redefinED roundup: L.A. charter/district partnership, FL parent trigger, N.C. district charters & more

California: Parents of a persistently low-performing public school in Los Angeles took advantage of the state’s parent-trigger law and overwhelmingly voted for the district and a charter operator to take over operations (Los Angeles Times).

Florida: An amendment to the Senate version of the parent trigger bill gives school boards – not the state – final say on a turnaround plan for a failing school (redefinED). The House passes one of the most far-reaching education bills in history, changing high school graduation requirements and bolstering career education (Tallahassee Democrat). Superintendent Alberto Carvalho shows off an innovative district magnet school that uses interactive technology and new teaching methods in what he says isn’t the classroom of the future, but of today (Miami Herald).

MondayRoundUpTexas: Lawmakers in the Senate passed a charter school bill that calls for dramatic changes to the state’s two-decades-old system, including allowing charters reasonable growth and the shut down of poor performers (Austin American-Statesman). Despite House representatives’ ban on a school choice bill that creates school vouchers, Senate Education Chairman Dan Patrick pleaded with fellow lawmakers to help families send their children to private schools (The Texas Tribune).
Minnesota: The St. Paul school district improves its school choice application process, but many parents are still upset they lost the lottery (St. Paul Pioneer Press).
Maine: A legislative committee rejected a plan to divert $1 million in public school dollars to set up a legal defense fund for the Maine Charter School Commission. Proponents wanted the contingency fund to help pay for legal challenges concerning charter school applications (The Maine Public Broadcasting Network). More from the Kennebec Journal.

North Carolina: Flawed charter school applications could prevent at least 27 out of 69 schools from opening independent public schools in 2014, the Public Charter School Advisory Council found (Charlotte Observer). More from the Raleigh News & Observer. A new bill would allow districts to create their own charter schools (Winston-Salem Journal).

Illinois: As push for more charter schools increases, Chicago’s public schools could close 54 schools to offset a $1 billion deficit (The Guardian). The Illinois House is moving to put a three-year moratorium on Internet charter schools just days after a handful of suburban districts rejected the online proposals (Daily Herald). More from the Daily Herald. Continue Reading →

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Ken Campbell: La. parents reaping benefits of ed reform, school choice

Campbell

Campbell

This week, NBC’s Education Nation is visiting New Orleans on its national tour to get a first-hand look at education challenges and opportunities being faced by local regions. On a national scale, Louisiana, more particularly New Orleans, has long been considered a hotbed for education reform. But this week’s visit is another chance to zero in on the many changes that have taken place and the progress that has been made as part of the massive reform movement  that  has  emerged. Long  before  the  state  took  on  a national profile, the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) was at the forefront of the education reform movement in Louisiana – advocating on behalf of parents and students and fighting for expanded educational options across the state.

It’s no secret that in the last few years, Louisiana has adopted a number of education reforms centered on school choice and teacher accountability, among other key issues. Just last year, Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law one of the most advanced and comprehensive education reform bills in the nation. BAEO has been on the ground for more than a decade to help bring these reforms to life.

Early on, we waged a battle against the status quo and promoted the belief that students must come first in all efforts to improve education in Louisiana. We provided a voice for Black children from low-income and working-class families and demanded they have an equal opportunity to compete and succeed. We have seen parents asking for help to rescue their children from failing schools and we have seen the passage and implementation of a comprehensive scholarship “voucher” program that allowed thousands of Louisiana children to trade their destitute educational environments for private schools that gave them hope and a greater chance to achieve. Along the way, we’ve helped parents fight for “choice” and “options,” as well as navigate the system and better leverage the options that are available to them today.

And while there is much more work to be done, we are proud today to see Louisiana has come a long way because of education reform. Today, many of the parents we met early on are reaping the benefits of their hard work and commitment to advocating for their children. Even more, we see those parents feeling empowered, standing up and volunteering to be a voice, not only for their children, but for all of the children who deserve access to a high-quality education. Continue Reading →

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Florida ‘voucher’ student works hard on and off the field

While most young men who play high school football dream about making it  to the pros, Kevin Kelly knows that it’s highly unlikely he’ll make it to the NFL.

