Tune in tonight! From Brown v. Board of Education to school choice

Brown v. Board of Education opened many doors of opportunity, but too many remain closed. School choice can open some more.

Longtime school choice advocate Howard Fuller and a high-profile panel will reflect on that theme tonight at a National School Choice Week event in South Florida. To watch it live, just come back and view it here at 6:15 p.m.

You can also keep tabs via Twitter @redefinedonline. Search for #SCW and #FLschoolchoice.

In the meantime, here are some more thoughts on the links between Brown v. Board and school choice from some of the panelists you’ll be hearing from.

T. Willard Fair, former chairman, Florida Board of Education; president, Urban League of Greater Miami:

While we were victorious in fighting for school choice nearly 60 years ago, the struggle continues. Choice is still an issue for many low-income children who come from the wrong side of the tracks. The Urban League of Greater Miami has made education and school choice the focal point of its work for over 50 years because access to quality education is still one of the most pressing civil rights issues of our times. This is not to sound somber or overly critical of the great strides we have made with Brown vs. Board of Education. However, we cannot be ignorant to believe that the victory of 60 years ago assuaged all of our “Black or Brown” educational issues. The need to access quality education is still alive and evident in Florida with more than 60 percent of Black children reading below grade level. Continue Reading →


Private school student excels in public school JROTC

Every morning, Kevin Gines gets up an hour earlier so his mom can drive him to a nearby public school, where the 16-year-old sophomore takes a naval science class. Then he heads to a private Christian academy in North Florida to finish the rest of his school day.

Florida private school student Kevin Gines makes the most of an opportunity to participate in a nearby public school's JROTC program.

Florida private school student Kevin Gines makes the most of an opportunity to participate in a nearby public school’s JROTC program.

“He’s really serious,’’ said Kevin’s father, Jesse, a security guard. “You should see how he shines his shoes. He’s already a soldier.’’

Kevin said he’s willing to make the extra effort because he knows it’s an opportunity he almost didn’t get. His school, the Christian Home Academy in Orange Park, doesn’t offer JROTC. So last May, the Gineses tried to sign up Kevin for the program at Middleburg High, a Clay County district school within minutes of their home.

School officials intervened, telling the Gineses that Kevin wasn’t eligible because he wasn’t enrolled in the public school, and that he couldn’t register for only one class. A high school in neighboring Duval County said Kevin could sign up for JROTC there, but it was too far for his mother to drive each day.

Kevin was about to give up, but not his dad. Jesse Gines combed through state statutes. He learned private school students are allowed to participate in extra-curricular activities at public schools, such as sports and gifted programs. So are homeschoolers and students taking classes through Florida Virtual School. There’s also a notice on the JROTC website that says students not enrolled at the school hosting the program can become special cadets.

But the district official overseeing enrollment wouldn’t budge. Kevin, who comes from a family of Marines, appeared to be caught in a gray area.

Then his dad reached out to Step Up For Students, the nonprofit that administers the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship. Kevin’s family uses the scholarship to send him and his little brother to Christian Home Academy. Step Up also co-hosts this blog.

We talked to JROTC officials as well as the state education commissioner at the time, Tony Bennett, and Clay County Superintendent Charlie Van Zant. Everyone agreed it would be a mistake if Kevin couldn’t join JROTC and follow his dream. Continue Reading →


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.

Continue Reading →


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

  Continue Reading →


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.


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 →


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.


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



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.


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.

Continue Reading →