Archive | Bipartisanship

Florida schools roundup: Testing cutbacks, religion in schools and more

Testing cutbacks: A new plan to cut back on student testing is gaining bipartisan support. The identical bills (S.B. 964 and H.B. 1249), filed by Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, and Rep. Halsey Beshears, R-Monticello, would eliminate several high school end-of-course exams, give districts the option to offer paper-pencil state testing, allow an alternative nationally recognized test to replace certain high school state tests, prohibit statewide language arts and math testing before the last four weeks of school, and remove value-added measures from teacher evaluations, among other things. Gradebook.

Religion in schools: The Senate education committee approves a bill that would give students the freedom to express their religious views at school. The bill specifically protects students who share religious views in school assignments, clothing or in activities. Critics say the U.S. Constitution already protects religious freedom. Miami HeraldOrlando Sentinel. Sun-Sentinel. Politico Florida.

Middle schools study: The Senate education committee also approves a bill directing the state Department of Education to study high-achieving middle schools in several states, then make recommendations on improving Florida’s middle schools. The bill was introduced by Rep. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland. Orlando Sentinel.

Session preview: Educational issues will command attention during the legislative session, which begins today. Politico Florida. WFSU.

Teacher housing plan: The Lee County School District proposes a public-private partnership to build affordable apartments and homes for teachers at three district-owned properties. The district would own the properties, which would be managed by a third party. Construction of the first project could begin in six months. Fort Myers News-Press. Continue Reading →


The state of education advocacy: Jim Blew, podcastED



All over the country, new private school choice programs are being created, more of the last remaining holdout states are beginning to allow charter schools, and a growing number of students are enrolling in educational options chosen by their parents.

But, on our latest podcast, Jim Blew, who served as the national president of StudentsFirst and will be focusing on California after a merger with the 50-state Campaign for Achievement Now (aka 50CAN), says it’s hardly time to declare victory.

“Creating high-quality alternatives to the traditional system is a very fragile effort that continues to be under attack every day,” he says. “… The reality of running a charter school is that you still feel, every day, that somebody is trying to snuff out your school, and anybody who’s been involved in the [private-school] scholarship programs will tell you the same thing.”

Look no further than current events in Florida.

Blew says that when 50CAN and StudentsFirst join forces, the broad pillars of their agendas – expanding quality school choices and creating accountability policies for teachers and schools – will remain largely the same. But they’ll also vary state-by-state. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Education spending, interpreter bill and more

IMG_0001.JPGEducation budget: Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed $79.3 billion budget would boost spending for K-12 by $507.3 million, but only 15 percent would be provided by the state. The rest would come through higher property taxes on residents and businesses. Tampa Bay Times. Lake County school officials say the increase in education spending isn’t enough. Daily Commercial.

Interpreter standards: Bills filed by State Rep. Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach, and State Sen. Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, would establish standards for interpreters for hearing-impaired students in grades K-12. Sunshine State News.

Stadium deal: Miami-Dade County Republican Party chairman Nelson Diaz says he’s hearing grumblings about the proposed deal between the school system and David Beckham to build a Major League Soccer stadium. The partnership would give the stadium a break on property taxes by putting ownership in the hands of the school board. Miami Herald.

Opinions on schools: It’s time voters correct a mistake, however well-intentioned, and return the education commissioner’s job to an elected Cabinet position, columnist John Romano argues. Tampa Bay Times.

School plan flexible: Duval County School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says his plan to revamp the system will continue to change as he gets input from parents and working groups considering his proposals, which include boosting enrollment by winning students back from charter schools, expanding choice and building new schools. Florida Times-Union. One of the working groups is proposing a new site for a single-gender middle school. Florida Times-Union. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: District changes, early education and more

IMG_0001.JPGSchool district changes?: State Sen. Jeff Brandes and State Rep. Matt Caldwell, both Republicans, support changes to the state constitution that could, among other things, allow the breakup of countywide school districts and end nonpartisan school board elections. Tampa Bay Times.

Charter schools: A Pinellas County charter school is being asked to account for a $75,000 federal grant or return the money to the district. Tampa Bay Times. The Palm Beach County School Board denies the applications of four charter schools. Palm Beach Post.

School testing: Joanne McCall, new president of the Florida Education Association, says the union will continue to fight against “testing mania.” Orlando Sentinel. Florida’s standardized assessment tests should be used as a baseline to measure progress, not to grade schools and teacher, the Bradenton Herald editorializes. Wendy Bradshaw talks about her very public resignation from a Polk County elementary school. Tampa Bay Times.

Early education: Bay County school officials and community leaders are launching an initiative to improve educational opportunities for children from the cradle to entering the workforce. Panama City News Herald.

Civics education: Two U.S. representatives from Florida, Republican Dennis Ross and Democrat Gwen Graham, are urging high schools to provide more civics education. Sunshine State News.

Lottery sales: Lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow lottery ticket sales by automated credit and debit card machines, saying it could boost the amount of money going to education. WFSU.