“I probably won’t, and I’m OK with that,” he said recently. “As long as I get to have fun now, I’m OK with it.”

Kevin in Nicaragua on a medical mission trip.

Kevin in Nicaragua on a medical mission trip.

But the starting defensive end and right guard for the Father Lopez Catholic High School Green Waves has a different – perhaps more realistic – dream: Playing college football.

“I’ve really progressed, and I hope to play college ball,” he said.

Kevin, a junior, attends Father Lopez in Daytona Beach with the help of a Step Up school choice scholarship. There, he has been able to refine his athletic and academic talents. He credits the support of his team, watchful eye of his coaches, along with the reduced team size at his school, for granting him the opportunity on the field despite the highly competitive nature of football in Daytona Beach.

“At Father Lopez, I was able to start in my sophomore year,” Kevin said. “Being on a smaller team, they were able to help me more, coach me up more. The coaching was great, and my teammates were unbelievable.”

While he’s always enjoyed playing the game, Kevin didn’t always have such a passion for football. Now, it’s as if he never wants the game to end.

“When I made my first touchdown, I really didn’t want to stop,” he said.

Before Kevin learned he had to fight hard to win in football, he was taught that you have to work hard to succeed academically. Actually, he said, the lesson he learned at Sacred Heart School in New Smyrna Beach, where he attended kindergarten through eighth grade, pertains to life in general. His former math teacher, Aven Bacon, used a tough-love approach.

“She really pushed me. If I started to get lazy, she would threaten to put me in the lower class,” Kevin recalled. “That really taught me you have to work hard to get what you want.” Continue Reading →

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Florida roundup: parent trigger, online learning, privatization fears & more

Parent trigger. The parent trigger bill is amended in the Senate so school boards have the final say. Coverage from redefinED, Associated Press, SchoolZoneThe Buzz. StateImpact Florida talks to Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, about why he’s opposed to parent trigger. The Orlando Sentinel highlights the amendment sponsor, Sen. David Simmons. Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino sees the specter of mass privatization: “The parental trigger bill is designed to lead to the widespread conversion of traditional public schools in Florida to charter schools.”

florida roundup logoOnline education. The bills being considered by this year’s Legislature, including Sen. Jeff Brandes’ course choice bill, are about profits and privatization, not choice and competition, editorializes the Tampa Bay Times.

Data. Lawmakers are dealing with data issues related to teacher evaluations and access to researchers, the latter being complicated by critics raising fears of privatization, reports the Tampa Bay Times. A group called Liberty in Action protests the access bill outside the office of bill sponsor Sen. Bill Galvano, reports the Bradenton Herald.

Remediation. The Senate approves a bill that would end a requirement that college students take remedial courses for no credit. StateImpact Florida.

School spending. The Seminole school is scrambling to explain why it decided to spend $100,000 to send 176 teachers and school administrators to a teacher training program when a cheaper alternative was available. Orlando Sentinel.

Employee conduct. Three staffers at a Collier County school are under investigation for some kind of impropriety with FCAT testing. Naples Daily News.

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Florida Senate committee amends parent trigger bill, giving school boards final say

Florida lawmakers made a big change to the parent trigger bill Thursday, passing it on another party-line vote but only after diluting the initial proposal to give parents more power to improve struggling schools.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education approved an amendment that gives school boards – not the state – the final say on a school turnaround plan.

The original wording in Senate Bill 862 made the state Board of Education the final arbiter if parents and school boards didn’t agree on the best way to improve a school.

Among a list of options is converting the district school into a charter school, a plan that might have more support from parents and the state board than district leaders.

The amendment comes at the request of Education Commissioner Tony Bennett, who asked sponsors of the House and Senate parent empowerment bills to hold elected school board members accountable.

