, we must do better for all students, especially for African-American and Latino students.”

Unlike NAEP results for fourth- and eighth-graders, which receive widespread attention when they are reported every two years, NAEP results for 12th graders come with significant caveats.

  • Only a handful of states volunteer to participate. Florida was among 11 states that participated in 2009, the first time state-by-state results were reported, and among 13 states that participated in 2013.
  • The data only extends back to 2009, so there aren’t any long-term trend lines yet.
  • And because it involves 12th-graders, the results can be impacted by graduation rates.

That could help explain why the national scores are stagnant at a time when graduation rates are climbing, said John Q. Easton, director of the Institute of Education Sciences.

The test sample now “includes more lower-performing students who would have dropped out in the past,” he told reporters in a conference call Tuesday. “So we’re sampling from a population that includes more weaker students than we had when the graduation rate was lower.”

Florida scores, then, would seem to be especially impacted. Over the past decade, it ranks No. 2 among states in improving grad rates, climbing 23 percentage points between 2000 and 2010, according to an Education Week analysis. Continue Reading →


‘No longer an experiment:’ FL’s parental choice debate is shifting with maturity

President Gaetz (left) and Speaker Weatherford

President Gaetz (left) and Speaker Weatherford

One called for more expansion. The other, for more accountability.

This spring, intentionally or not, Florida legislative leaders highlighted twin themes for the state’s parental school choice programs that not only marked the session that ended last week, but will define many more to come.

It was House Speaker Will Weatherford who stressed the former. He touched off one of the most rancorous debates of Florida’s 2014 legislative session when, more than a month before it began, he called for a “massive expansion” of education options for parents.

And it was Senate President Don Gaetz, halfway through the session, who offered the yin to Weatherford’s yang, explaining the Senate’s push for new accountability measures for the tax credit scholarship program.

“The program has grown to a place where it is no longer an experiment,” he told the Associated Press. “It is no longer a pilot. It is an accepted way for families to exercise choice in education.”

Whether they’re talking about charter schools or private-school scholarships, that’s been the reality for the past two legislative sessions under Gaetz and Weatherford: School choice is no longer an experiment. It’s now mainstream. It will continue to grow. But as it does, questions have shifted from whether parental choice programs should be allowed to expand to how best to regulate them, how to create more attractive options in the traditional public school system, and what the next phase of experimentation should look like.

These are questions that will increasingly emerge in other states, but Florida is ahead of the curve. It ranks at or near the top in enrollment for charter schools, virtual schools and private schools via vouchers and tax credit scholarships, and there are no signs of slowing.

Accountability and regulation

The shifting focus cuts across all sectors. Take charter schools.

This year, the Senate opted not to pass a major charter school bill. Sen. John Legg, R-Trinity, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said that was in part because lawmakers were waiting to see the effects of changes they passed last year, including a bill requiring the Department of Education to create a model charter contract for school districts.

Last year’s law also brought charters under more financial scrutiny. The effort was supported by some charter school advocates who wanted to prevent cases, like a handful of high-profile ones from Central Florida, from damaging a movement that is getting more attention as it takes on a larger share of Florida’s school enrollment.

“I think the growth of charter schools is going to bring more scrutiny to the charter schools themselves,” Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, said in an interview. “They’re going to come eventually under the same microscope that we are.”

Continue Reading →


Florida roundup: Budgets, Legislature, tax credit scholarships and more

Tax credit scholarships. The program is expanding, and more organizations are signing up to offer scholarships. Tampa Tribune. A Gainesville Sun guest column pans “privatization.” A Washington Post blogger pans the Florida Legislature. The program helps Jewish families afford private schools. Chabad.org. The program is administered by non-profit organizations like Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog.


Legislative session. Sen. John Legg  recaps the session for the Pasco County School Board, including a push to encourage a new collegiate high school in the district. Gradebook. The debate in Florida this year was about how to manage a panoply of parental choice options that has matured. RedefinED.

Budgets. School-related property taxes would increase under the budget that passed the Legislature. Tampa Tribune. The Palm Beach Post calls the education budget “a source of shame” in an editorial.

Merit pay. A federal judge upholds SB 736 in its last remaining constitutional challenge, but also says the evaluation system is unfair without tests in every grade and subject. Orlando Sentinel. Associated Press.

Charter schools. A Sarasota Military Academy teacher accused of shoving a student can resign rather than being fired. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Facilities. Broward schools seek an $800 million bond referendum. Sun-Sentinel. Miami Herald.

Turnarounds. The Pinellas school district intervenes at nine schools. Tampa Bay Times.

Closures. The Hernando County school board decides to keep an elementary school open. Tampa Bay Times.

Administration. A handful of Pinellas elementary school principals are changing schools. Tampa Tribune. Parents petition the school board over an administrator’s decision to discipline a popular athlete. Florida Times-Union.

Reading instruction. Zephyrhills athletes mentor younger students. Tampa Bay Times.

Transportation. The saga of Hillsborough’s bus system continues. Tampa Bay Times.

Volunteers. A 79-year-old school volunteer is honored. Tampa Tribune.


Mr. Gibbons’ Report Card: Clueless in St. Louis, EPI ignores data, and are tax-credits tax dollars collected?

MrGibbonsReportCardSt. Louis Post-Dispatch

Missouri state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a Democrat and school board member from University City, Mo., supports allowing students in unaccredited public school districts (low-performing) to receive vouchers to attend private, non-religious schools. When she questioned the fairness of forcing parents to pay taxes to fund public schools and, at the same time, tuition to pay for their children’s private education, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch declared that to be a selfish motivation for school choice. (Note: students in University City would be ineligible for private vouchers based on the current proposal.)

The newspaper editors declared Sen. Chappelle-Nadal to be “clueless on the value of public schools.” They expounded on that value by discussing the ways public schools benefit the general public, including increasing home values, greater economic development, higher incomes and more. Naturally, an educated population improves the greater public good.

But those public benefits don’t magically disappear if more kids are educated at private schools using publicly funded vouchers (or even privately funded tax-credit scholarships). The benefit ensues WHEN students are educated, NOT because of WHERE they are educated.


Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal

If privately funded vouchers improve educational options for children (and the vast majority of research says they do), then society is better for it. Society is worse off if we eliminate options for students struggling in schools simply because newspaper editors and politicians are concerned about the geography of where the education occurs.

Ultimately, parents have another selfish motive beyond double paying tuition – they want the best education possible for their own children. That’s just good parenting. Why do these editors want to stand in the way of that?

Grade: Needs Improvement


Gordan Laffer – Economic Policy Institute

Last week Gordon Laffer, an associate professor at the University of Oregon and research fellow at the Economic Policy Institute, made a case against charter schools in a report titled “Do poor kids deserve lower-quality education than rich kids?”

Well obviously, the answer is “no,” but the title offers a clue as to how the report unfolds. The main thrust of the report is to study the impact of “privatization” (aka charter schools) on low-income students.

However, Laffer ignores what other researchers say about that subject. In fact, when he cites the CREDO report on charter school performance, he only mentions the results for all students of all income levels.

But what does CREDO actually say about the charter school impact on low-income students? Continue Reading →