One of the first quotes in a new NAACP report on charter schools comes from a Southern California school leader.
The unnamed educator points to potential common ground: “We must celebrate success wherever it is happening and we must remain vigilant to guard against abuses of the public trust wherever they occur. A bad school is our common enemy.”
A few recommendations in the report and accompanying model legislation drift from that ideal.
- A call for a blanket ban on for-profit charters.
- A call for districts to serve as the only charter school authorizers.
- A 10-year moratorium on charter schools run by larger management organizations — for-profit or otherwise.
But the specifics of the NAACP’s proposal deserve a closer look. For one thing, similar proposals have emanated recently from other groups, including the nation’s largest teachers union. That suggests these ideas aren’t going away.
Districts as the only authorizers
School funding formula: Two Republican state senators are calling for a study of the Florida K-12 school funding formula. Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, and Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast, say the current formula shortchanges smaller districts because larger districts get a bigger portion of state funding to help make up the difference for a higher cost of living. The senators want the study to see if the formula should be “kept, modified or eliminated.” Volusia County, Hukill’s home district, has been pressing for changes. School officials there say the formula has cost the district $140 million since 2004. News Service of Florida. Politico Florida.
H.B. 7069 lawsuit: School boards in Lee, Volusia and Bay counties vote to join the lawsuit against the state over the new education bill, H.B. 7069. They join Broward and St. Lucie counties in the challenge over the bill, which forces districts to share local property tax revenue with charter schools and provides financial incentives for charter companies to set up schools in areas with persistently low-performing traditional public schools. The bill also strips local officials from approving charter schools in their districts. Other districts are considering joining the suit, which has not yet been filed. Palm Beach County is expected to file suit individually. Fort Myers News-Press. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Panama City News Herald. Naples Herald. The Miami-Dade County School Board could decide as early as today if it will join other districts in suing the state over the education bill. The district has already spent almost $10,000 researching the constitutionality of the bill. Miami Herald. The Polk County School Board is considering joining the suit. Board attorney Wes Hodges believes the bill is vulnerable because it violates the state’s constitutional single subject requirement for bills, but there could be a political backlash for those districts that sue. Lakeland Ledger.
Charter schools: Charter schools are in line to receive about $146 million this year from state and local governments, or twice as much as they received last year. They get about $50 million from the state, and they expect to collect about $96 million from local schools property taxes thanks to the new education law. Todd Ziebarth of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools says Florida’s law is one of two major advancements toward funding equity for charter schools in the United States. redefinED. The NAACP is expected to release a report today calling for a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools. The report, to be released at the group’s national convention, says charter schools lead to segregation and divert money from traditional public schools. The 74.
After calling for a moratorium on new charter schools, the NAACP started a seven-city fact-finding tour that stops in Orlando this afternoon.
Charter school advocates plan to make their presence known. Some, like Donyale Ferguson McGhee, the principal of Somerset Preperatory Academy North Lauderdale, say they weren’t given a chance to formally testify, but they intend to offer public comments sending a message: “We are making a difference in lives of children.”
The NAACP approved its resolution last year, despite a full-court press by charter school supporters. Leaders of the civil rights organization say they’re not all-out anti-charter, but they want to halt the growth of charters while they look into concerns from segregation to student discipline.
McGhee, however, said that would deny some families the chance to enroll their children in schools that might work for them.
“I think that it works, and I think that we need to make sure that we give every parent a choice of whether or not they want their student to go to a charter school,” she said.
Her school is part of a vast network operated by the management company Academica. More than 95 percent of its students are low-income, and more than 95 percent are children of color. The past two years, it’s received C grades from the state for academic performance. Most importantly to McGhee, it has a 96.4 percent graduation rate.
“A lot of our kids told me in their personal testimony that they didn’t know how they ever would have been able to go to college,” she said.
Early degrees: About eight Florida Atlantic University High School students finish high school with a bachelor’s degree each year. The Boca Raton school is believed to be the only one in the United States where students can earn a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree at the same time. Associated Press.
