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 →


redefinED roundup: Vouchers in Louisiana, rally in New York, blended learning in New Jersey & more

MondayRoundUp_magentaAlabama: The Alabama Education Association runs attack ads against a pro-school choice candidate during Republican special election primaries (AL.com).

California: L.A.’s public school choice initiative became more about collaboration than competition (Huffington Post). San Fernando Valley Charter schools form an advocacy group (Daily News).

Colorado: School choice candidates win a majority on the Jefferson County School Board (Denver Post).

D.C.: Parents will be able to use one application to apply to many different schools of choice (Education Week, Washington Post). Bureaucracy, not school choice, was the problem in D.C. (redefinED). The district approves two Texas-based charter school operators to open new schools (Washington Post).

Florida: A bullied student finds a new home using a tax-credit scholarship to attend a private school (redefinED). With charter and private school options on the rise, the Pinellas County School District markets magnet schools to attract students back to the district (Tampa Bay Times). Robin Gibson, a prominent Democrat with close ties to former Govs. Bob Graham and Lawton Chiles, defends charter schools from critics (The Ledger). The superintendent of the Hillsborough County School District has reservations about allowing a competing charter school on MacDill Air Force Base (Tampa Bay Times).

Georgia: Parents choose private schools for many reasons other than high test scores (One News Now).

Hawaii: A charter school fires its principal after he is charged with the theft of more than $150,000 from the school (Hawaii News Now).

Indiana: Gov. Mike Pence wants to increase the number of charter schools in the state (Post Tribune).

Louisiana: Gov. Bobby Jindal and school choice supporters may be declaring victory against the DOJ’s anti voucher suit but the fight isn’t over yet (Education Week, Times Picayune, National Review, Wall Street Journal, Bayou Buzz, The Town Talk ). The judge in the DOJ’s anti voucher suit ordered both sides to come up with a plan to prevent racial segregation (Associated Press, Bloomberg, New York Times). A former Democrat and state legislature turns from voucher foe to voucher supporter (The Advocate). Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Charters, magnet programs, school choice & more

Charter schools: A former chairman of the Florida Board of Regents and a founder of the Lake Wales Charter School System speaks out about the success of charters. The Ledger.

florida-roundup-logoMagnet schools: Students attending a Miami architectural magnet high school design homes for the homeless. Miami Herald. Increased competition for students, declining enrollment in the middle grades, and a need to offer more attractive options to families is leading Pinellas County Schools to open new magnet programs. Tampa Bay Times.

School choice: Parents and students tell Pasco school officials that the district needs to take into account student interests when preparing new academic offerings. Tampa Bay Times.

Academic gap: After years of struggling to close the achievement gap between black and white students, the newest round of SAT scores show signs of improvement. The Tampa Tribune.

GED: Starting Jan. 2, the new GED test will be offered only on the computer and will be nearly twice as expensive as the current one — $130 compared to $70. The Tampa Tribune. Continue Reading →