Archive | Bipartisanship

redefinED roundup: de Blasio to the rescue? Vouchers increase property values and more news

MondayRoundUp_magentaAlabama: Judge Gene Reese issues a stay on his own injunction against the Alabama Accountability Act school choice program (, Montgomery Advertiser, redefinED, American Federation for Children). The decision to lift the injunction takes uncertainty away from low-income families ( Jeff Reed, public relations director for the Friedman Foundation, says school choice thrives in the state even with the lawsuit (One News Now).

Arizona: Eileen Sigmund, president of the Arizona Charter Schools Association, and Glenn Hamer, the association’s vice chairman, say charter schools provide some of the best education in the state and are still looking to improve (Arizona Republic).

Connecticut: Education leaders in Bridgeport drop the idea of suing the state over approving six charter schools in the area after the city attorney says the district has no basis for a lawsuit (Stamford Advocate).

Delaware: Lawmakers debate education savings accounts (, Choice Media, Education Week). The News Journal editorial board supports school choice if parents pick charter schools but not if parents want vouchers or education savings accounts to choose private schools.

Florida: The Florida PTA, state teachers union and Florida NAACP urge the governor to veto a school choice bill that includes expansion of tax credit scholarships (the scholarship program is administered by Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog). (Tampa Bay Times, Orlando Sentinel).

Idaho: Terry Ryan, president of the Idaho Charter School Association, says over 19,000 children attend charter schools in the state, making support for it a winning proposition for elected Republicans (Idaho Education News). Continue Reading →

redefinED roundup: Charter schools and civil rights, debating the merits of charters, and can parents be trusted?

MondayRoundUp_magentaAlabama: Cameron Smith, vice president of the Alabama Policy Institute, shows readers the students who benefit from the Alabama Accountability Act (

Arizona: Gil Shapiro, a spokesman for FreeThought Arizona, says parents can’t be trusted to home-school or choose a good school for their child (Arizona Daily Star). Linda Thomas, a member of the Oracle School Board, says parents can be trusted to pick a good school (Arizona Daily Star).

California: Larry Aubry at the Los Angeles Sentinel says charter schools are civil rights failures because they are more segregated than traditional public schools. Avery Bissett, a student at Chapman University, says vouchers would provide the state an inexpensive experiment on how to improve public education (Orange County Register).

D.C.: Scott Pearson, director of the D.C. Public Charter Schools Board, says charter schools have helped to improve public school performance (Washington Post).

Georgia: During a debate among Democratic candidates for the open state school chief position, state Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan said she will “buck the Democratic party for the best interest of children” and supports charter schools and tuition tax-credit scholarships (Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Florida: Denisha Merriweather, a former tax-credit scholarship student, tells her story (redefinED). Ron Matus, the editor of redefinED, dispels the myths surrounding the tax-credit scholarship program (Pensacola News Journal). Scott Maxwell, a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, says public schools lose when students are allowed to transfer to private schools. Chris Guerrieri, a middle school teacher in Jacksonville, opposes private school vouchers because students aren’t forced to attend private schools (St. Augustine Record).  Jac Wilder VerSteeg, a journalist based in Palm Beach County, says parents don’t know best when it comes to their own child’s education (Sun-Sentinel). The Orlando Sentinel reaches out to readers and finds 51 percent support expanding school vouchers. Two private schools have been barred from receiving McKay vouchers for reporting students that never enrolled (Miami Herald). Virtual learning labs become more popular in Lee County (NBC 2). Education leaders in Miami-Dade approve what may become the state’s largest charter school (Miami Herald). Continue Reading →

Howard Dean, school choice guy

It’s not new news that progressive icon Howard Dean likes charter schools. Or that another big-name Democrat likes charter schools. Or that another big-name Democrat is all aboard with school choice (Cory Booker, Joe Trippi, Mike McCurry … ). But until that expanding list starts to dent the narrative that parental school choice is a Koch Brothers scheme, well, we’ll keep highlighting them. 🙂

The latest is what Dean said at a recent appearance at a college in Vermont. He told the audience his son taught for Teach for America in New Orleans, then continued:

“And his kids that he was teaching in the 9th grade … were essentially illiterate. Now this is 40 years after the civil rights movement, 40 years after African Americans and whites were supposed to have equal opportunity under the law. These kids had no equal opportunity. They were being starved by a corrupt school board, and a culture that had never valued them as much as they valued white kids. I was furious. I was so angry, in a moment I converted my whole philosophy of education, to we had to try anything we could to get inner city schools better.”

“And inner city schools are being reformed by people in your generation who are joining Teach for America. There are principals … tons of them, all over the country, who are not yet 30 years old. It’s the charter school movement. There’s some things I don’t like about the charter school movement. They’re not all created equal. For profit charters are clearly worse than non profit charters. But the charter school movement is transforming inner city education. It is getting kids through high school with diplomas that never would have had a chance even five years ago.”