Tweet trouble: The Miami-Dade Schools Police Department wants to be more active on Twitter. So a half-dozen people in the department were given the account password and encouraged to tweet. Now the department is having to explain why it’s published tweets from Donald Trump criticizing President Obama’s Cuba policies, promoting National Drink Beer Day and wondering if marijuana oil is the female Viagra. Miami Herald.
Teacher job security: Thirty-eight school districts in Florida are finding ways to provide job security for teachers that disappeared when Gov. Rick Scott signed a law eliminating tenure in 2011. Pinellas County plans to join that group this week when teachers vote on a proposal to ensure contract renewal for teachers rated effective or highly effective. Tampa Bay Times.
Anti-charter: The NAACP board approves a resolution calling for a calling for a “moratorium on the proliferation of privately managed charter schools.” The civil rights organization has long been an opponent of charter schools, arguing that they represent a privatization of public education. redefinED.
Graduation rates: U.S. high school graduation rates hit a record 83.2 percent in the 2014-2015 school year, according to the White House. Associated Press.
Despite a full-court press from charter school supporters, the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People approved a resolution on Saturday that calls for halting the growth of charters.
The move reaffirms the civil rights organization’s longstanding positions, spelled out in a 2014 resolution decrying “privatization” in public education. But it also goes a step further, calling for a “moratorium on the proliferation of privately managed charter schools.”
A press release published after the vote said the NAACP’s call for a moratorium would remain in place until:
(1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools
(2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system
(3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and
(4) Cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.
Charter school backers showed up in Cincinnati to explain the benefits of independent public schools, and USA Today reported that about 140 demonstrators organized by the group Memphis Lift rode buses from Tenessee to protest the vote.
“We have charter schools that are good,” Memphis Lift organizer Sarah Carpenter, a grandmother of 13, said during the protest at Fountain Square. “We are not against public schools. We want good schools of any type. Where was the NAACP when so many public schools were failing our children?”
Late last month, a host of charter school supporters — from former U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige to school choice luminary Howard Fuller — wrote the NAACP asking to meet with its board before Saturday’s expected vote on a resolution calling for a moratorium on charter schools.
That meeting never happened.
Still, many of their allies plan to gather in Cincinnati to highlight the benefits of charter schools tomorrow morning. And they’ve invited NAACP board members to hear their case before they vote later in the day.
Charter school backers, many of whom align with the 107-year-old organization on issues outside of school choice, have launched a full-court press in response to a proposed resolution that would toughen the NAACP’s anti-charter stance, in what’s become a major front in a larger battle that has divided civil rights activists.
Scholarship appeal: The Florida Education Association, the NAACP and other groups officially file an appeal with the Florida Supreme Court over the constitutionality of the state’s tax credit scholarship program. The groups say the program diverts money from the state’s public schools system. A circuit court and appeals court have disagreed, and ruled that the groups have no legal standing to sue because they have not proven harm. Step Up For Students, which hosts this blog, helps administer the program. Florida Politics. Politico Florida. The groups fighting the tax credit scholarship program are relying heavily on a 2006 Florida Supreme Court ruling that vouchers are unconstitutional. News Service of Florida.
Mediation in Duval: The Duval County School Board decides to hire a mediator to help resolve its differences with Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. But board members aren’t able to agree on how high to set academic goals. Some members think Vitti’s targets for progress and for lowering the achievement gap between white and minority students are too modest. Florida Times-Union.
Blacks and homeschooling: More than 84,000 students are homeschooled in Florida, and African-Americans are the fastest-growing demographic group, according to the U.S. Department of Education. WFSU.
Ad withdrawn: Leon County School Superintendent Jackie Pons has withdrawn a controversial TV ad about his opponent. Pons said he would apologize to Rocky Hanna, the target of the ad that focused on a 2013 paternity lawsuit, and to anyone else offended by it. Tallahassee Democrat.