Social media policies: Most Florida school districts have no policies surrounding the use of social media by employees, a study by a University of Florida doctoral student reveals. University of Florida.

Financial audit: Here’s what Hillsborough school officials might be facing if they hire the Gibson Consulting Group to do a financial audit. Gradebook.

Literacy improvement: The literacy rate in Indian River County schools is up 12 percent, in large part due to Learning Alliance programs. TCPalm.

Superintendent shopping: Hernando County School Superintendent Lori Romano is applying for the top job in Osceola County. Tampa Bay Times.

School calendar: Lee County schools sets Aug. 10 as the first day of the 2016-2017 school year. Fort Myers News-Press.

Guns at school: A Miami Jackson Senior High student is arrested for bringing a gun to school. Miami Herald. A fifth grader’s toy gun leads to a lockdown at Orange Brook Elementary School in Hollywood. Sun-Sentinel. A 17-year-old Manatee High School student who brought a BB gun to school is barred from returning to school and will take online courses the rest of this school year. Bradenton Herald.

Educators die: Gulf Coast High drama teacher Scarlett LaVite, 51, dies during a snorkeling outing while on a cruise. Naples Daily News. Patricia Rouse, assistant principal at Ft. Braden Elementary School, dies at 45. Tallahassee Democrat.

Employee discipline: A spilled water bottle leads to a tirade that may get a Boca Raton middle school math teacher fired. Palm Beach Post. A Duval County schools police officer is suspended after a scuffle with a parent. Jacksonville Times-Union.

Teacher upsets PETA: A video of a Sickles High School teacher juggling three dead frogs during class leads to a call from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for the state to ban animal dissection in schools. Tampa Bay Times.

Students and cell phones: Should parents monitor their child’s cell phone activity? A parent and teacher offers some guidelines. Miami Herald.

Racial slurs: Miami Palmetto Senior High School is reeling after racial slurs are posted on a social media chat forum. Miami Herald.

Student enrichment: A man born without limbs is sharing his anti-bullying message with students across Florida. Sun-Sentinel. Orlando Sentinel. Students at Dundee Elementary School are assembling 20 prosthetic hands printed by their 3-D printer to donate to other children. Lakeland Ledger. The Smiles Care a Van stops in Pasco schools to dispense free preventative dental services. Tampa Bay Times. An Orlando student who grew up in the foster care system and is now at Florida State University talks about his life. Orlando Sentinel. A Boca Raton ninth-grader creates an ocean energy probe to win the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. Palm Beach Post. Gulf Breeze High School drama instructor Margie Timmons is named Florida Association for Theatre Education’s teacher of the year. Pensacola News Journal. Patronis Elementary students get hands-on experience at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City. Panama City News Herald.

My school choice wish: Waking the sleeping giant

Jason Crye

Jason Crye

Editor’s note: This is the sixth post in our school choice wish series. See the rest of the line-up here.

My school choice wish is more children, particularly Hispanic children from low-income and working-class families, have access to educational options that will help them flourish. Unfortunately, statistics show there is a lot of rocky ground to plow before my wish is choice wish 2014 logo

Hispanics lag behind their counterparts in nearly every meaningful education statistic. For example, recent figures show the Hispanic graduation rate has improved to 76 percent, while the Hispanic dropout rate is the lowest it has been in decades at 14 percent. It is mildly encouraging that these numbers are heading in the right direction, but they are clearly not where they should be.

To achieve my wish, the education reform community, including organizations like my own, school leaders, elected officials, and other advocates, must continue to help parents engage in the public square. They must continue to stand up for the reforms that poll after poll shows are supported throughout the country.

This is exactly what I saw earlier this month at the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options conference in Miami. It was so heartening to see education advocates, community activists and business leaders from around the country all focusing on the crisis we are facing, and standing together for common-sense solutions. It was also gratifying to see how partisan political differences have been put to the side when it comes to policies that work for our children.

I heard Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, all supporting the expansion of school choice programs like charter schools, vouchers, tax credit scholarships and education savings accounts. One of them, Assemblyman Marcos Crespo of New York, a Democrat, spoke at a press conference after a student named Valentin movingly told us how a school choice scholarship changed his life.

Said Crespo: “I hope that as the rest of this conference progresses that we can continue to build this network and demonstrate that there are a lot of us who believe in real success and not just our own interests, or partisanship, or labels. Our goal is to be judged by the Valentins of the world, and not by you know, who our traditional political friends are, or how much they’ve invested in our campaign. It’s not about that. It’s about Valentin.”

There is a sleeping giant in American politics. It’s the parents, who, when armed with the facts, demand excellence from the schools their children attend; who, when necessary, will march to show their strength in numbers; and who will vote to change the status quo. Many of those voters are Hispanic. Indeed, 66,000 Hispanics turn 18 years old every month, and an increasing number of them have been affected positively by various education reforms.

