Archive | Private Schools

Bill expanding private school students’ sports options ready for floor vote

Antone

The Florida House Education Committee unanimously passed HB 1109, allowing students at private schools to participate in sports at a public school of their choice based on their school district’s open enrollment policy.

The bill would expand extracurricular options for private school students. It’s now ready for a vote on the House floor.

Existing laws allow students attending private middle or high schools that are not members of the Florida High School Athletics Association, and that have fewer than 125 students, to participate in interscholastic sports at their zoned public schools.

Bill sponsor Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando, added an amendment that specifies a private school student can participate in sports at a school if the capacity for that school has not be reached as determined by the district school board.

Florida already has a “Tim Tebow” law that allows homeschool students — as well as students enrolled in charters or other schools of choice — to sign up for teams at their zoned public school, or other public schools they would otherwise attend. The goal of the law is to give students in educational choice programs access to extracurriculars that might not otherwise be available.

This year’s legislation is the latest in a series of efforts to adapt high school athletics and extracurricular activities to the growth of school choice programs.

 

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Jacksonville private school, scholarship fueled student’s emotional turnaround

Malik Ferrell turned his life around at The Potter’s House Christian Academy in Jacksonville.

Lost.

That’s where Pamela Howard feared her son, Malik Ferrell, would end up after years of struggles at different schools in Jacksonville.

She couldn’t afford to let that happen. Malik needed a caring environment, especially after he and his family were rocked by the murder of his older brother, Derrell Baker.

Pamela had been searching for the right fit for Malik – four different schools in four years.

Finally a friend told her about the Step Up For Students scholarship, which allowed her to send him to The Potter’s House Christian Academy.

(Step Up For Students publishes this blog, and helps administer the tax credit scholarship program in Florida.)

That’s where Malik’s life unraveled – and where he ultimately put it all back together.

“Having the opportunity to go to a private school helped get him on track,” Pamela said. “I cannot even tell you the difference it made in his life.”

At his neighborhood school, Malik made mostly D’s in second grade, then mostly F’s in third grade, which he had to repeat.

Three years and three schools later, at the age of 11, he got a fresh start at The Potter’s House.

Then the unthinkable happened.

Just weeks after Malik enrolled, Derrell, 17, was killed in a drive-by shooting. Police had no suspects. There were no arrests.

Pamela was working full-time at Blue Cross Blue Shield, taking complaints in the executive department. The grief and stress overwhelmed her, and the mother of five went on disability. She now works part-time doing billing at McKesson.

“Seeing my momma cry and my sisters cry, it was … it was just a lot to deal with,” Malik said. “That was my only big brother, so there was nothing for me to look up to.”

Derrell was everything to Malik – best friend, football hero, protector, disciplinarian, role model. Continue Reading →

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Bill would give Fla. private school students more choice in sports

The Florida House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee unanimously passed HB 1109, allowing students at private schools to participate in sports at a public school of their choice based on their school district’s open enrollment policy.

The bill would expand extracurricular options for private school students.

Existing laws allow students attending private middle or high schools that are not members of the Florida High School Athletics Association, and that have fewer than 125 students, to participate in interscholastic sports at their zoned public schools. Continue Reading →

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Fla. House panel approves bill funding security at Jewish day schools

Rep. Randy Fine

Citing a rash of anti-semitic threats, the Florida House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously approved a measure setting aside $1.5 million to enhance security at all Jewish day schools in Florida.

Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, said since the beginning of the year there has been a dramatic rise in anti-Semitism. He said there had been 154 bomb threats reported at Jewish schools around the country, and 17 reported in Florida.

Appropriations documents show the measure, HB 3653, would benefit students in preschool through high school. Florida has 35 Jewish day schools in nine counties.

Fine mentioned there were no such schools in his district, but he felt the issue had statewide importance.

“We have a situation that Jewish students are very afraid and beginning to drop out of the schools,” Fine said. “It would put in security precautions so students and parents will feel safe having students attend these schools.”

Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, asked what security measures would be put in place with the funding. Continue Reading →

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Betsy DeVos & black empowerment

Private schools have always been essential to black progress in America. As the author of a recent piece in The Atlantic wrote, "“Private means to create a public good were an integral part of black education.”

Private schools have always been essential to black progress in America. As the author of a recent piece in The Atlantic wrote about Betsy DeVos and the African-American roots of school choice, “Private means to create a public good were an integral part of black education.”

Long before anybody used the term “school choice,” black communities were striving for it, often by any means necessary. Which is why black parents, though overwhelmingly Democratic by party registration, are likely to find their views on educational options to be more in line with Betsy Devos, the Republican nominee for U.S. Education Secretary, than the white progressives trying to derail her. Crazy times.

I’m not black, and I’m not a historian. But I don’t think there’s any doubt that fighting for educational freedom has been at the heart of the black experience in America. And yet, somehow, that epic struggle is overlooked in these polarizing fights over school choice – which is a shame, given the possibility it might make the fights less polarizing.

If I were king, I’d make white progressives read Yale Professor James Forman and listen to choice advocate Howard Fuller. In the meantime, if their tribal impulses are getting revved up over Betsy DeVos – and I know from my facebook feed they are 🙂 — I’ll have the audacity to hope they check out this recent piece in The Atlantic, “The African American Roots of Betsy DeVos’s Education Platform.”

The author, College of Charleston Professor Jon N. Hale, offers a brief, nuanced look at choice through the lens of black history. That history isn’t always flattering to the choice “side.” Segregation academies, for example, did happen in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. (Choice supporters have acknowledged that past, and noted how it differs from the ideals that spur today’s choice movement.) But that stain is a small part of a bigger story, in which private schools have been essential to black progress.

