School choice is about more than just scores

There were some interesting exchanges when state Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, stopped by the Broward County School Board this week (see the video here). One dealt with the role of charter schools in Florida’s education system, and why parents might choose them even when their children already go to an A-rated school.

School board member Laurie Rich Levinson questioned the purpose of charter schools that open in the vicinity of district schools where students are already doing well.



“They’re going to open in areas where we have our highest-performing schools, where there’s not a need for a charter school,” she said. If charter schools open right down the street from a high-performing school, “what are we achieving?”

Fresen responded with a case study from Broward’s neighbor the south, Miami-Dade. Charters have opened in Coral Gables, where most existing public schools were already high-performing. Now, he said, while A-rated charter schools may draw students from A-rated district schools, all the schools have been forced to step up their game. District schools now offer language and international-baccalaureate programs they might not have otherwise.

In other words, competition from private and charter schools, which is more intense in Miami-Dade than in most Florida districts, may be adding to the school choice “tsunami” in South Florida. Continue Reading →


Florida lawmakers may revive efforts to stop unqualified charter schools

erik fresen


Bills aimed at helping Florida school districts screen people who apply to open charter schools didn’t survive this year’s legislative session, but those efforts may be revived.

During a visit this week with the Broward County School Board (hat tip to the Sun-Sentinel), state Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami said elements of this year’s plan would help form the “starting point bill” when lawmakers return to Tallahassee in the fall.

Fresen said he was willing to consider going further in some areas, like requiring new charter schools to post a surety bond before they open. Such a proposal has been floated the past, but some lawmakers worried it could create hurdles for smaller schools. It’s intended to keep school districts from being financially liable for schools that suddenly fold.

“I’m in favor of the concept, because it provides a lot of assurance to a school district,” Fresen said. Continue Reading →


Florida roundup: Charter schools, PLSAs, budgets and more

florida-roundup-logoCharter schools. Duval closes one charter school in a chain of credit-recovery centers. Florida Times-Union.

PLSAs. A Townhall article praises Florida’s Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts. Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog and employs the author of this post, helps administer the program.

Budgets. Florida’s Board of Education approves its funding request. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. The board wants another look at class size rules. Gradebook.

School choice. Palm Beach schools might offer new options next year. Sun-Sentinel.

Testing. Nationwide assessments could truly be up for discussion in Florida. Orlando SentinelBridge to Tomorrow. ACT performance improves in Southwest Florida. Fort Myers News-Press. Scores dip in Brevard. Florida Today.

Campaigns. Former Gov. Jeb Bush takes questions from high school students. Pensacola News-Journal.

Bias. A white teacher says she faced discrimination for associating with black employees. Orlando Sentinel.

Tutors. An organization helps youngsters in Central Florida. Leesburg Daily Commercial.

Failure factories. A Tampa Bay Times columnist calls for apologies.

Special needs. A charity helps siblings of children with autism. Tampa Bay Times. Continue Reading →


Florida Board of Education proposes $70 million for charter school facilities

On the heels of a brief-but-intense discussion of charter school facilities, the state Board of Education is set to take up a draft spending plan that would restore some funding lost this year.

The state board will take up its legislative budget request today as it meets in Gainesville.

The request seeks to boost charter school facilities funding to $70 million — $20 million more than the current state budget, but less than the previous year’s. It also seeks $70 million for building maintenance at district-run schools.

Funding for charter school buildings has stagnated even as the number of schools has grown, which means many of the state’s oldest charters have seen their funding erode. Over the past two years, the state’s Charter School Capital Outlay shrunk from $100 million to $50 million. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Testing, rankings, failure factories and more

florida-roundup-logoTesting. The cyberattack on state testing systems remains under investigation. Associated Press. Florida’s ACT scores rise but still trail the rest of the country. School ZoneMother Jones profiles an Orlando teen who opted out of state testing.

Charter schools. State Rep. Erik Fresen talks reform with the Broward County School Board. Sun-Sentinel. A troubled Brevard charter school faces a 90-day ultimatum. Florida Today. Bay schools reach transportation agreements with a local charter school network. Panama City News Herald.

Rankings. Miami-Dade magnet and charter schools earn top marks from Newsweek. Miami Herald.

Failure factories. The community addresses a recent Tampa Bay Times investigation during a school board meeting.

Growth. Pasco public school enrollment jumps, surprising officials in some areas. Gradebook.

Back to school. Hillsborough, Lee and Manatee students return. Tampa Bay Times. Naples Daily NewsBradenton Herald.

Discipline. A Hillsborough middle school cuts back on out-of-school suspensions. Tampa Tribune. Black students face disproportionate punishment. School Zone. Continue Reading →


Poll: People like public school choice

PDK public school choice poll

Black, white, Hispanic; Republicans, Democrats. All support public-school choice, according to a new poll. Full results here.

Earlier this year, the Florida Legislature pursued an expansion of public school choice, but the effort fell apart in the waning days of the legislative session.

A new national survey suggests the public strongly supports such a concept.

Nearly two-thirds of parents surveyed by Phi Delta Kappan and Gallup said they support allowing people to choose the schools their children attend “regardless of where they live.” Support crosses different political and racial lines, though blacks and Republicans are slightly more supportive than whites and Democrats.

Of course, polls like this should be read with caution. For one thing, it’s a national survey, and lots of education policy is set at the state or local level. Continue Reading →


Florida schools roundup: Tax credit scholarships, growth, testing and more

florida-roundup-logoTax credit scholarships. Convert the program to a private charity with no tax-credit support, a Florida Times-Union guest column argues.

Growth. Orange County gets new public schools for the new year. Orlando Sentinel.

Failure factories. Black lawmakers in South Pinellas County say promises to their community were broken. Tampa Bay Times.

Magnet schools. Magnet schools will absorb some East Tampa students who otherwise would have been bused to the suburbs. Tampa Bay Times.

Charter schools. Brevard considers closing a financially troubled charter. Florida Today.

Testing. Top lawmakers consider national tests. Politico Florida. Pasco’s superintendent backs Seminole County’s testing proposal. Gradebook. A poll finds the public may have testing fatigue. Orlando Sentinel School Zone. More here. A Tampa Bay Times columnist bashes former Gov. Jeb Bush on choice and testing.

Back to school. So far, it seems to be going smoothly around the state. Miami Herald. Tampa Bay TimesTampa Tribune (more here). Daytona Beach News-Journal. Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Bradenton Herald. A Polk high school expands its career academy and Cambridge offerings. Lakeland Ledger. Some Pasco students started preparing over the summer. Tampa Bay Times.

Continue Reading →


Teachers union: Florida lawsuit different from other tax credit scholarship cases

A Tallahassee judge was wrong to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the country’s largest private school choice program, lawyers for Florida’s statewide teachers union are arguing in appellate court.

In court papers filed Friday with the First District Court of Appeal, they say two court rulings, cited by Judge George Reynolds when he dismissed the lawsuit earlier this year, should not apply in this case.

Rulings in both of those earlier cases — one from the U.S. Supreme Court and one from the New Hampshire Supreme Court — rejected challenges to tax credit scholarship programs. The courts held groups challenging the programs could not show the scholarships caused harm without engaging in “speculation.”

Reynolds cited their reasoning in his May ruling. He found plaintiffs’ claims about Florida’s program harming public schools were “speculative” because it was not clear how students accepting scholarships to attend private would affect individual public schools’ budgets, or the Legislature’s decisions about funding.

Lawyers for the Florida Education Association argue this case is different. Continue Reading →