I look forward to a future when voters are more informed about the positive impact of school choice. I look forward to a future when parents are made aware of their educational options and have the freedom to choose the school where their child can succeed.

In the meantime, I know it is my responsibility, and the responsibility of all education reform advocates, to do everything possible to engage parents and educators. We must help children today so we can achieve that brighter future together.

Jason Crye is executive director of Hispanics for School Choice.

Coming Monday: Wevlyn Graves, Florida parent of a tax credit scholarship student.

Blue-state lawmakers look to Florida’s model of educational options

New York State Assemblyman Marcos Crespo talks about the importance of educational opportunity.

New York State Assemblyman Marcos Crespo talks about the importance of educational opportunity.

Valentin Mendez said his struggles began when he moved into sixth grade at public middle school in Miami.

He was bullied. He couldn’t focus. He began to flounder academically. His mother, Jeannethe Ruiz, said he also struggled with English. His problems got so bad at one point that she pulled him out of class for two weeks, and started casting about for other options.

That’s when she found out about La Progresiva Presbyterian School in Little Havana, and the Florida tax credit scholarship program  a model that policymakers around the country are learning about during a two-day gathering for education advocates in Miami.

Without the scholarship, tuition would likely have been out of reach for their family. Mendez said his mother works at a gas station, his father at a tire shop, putting in long hours that have motivated him to perform in school.

“They want me to have a better life,” he said. “I’m glad that I’m in a school now where I can make them proud.”

Ruiz and Mendez spoke at a press conference at the start of the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options’ annual summit, which has drawn lawmakers, including some from deep-blue states, who say they’re intent on expanding educational options back home.

Illinois state Sen. Martin Sandoval called the Florida program, which is administered by Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog, “a national model, one that I am going to be studying for the next few days and weeks.”

Continue Reading →

Mr. Gibbons’ Report Card: Who grades the graders? Did school choice win in the mid-terms?

MrGibbonsReportCardCenter for Reinventing Public Education

The Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) is an education research and policy analysis think tank at the University of Washington, Bothell. The organization’s research finds statistical support for charter schools and for reforming the way public education is operated and funded.

Back in August, CRPE released a working paper on the impact of charter schools on student achievement. Its meta-analysis of high-quality studies found charters tend to have a small but positive impact on student achievement in math, but no additional impact in reading.

By the end of September, the National Education Policy Center released a review of CRPE’s analysis, calling CRPE’s conclusion “overstated” and “exaggerated” and concluding the report offers “little value for informing policy and practice.” (Readers of this blog may already be familiar with NEPC’s reflexive bias against charter school and school choice studies).

Well, get out your popcorn because CRPE just released a devastating counter-critique. CRPE accuses NEPC of quoting selectively, implying arguments not present, inaccurately presenting the research and several serious technical errors. In total, CRPE counts 26 errors within NEPC’s 9-page analysis.

Grade: Satisfactory


School Choice Movement

Yogi Berra once quipped, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially ones about the future.” While true, it doesn’t stop political pundits from attempting to predict the future based on (sometimes unreliable) exit poll data. Following the drubbing Democrats (and the once powerful education unions) received in the mid-terms, many of those pundits began wondering if education choice would lead minorities, especially African Americans, over to the Republican camp.

Just check out some of the speculation (Exhibit 1, Exhibit 2, and Exhibit 3) about how the school choice issue hurt Democrats and helped Republicans (at least in Florida).

But whether Republicans can use education and school choice to win over black voters isn’t the right question. The better, and more important, question is whether the school choice movement can finally win over more Democrats…

Grade: Satisfactory


Continue Reading →

Spending per pauper: An education funding stat that makes no sense

price per pauperThere are many in Florida who believe the state doesn’t spend enough supporting K-12 education. It wouldn’t be too difficult to make such a case given the fact that the U.S. Census Bureau ranks Florida 39th for per-pupil spending (table 11, page 11) while the U.S. Department of Education places Florida 38th.  Florida’s ranking even falls to 42nd if you include capital and debt expenditures.

So why are some critics ignoring those straightforward “dollars per student” statistics in favor of more convoluted measurements like “education revenues per $1,000 of personal income”?

Several groups in Florida use that statistic to claim the state ranks 50th in education spending. The U.S. Census Bureau’s measurement of “education revenues per $1,000 of personal income” (table 12, page 12) does place Florida 50th, but it is fairly meaningless measurement if your goal is to prove not enough money is spent on K-12 education. This is best demonstrated by the fact that the last-place region on this statistic is Washington, D.C.

Being 51st (D.C.) should be worse than placing 50th (Florida), but when looking at straightforward “dollars spent per student” figures, D.C. spends over $28,000 per pupil (including capital funds and debt). That is nearly three times more than Florida. If the goal is to get Florida to spend more, why cite a statistic that has the biggest education spender dead last?

So how can a region be ranked No. 1 on one measurement, but dead last on another at the exact same time? Continue Reading →