Plenty of thoughtful folks would disagree with Dean about for-profits in education. And we can only hope his eye-opening led him to revisit his opposition to vouchers, too. But in the big picture, it’s clear Dean is representative of a trend: growing bipartisan support for a growing array of options. Continue Reading →

Democrat: Stop casting school choice parents as villains in public ed

Editor’s note: This post originally ran as an op-ed today in Florida Today, in response to a column by former state Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland. It’s authored by former state Sen. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, who is a member of the Step Up For Students board of directors. The state’s tax credit scholarship program is administered by Step Up For Students, which co-hosts this blog.

Sen. Lawson

Sen. Lawson

The most significant expansion of Florida’s scholarships for low-income children came in 2010, and the bipartisan spirit was so strong I was allowed as Democratic leader to make the closing argument in a Senate controlled by Republicans.

We found common ground because the Tax Credit Scholarship Program is focused on economically disadvantaged students in a way that strengthens public education.

So it is with considerable disappointment to see the partisan fractures this year, as the Legislature considers more modest improvements. And it is hard to miss the extent to which the Florida Education Association is driving the wedge.

But it is wrong to cast a $4,880 scholarship for 60,000 underprivileged children as an attack on public education. It is, to quote public educator and former House Education Policy Council ranking Democrat Bill Heller, “in the greatest tradition of our collective commitment to equal educational opportunity.”

With 12 years under our belt, we know a great deal about how this scholarship works.

The program serves children whose household income is only 9 percent above poverty. More than two-thirds of them are black or Hispanic. These children struggled academically in the public schools they left. Most importantly, their annual standardized test scores have shown they are consistently achieving the same gains in reading and math as students of all income levels nationally.

Whether these students should take the state, rather than national, test is a fair question. But let’s not pretend as though we have no measure for how well they are performing. We know how scholarship kids are doing at individual private schools, as the schools must report their learning gains if they have a minimum number of scholarship recipients.

Let’s also call an end to the deceit that this program hurts public schools financially, and that “money used for vouchers is taken away from basic public school needs,” as syndicated columnist Paula Dockery stated in her recent column in FLORIDA TODAY. Continue Reading →

Mr. Gibbons’ Report Card: Unions unite for school choice, public school choice gains ground in FL

MrGibbonsReportCardNew York Unions

Unions uniting for school choice? You might think you woke up in an alternate dimension but no, this news comes from New York.

Earlier this week, leaders from several unions, including the New York City police and fire unions, called for the state legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pass a school choice program which will help fund $150 million worth of private education for students of need.

The proposed bill isn’t devoted exclusively to private school choice, and perhaps that sweetened the pot.  It will allow tax credits to be issued for teacher reimbursements; classroom projects; art, music and sports instruction; as well as scholarships for private schools. Half of the $300 million in available credits will be reserved for public schools, leaving $150 million for private school scholarships.

The teacher unions still oppose school choice, and the bill. But this represents a monumental shift in thinking among union members on education policy.

Grade: Satisfactory


Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of Duval County Public Schools

Nikolai Vitti wants to win students back to Duval County public schools. His plan would allow parents open enrollment access to any public school in the district. According to the Florida Times-Union, this would be the “first blanket, open enrollment policy of its kind” of any major urban district in Florida.

Vitti told the newspaper: “For me the conversation begins with empowering parents. I believe the parents are best situated to make the right decisions for their child. They’re likely to invest more in their child’s education and to own the process more if they have a choice.”

That all sounds good to me, but we will still need to read the fine print when it emerges later. How long will the open enrollment window last? How long before transportation is provided to choice schools? Will parents get to change their mind during the middle of the school year? District open enrollment policies are often fairly limited. At the same time, more choice is better than no choice.

Grade: Satisfactory

Continue Reading →

Joe Trippi: It’s time to put all school choice options on the table



Some people grow up on the wrong side of the tracks. Joe Trippi, the legendary Democratic consultant, grew up on the wrong side of the school zone. On one side of the arbitrary, invisible line that ran down his street in L.A.: safe schools, high school grads, kids who went on to college and careers. On the other side: gangs, dropouts, a dead end.

Trippi got across the line, thanks to a tenacious mom. But, he told redefinED in a recent phone interview, he’s haunted by what happened to the kids who didn’t. And 50 years later, he’s aghast that the same “crazy way to shuffle kids around,” as he put it, remains largely intact.podcastED-logo

“It’s just unfathomable to me,” Trippi said in the podcast attached below. “I think about all of those years, and that system is still in place today, everywhere. Most places anyway. Too many places.”