“School boards should not have the ability to push the decision to the state,’’ Bennett wrote in a recent letter. “They owe it to parents to consider what they have to say without being able to avoid the tough decisions.’’

Bennett also suggested the turnaround process was “overly burdensome’’ with formal notices, votes and petitions required to kick-start a plan. He said the school board should have to explain at a public hearing why it didn’t think the parents’ approach was best.

Sen. Simmons

Sen. Simmons

The amendment, introduced by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, made that a requirement.The final outcome should be determined locally, not in Tallahassee, Simmons said. He also said parents are as culpable as school boards when it comes to so-called failing schools.

Sen. Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat and head of the state superintendents association, said he supported the amendment and might be able to support the bill if “we continue to move the way we are now.’’ For now, he joined three other Democrats on the subcommittee in voting against it.

The eight Republican senators present at the meeting voted in favor. The next stop for SB 862 is the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is expected to consider the bill on April 18.

The House version of the parent trigger bill, which passed earlier this month, still gives the Board of Education the final word.

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Courts are redefining public education

What, exactly, does "public" mean in "public education" and who decides?

What, exactly, does “public” mean in “public education” and who decides?

The school-choice movement has just surmounted one of its most pervasive challenges. A unanimous Indiana Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of that state’s voucher program, which makes some 500,000 low- and middle-income kids (or, about 62 percent of its families) eligible for state aid to help pay for a private or religious school. The decision cuts to the core of the most profound education debate: What, exactly, does “public” mean in “public education” and who decides?

The court ruled that Indiana is serving valid educational purposes, both by maintaining a traditional public school system and by providing options to it. In other words, that government’s role is to ensure that essential services are available to the people – but the government itself does not always need to be the actual provider.

Thus, with voucher laws such as Indiana’s, “public” money follows the “public,” which is the family directly – not the “publicly” operated schoolhouse. Hence, families get to choose where to spend the public money: on a schooling choice made by them, or on a schooling choice made by a government official.

Historically, the fight over funding in K-12 public education has been interpreted as the strict allocation of public, taxpayer dollars to publicly operated institutions only. Essentially, this has resulted in the protection of monopoly rights of government-run schools. Students are assigned by government officials to a “local” public school, based on ZIP code. This ZIP code-restricted system has largely given rise to today’s parent empowerment movement, where more and more parents – especially in inner cities – have fought back against a system that not only assigns them to a particular school, but restricts them from leaving – even if that school chronically underperforms.

Indeed, few incentives exist to transform these schools, which sometimes seem to operate more as massive public-works programs for adults. Charter schools, open-enrollment policies and parent trigger laws have all been based on the fight for greater parent rights in public education. Continue Reading →

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Florida roundup: diploma tracks, school spending, virtual school funding & more

florida roundup logo

Virtual schools. In the wake of concerns about funding cuts to Florida Virtual School, the Senate Rules Committee approves an amendment that would require the DOE to study funding for online courses and offer recommendations. StateImpact Florida.

Charter schools. The town of Juno Beach says no to allowing a charter school to open in a shopping center. Palm Beach Post.

Parent trigger. Miami Herald columnist Daniel Shoer Roth doesn’t like it, calling it a “scam” and part of the “crusade to privatize public education.”

Diplomas. The Senate okays more options for earning a high school diploma, including tracks that emphasize career education. Coverage from Orlando SentinelGradebook, News Service of Florida, Tallahassee Democrat,  Panama City News Herald.

School spending. The Senate approves a proposed budget that includes a $1.2 billion increase for public education, reports The Buzz and the Associated Press. The Palm Beach County school district is facing a $35 million capital budget deficit, reports the South Florida Sun Sentinel. But that’s better than the $60 million initially predicted, reports the Palm Beach Post. The Pinellas school district is cutting some high school librarians, reports Gradebook. In Pasco, no raises for a sixth year in a row, reports the Tampa Bay Times. Escambia district employees will get 2 percent more, reports the Pensacola News Journal. Continue Reading →