Writes Hale:

American history clearly demonstrates that communities of color have been forced to rely upon themselves to provide an education to as many students as possible. Students of color have rarely been provided a quality public education. As James Anderson demonstrated in Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935, black communities consistently had to provide their own schools by taxing themselves beyond what the law required, as white officials never appropriated public money equitably by race. Black civic leaders and educators had to forge alliances with philanthropists and “progressive” whites for further financial support.

Barred from the American social order, black educators, in effect, were forced to rely upon private means to meet the educational needs of their own children. African Americans established schools controlled by the community. Such “community-controlled schools” were by necessity administered by African Americans, taught by African Americans, and attended by African Americans.

Hale sums it up this way: “Private means to create a public good were an integral part of black education.”

The Atlantic piece mentions a few examples. We’ve explored others, including some that show how central faith was to many of these efforts. Continue Reading →

Pluralism and the new definition of public education

Berner coverWhen it comes to public education, the U.S. stands apart from many industrialized democracies. It excludes private and faith-based schools, and has generally relied on local governments as the sole providers of publicly supported education in a geographic area.

A new volume by Johns Hopkins University researcher Ashley Berner argues this arrangement is largely an accident of history. She points to a new definition of public education, which is publicly funded and publicly accountable — and encompasses private schools.

As she writes in her final chapter:

No One Way to School attempts to draw a more inclusive argument that rests upon the foundational goals of the common school, while affirming that they are better met by plural education, than by uniformity. Excellence, equity, opportunity, and citizenship resonate across America’s educational history.

She contemplates a three-sector approach to public education that fits alongside The Urban School System of the Future, the policy platform of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, and precious few others in today’s education debate.

Her ideas echo many of the themes we’ve tried to emphasize for more than six years on this blog. And they’re likely to stretch the thinking of people in just about every corner of the school choice movement.

She draws vital lessons from John Chubb and Terry Moe about the ways bureaucracy can vitiate academic excellence, but she abjures the hands-off regulatory approach they advocate as one of several “narratives that risk being counter-productive.”  Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Testing, Bright Futures, teacher absences and more

florida-roundup-logoSchool testing: After a hearing Wednesday, leaders of the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee say they expect to present a bill this legislative session that will cut down on student testing. “I think that what you’re hearing is that there is a complete consensus among the senators on this committee that there is some common ground that can be reached so we get back to a sense of sanity in this,” said Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs. School superintendents also asked the committee to return to paper-and-pencil testing, arguing that computer-based testing is too expensive and time-consuming; to allow nationally recognized tests like the PSAT, ACT and SAT to stand in for some state tests; and to give school districts leeway to set up their own evaluation systems for teachers. Sun-Sentinel. Orlando Sentinel. Gradebook. WFSU. Politico Florida. Sun-Sentinel. Tallahassee DemocratNews Service of Florida.

Bright Futures: The Florida Senate releases its plan to revise higher education, and one of the key points is an expansion of Bright Futures scholarships. The proposal would increase the scholarships to include all tuition and fees, plus $300 for books per semester. And those who receive the scholarships would be able to use them for summer classes. The estimated cost is $151 million. Tampa Bay Times. Politico Florida. News Service of Florida. SaintPetersburgBlog.

Teacher absences: Duval County has one of the highest teacher absence rates in Florida and in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. More than half of Duval’s teachers miss two or more weeks during the 2013-2014 school year – almost twice the national average of 27 percent and well above Florida’s rate of 39 percent. Florida Times-Union.

Financial progress: The state auditor general’s three-year audit of the Manatee County School District’s finances shows far fewer problems than the district had in 2014. This audit found just nine operational problems compared to 32 in 2014. And there were no financial findings this time, compared with nine three years ago. “Where we were three years ago was close to an F, so we are getting closer to an A,” said audit committee chairman Joseph Blitzko. Bradenton Herald. Continue Reading →

Florida schools roundup: Turnarounds, bonuses, choice, discipline and more

florida-roundup-logoTurnaround concerns: A battle is developing between state and local education officials over control of schools. The Department of Education has been actively intervening to turn around low-performing schools, sometimes requiring schools replace principals and teacher. That puts the state “on the verge of overstepping their authority,” says Bill Husfelt, Bay County superintendent. “Tallahassee talks about the federal government and the control they have, and then the state turns around and does the same thing to local institutions.” Politico Florida. Principals at three struggling Palm Beach County schools are getting more money and more authority to turn around their schools under a new state program that will measure whether cutting bureaucracy leads to better student performance. Sun-Sentinel.

Teacher bonuses: The governor and members of the Florida Senate and House have all signaled an interest in reworking the bonuses program for the state’s teachers. The current law gives up to $10,000 to teachers who are rated highly effective and scored in the top 20 percent on their SAT or ACT tests. The Florida Board of Education is pushing for a $43 million bonus program that would “support bonuses for new teachers who show great potential for and veteran teachers who have demonstrated the highest student academic growth among their peers.” News Service of Florida.

School choice: Parents in Palm Beach County have reversed a trend of choosing charter schools over the district’s public schools. Three years ago, charter schools added 4,100 students while public school enrollment declined by 700. This year, district schools have added 2,436 students, and charter schools just 330. Palm Beach Post.

Discipline disparity: Black students were suspended at three times the rate of white students during the 2015-2016 school year in Manatee County, according to the school district’s records. Black students make up about 14 percent of the district’s enrollment, but drew 33 percent of the out-of-school suspensions. Bradenton Herald. Continue Reading →