Trippi is yet another high-profile Democrat who supports school choice, including publicly funded private options like vouchers and tax credit scholarships. His personal experience informs that position. So does something more urgent and practical: a belief that with so many kids falling through the cracks, it makes sense to put all options on the table. “I think we should try them all,” he said. “The current status quo, it may be working for some kids, maybe even many.” But for too many, it isn’t.

Democrats and school choice have a long, tangled relationship. Few know better than Trippi. He’s been deep inside Democratic politics since the 1970s, and his firm, Trippi & Associates, has advised National School Choice Week since its inception in 2010. So what’s he seeing on the ground now? A lot of Democrats coming around on school choice, especially at the local level, especially in inner cities.

Even more will come around, Trippi said, if both sides cut the nastiness, and if school choice supporters continue to stress bipartisanship. To that end, the Republican push to emphasize school choice in the run-up to the 2014 elections carries some risk, he said. “I’m not begrudging them for their efforts. I know they care about it,” Trippi said. But making school choice partisan potentially sustains “the polarization and the demonization on both sides.”

redefinED roundup: Olympians and virtual schools, DC and CA charters shortchanged and more news

MondayRoundUp_magentaAlabama: The Institute for Justice, a national civil rights law firm, says vouchers are constitutional in the state (

Alaska: School choice opponents voice their concerns at a public hearing over a constitutional amendment to allow public funding of private schools (Anchorage Daily News, Nonprofit Quarterly). The proposed constitutional change passes the House Education Committee but the amendment faces a tough road ahead (Anchorage Daily News). There are 27 charter schools in the state with no cap on how many schools may operate (Alaska Dispatch).

Arizona: The state has many school choice programs (Camp Verde Bugle). A state court rules the Department of Education cannot recoup $5.9 million in over-payments to charter schools due to a change in teacher performance pay because it didn’t notify the schools of the rule change (Arizona Republic). Charter school operators plan to open 25 new charter schools in Phoenix (Arizona Republic).

California: Parent trigger elicits emotions from parents on both sides (Hechinger Report). The superintendent of LA Unified says every “student has the right to a choice of a highly effective school” (Reason Magazine). San Diego school board members are attempting to exclude some charter schools from receiving bond money approved by city voters (Fox 5 San Diego).

D.C.: A new study reveals area charter schools are being shortchanged on student funding compared with district schools (Washington Post).

Florida: School choice is growing by leaps and bounds (Sunshine State News). The Palm Beach Post editorial board says giving students public school choice could reduce the disadvantages faced by low-income students. After 17 years as president and CEO of Florida Virtual School, Julie Young announces her retirement (redefinEDOrlando Business Journal). Gov. Rick Scott proposes allowing charter schools access to construction funds if they serve students within attendance zones of low-performing public schools (Tallahassee Democrat).

Georgia: A lawmaker wishes to expand the tax credit scholarship program with a $100 million cap (GPB News).

Illinois: Nobel charter schools name thee schools after donors who give $1 million or more, but the donors do not decide curriculum or which teachers to hire (Chicago Sun Times).

Indiana: The Lafayette Journal & Courier editorial board argues that private schools should continue to take the state test in order to create a fair comparison with public schools. Since vouchers can be worth no more than 90 percent of per-pupil state funding to local school districts, vouchers save the state money (Indianapolis Daily Star). Five voucher schools in the state say they teach intelligent design or creationism (Journal-Gazette). The Star Press editorial board worries that allowing students to use vouchers without ever attending public school creates two classes of education. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Vouchers, charters, digital ed & more

School vouchers: House Speaker Will Weatherford is among Republicans looking to expand school choice efforts this year, including beefing up the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program. Palm Beach Post.

florida-roundup-logoCharter schools: A new state law that requires a “model” contract between school districts and charter operators is not stopping Orange County from requiring new charters to meet performance standards. Orlando Sentinel.

Faith-based schools: Parents are shocked after learning a Palm Beach County Presbyterian church is  closing its school. Palm Beach Post. Hundreds of low-income students at Duval County private or parochial schools will likely lose tutoring and other academic help because the federal money paying for it is drying up. Florida Times-Union.

School choice: The city of Hollywood is pushing its public schools to better market themselves this year, in hopes of luring new students — and new families. Sun Sentinel. Pasco County students and parents face a broader array of education options as the district’s 2014-15 school choice application window opens. Tampa Bay Times.

Digital learning: A proposed bill to expand school technology could lead to more tablets and computers, more professional development for teachers and more opportunities for K-12 students to take classes in subjects like computer programming. The Tampa Tribune. More from Tampa Bay Times. StateImact Florida asks teachers how they learned to connect technology to learning.

Education budget: While Gov. Rick Scott’s suggested a $542 million bump in K-12 funding is no small chunk of change, few people believe it’s anywhere near enough to meet the ever-growing demands of the state’s public schools, writes Rick Christie for the Palm Beach Post.

Continue Reading →