redefinED roundup: school choice too popular in NJ, charter schools seek more $ in AZ and SC, and more

MondayRoundUp_redArizona: A charter school must repay $4.7 million in fees due to an inflated full-time enrollment count (Arizona Daily Sun). Charter schools are seeking $135 million in additional funding because they receive $1,100 per pupil less than traditional district schools (Arizona Daily Sun).

Florida: A state senator wants to restrict charter schools to specialized areas not currently served by district schools (The Florida Current). Charter schools learn to work with new transparency and open records rules (Daytona Beach News Journal). Homeschool students registered with private schools face fewer regulations ( WFSU). Florida has the third highest number of for-profit charter schools in the U.S. (Tampa Bay Times).

Georgia: Parents in Fulton County want school choice (Atlanta Journal-Constitution). The state isn’t monitoring how charter schools spend public funds (Associated Press).

Louisiana: The state and U.S. Department of Justice must come up with an agreement to monitor the voucher program within 60 days (Heartlander). School choice wins, sort of, after DOJ changes its lawsuit to ask the court to approve transparency policies over the program (Huffington Post, Washington Times, The Christian Post, The Advocate). Forty-five percent of the students in Louisiana’s voucher program attend a private school that is rated D or F (Times-Picayune).

Indiana: Charter schools in Indianapolis, thanks to the help of the mayor, will expand and grow next year (Chalk Beat). Indiana experienced a five-fold increase in vouchers and some schools now enroll a majority of voucher students (WNDU). A school board member in New Castle asks “who is profiting from vilifying” public schools (Courier Times)?

Massachusetts: A Catholic private school must raise $500,000 by June 2014 or the school will be shut down due to dwindling enrollment and rising costs (CBS Boston). Continue Reading →


Florida roundup: Homeschooling, charters, private schools & more

Homeschooling: A Florida woman who has been homeschooling her children is ordered by a judge to put them in public school after a guardian ad litem says she believes they would benefit from the socialization. Tampa Bay Times.

florida-roundup-logoCharter schools: A Palm Beach County senator wants to narrow the mission of charter schools with a bill that would require charters meet “a specific instructional need or a need for additional educational facilities.” The Florida Current. Charter school administrators are now required to post the school’s annual budget and fiscal audit, the state grade and names of governing board members on their websites. Daytona Beach News-Journal. At Immokalee Community School, every parent has signed a contract to speak Spanish with their kids for at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. StateImpact Florida.

Magnet schools: With the opening of a new aviation academy, students at Clearwater High School soon will be able to graduate with a pilot’s license – and a jump into the growing field of aviation and aerospace. Tampa Bay Times.

Private schools: Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg is looking for a new leader after an announcement that its head of school is stepping down. Tampa Bay Times.

College credit: Duval County’s strongest advanced high school programs may “seed” smaller accelerated or career courses at other district schools. Florida Times-Union. 

Achievement gap: Escambia County School District officials will soon be forming a new task force to help close the achievement gap among the district’s students. Pensacola News-Journal. Continue Reading →


Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from Florida

Hi everybody! We’re off from work today and tomorrow, and we hope you are too. Enjoy this time with friends and family. We’ll be blogging again Monday. See you then!


Advice to faith-based schools: highlight your success stories

I often find myself in situations where I’m the lone advocate for a particular ideal. At Republican functions, I’m usually the only Democrat. If I’m at a gathering of Democrats, I’m often the only one who will speak in favor of education reform.

Religious schools are educating thousands of children effectively. It’s no one’s fault but their own if few people know about it.

Religious schools are educating thousands of children effectively. It’s no one’s fault but their own if few people know about it.

When I attend education events with like-minded Democrats, I advocate for vouchers and, later that evening, buy my own drinks at happy hour.So it should surprise no one that I attended a summit, hosted by the American Center for School Choice, where the audience consisted of faith-based education leaders from all over the country.

I am not religious. In fact, I have been known to reject the whole idea of organized spirituality and have, on more than one occasion, championed doubt and reason instead. I’ve even quoted Bill Maher who once denounced faith because it “makes a virtue out of not thinking.”

Yet there I was, amidst faith-based leaders, discussing the excellent work they do with children and schools. At several points in the discussion we lamented that, in some areas, this work is being threatened. Whether due to the growing numbers of charter schools or rising tuition rates, enrollment in religious schools is down and some schools are even being forced to close.

This is tragic for many neighborhoods where there is no secular solution to take its place.

No wonder then that many leaders are eager to see tax-credit scholarship and voucher programs come to their neck of the woods. When discussion centered on ways to garner public support for such programs, I eagerly listened to their ideas.

But the ensuing discussion was disappointing. They wanted to focus on statistics, parent empowerment and the importance of teaching God-given morals and values in a setting that isn’t allowed in secular or public schools.

While persuasive to many in the room, those arguments simply won’t work with much of the larger public. So I took a deep breath and raised my hand. Continue Reading →


Florida roundup: Private schools, charters, grad standards & more

Private schools: A Miami-Dade family operated private school hires its first non-family school leader. Miami Herald. A Orlando private school threatens to expel a student if she doesn’t cut and shape her hair. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

florida-roundup-logoCharter schools: Lake Wales charter students spend their vacation delivering hot meals to shut-ins, giving out free car washes to passers-by and taking holiday food boxes to those in need. The Ledger.

Grad standards: Sen. Education Committee Chairman John Legg sees graduation standards as the panel’s top priority. The Florida Current.

Single gender: Two Miami-Dade lawmakers have filed legislation that would encourage Florida school districts to try gender-specific classrooms. The Buzz.

Teachers: Pasco County School District officials consider a transfer window to help get quality teachers into the system. Tampa Bay Times.

Bus service: Broward’s school transportation department is finally on the road to improvement after being blasted for disastrous service and bloated overtime payments. Sun Sentinel.

First-graders: Escambia County school officials work on first-grade retention. Pensacola News-Journal. Continue Reading →


Mr. Gibbons’ Report Card: Professor confuses jargon, school choice friends, education lotteries and more

MrGibbonsReportCardJulie Underwood – University of Wisconsin

The ed school dean at the University of Wisconsin, Julie Underwood, argued against school vouchers last week, saying school choice would turn education into a “private good.” She concluded, “If you believe education is a public good, you are not likely to support vouchers.”

Underwood is misusing the term “public good,” which, in economics, has a specific meaning to which education does not apply. She probably meant to say education has a public benefit, which is very true. But that same public benefit would still exist if there were no public schools and the government paid the tuition for all students to attend private schools.

Vouchers, tuition tax credits, education savings accounts and charter schools would all provide kids an education, which in turn, benefits the general public.  We do just as much with higher education where we provide tax-subsidized student loans and publicly funded education scholarships for students attending public or private universities.

 Grade: Needs Improvement


DuplessisAnn Duplessis – Louisiana

In 2005, Ann Duplessis was a Democratic state senator in Louisiana who helped derail a school voucher bill (despite urgent pleas from a few other Democrats). But within a few years, she had a change of heart, and by 2008, she was sponsoring a voucher bill. Today she is president of the Louisiana Federation of Children, a pro-voucher group.

According to an interview in The Advocate, “I had to educate myself,” she said. “And as I did I began to see the deplorable conditions” of many inner-city schools. She realized something different was needed.

Duplessis also began to see the wonderful job New Orleans charter schools were doing with the same population of students.

Grade: Satisfactory


Teleos_0366Texas State Board of Education

The Texas State Board of Education voted 9-6 to deny the Great Hearts Academies the right to expand its school into the Dallas area (the school will open in San Antonio next fall and has 15 schools in Phoenix). The state board denied the application because Great Hearts enrolls more white and affluent students than the surrounding Phoenix metro where it operates.

Great Hearts offers a classic liberal arts education which isn’t as appealing to minorities as career academies, but minorities do in fact choose these schools. For example, at Teleos Prep in downtown Phoenix, nearly half the students are black. Great Hearts’ mostly white and affluent student population in Phoenix seems to occur because most of its campuses are in whiter, more affluent suburbs. The fact is, when given the option of a classical liberal arts education, some minority parents do choose these schools. The mostly white Texas State Board of Education won’t let Dallas parents even have that choice.

Grade: Needs Improvement

  Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Charters, faith-based schools, FEA & more

Charter schools: West Palm Beach city commissioners hear how Mosaica Education would run the first municipal charter school in Palm Beach County. Palm Beach Post.

florida-roundup-logoReligious schools: John Paul II Catholic High School partners with local priests for a basketball competition. Tallahassee Democrat.

Fed up: About 40 teachers and parents, called TNT, organize to promote a campaign of teaching not testing. Fort Myers News-Press.

Teachers: Gov. Scott recognizes five veterans, who are now  teachers. Pensacola News-Journal. Pinellas County Schools has paid another $275,000 to teachers and administrators at four middle schools as part of its teacher incentive fund grant. Tampa Bay Times.

School boards: April Griffin will not run for re-election to the Hillsborough County school board when her second term expires next year, and that’s too bad, writes Joe Henderson of The Tampa Tribune.

FEA: The Florida Education Association spends $15 million on political activities. Dropout Nation. Continue Reading →


The cost of choice

school spendingForty-six years ago a plaintiff named John Serrano sued the State of California, asserting that the capacity of school districts to raise money was grossly unequal, hence unconstitutional. The quality of education in property-poor districts was said to be diminished by the resulting disparities in spending per pupil. Students had a right to a more rational and fair distribution of money.

As in most litigation the claimants had to prove some real injury. The disparities in spending were colossal, ranging, at the extremes, from a few hundred dollars per pupil in property-poor districts, to several thousand in freakishly wealthy industrial centers and top-rank suburbs. The injury seemed self-evident.

But it wasn’t. By whichever measure of outcome – graduation, test scores, reputation – there was no pattern linking spending to actual quality. In addition, surprisingly, there was little or no evidence that children from poor families were systematically getting less spent on their schools. The lawyers for Serrano et al. could not credibly assert that money was the key to quality education or indeed, that it affected the success of schools in any way – except one. It was obviously true that the richer districts could buy more stuff. They could hire more teachers, administrators and superintendents, at higher salaries, build fancier buildings and secure the most up-to-date supplies, books and equipment. The trial judge decided this was injury enough. His judgment for the plaintiffs was affirmed by the California Supreme Court. As yet, however, 40 years later, no one has succeeded in establishing a clear link between spending per-pupil and the benefit for the child.

Nevertheless, spending has skyrocketed in succeeding generations across the nation for reasons political – principally the monopoly power of public-service unions. But the apparent disconnect between spending and quality of education remains. This reality has conflicting implications for the school choice movement. It reduces the political significance of the consistent discrimination in spending against today’s charter schools; we are not at all clear that it really affects outcome. On the other hand, it is plain to anyone who knows the facts that, whatever it is that does make a school successful, it can be had without exploding the cost. In short, if school choice supporters are willing to accept and even exploit politically the cheaper regimes now in place, they have a more powerful case. Continue Reading →