Archives for category: Florida

State auditors are questioning whether two charter schools in Broward County had any students at all and are proposing that the schools repay the state $5.5 million.

Two charter schools in Broward County failed to adequately prove students attended during the 2017-18 school year and should repay a combined $5.5 million, the state Auditor General report says.

The report, released in late December, questions the student counts at Innovation Charter School in Pompano Beach and Imagine Charter in Weston. Officials at the two schools say they can verify their enrollments and plan to appeal to the state Department of Education, which will make the final decision.

If the department agrees with the audit, the schools would lose roughly an entire year’s budget: $1.6 million for Innovations and $3.9 million for Imagine. The Broward school district, which is responsible for dispersing state money to the schools, could withhold monthly allocations until the money is repaid. If the schools close, the district could get stuck with the bill.

“The district has met with the governing boards of the charter schools with respect to their plans to appeal these … findings and is prepared to assist them during their discussions” with the education department, said a statement from Chief Communications Officer Kathy Koch’s office.

The auditors reviewed records from October and February of the 2017-18 school year; those are the two months when official counts are taken to see how much money schools should receive.

The report said Imagine could not adequately prove that its 948 students actually attended the school and Innovation couldn’t prove that its 386 kids were actually there.

Auditors can be so darned picky. Who ever heard of schools without students?

The Sun-Sentinel in Florida wrote about the problem of “violent students,” who can’t be removed from school because they are protected by law.

I hope to hear from Florida teachers about this investigation.

In an eight-month investigation, the South Florida Sun Sentinel found that a sweeping push for “inclusion” enables unstable children to attend regular classes even though school districts severely lack the support staff to manage them.

State and federal laws guarantee those students a spot in regular classrooms until they seriously harm or maim others. Even threatening to shoot classmates is not a lawful reason to expel the child.

Violent students have injured thousands of teachers, bus drivers and staff in Broward County alone and undoubtedly thousands more across Florida, records obtained by the Sun Sentinel show.

“It’s just a no-win scenario right now,” said attorney Julie Weatherly, of Mobile, Alabama, who advises school districts on the legal complexities of removing aggressive students when they have a disability. “Nobody wants a Parkland, of course. It’s this huge nightmare.”

The federal law had a noble purpose when enacted more than four decades ago, long before the ranks of violent students swelled. It ensured that students with disabilities received an education in the same classrooms as their peers, a practice known as mainstreaming.

Florida went even further, requiring agreement from the parents, or a judge, before transferring a disabled child to a special-needs school with more therapeutic services and smaller class sizes.

Looking for help for you or someone you know? See a list of mental health resources here.

The drawback today is that the law treats a student with a severe behavioral disorder the same as a harmless student with Down syndrome, ordering that they be educated in regular classrooms unless it’s proven impossible.

To understand how schools became targets of deadly threats and violence, the Sun Sentinel interviewed more than 50 teachers, parents and experts; examined state and national laws and policies; and reviewed thousands of pages of police reports and court records. The records included Florida’s new risk protection orders, created by the Legislature after the Parkland shooting to keep guns away from dangerous people. Most counties had never released the records before.

In only 18 months, more than 100 unstable and potentially dangerous students across Florida have threatened to kill their teachers, classmates or themselves, records from 10 major counties show. Nearly half of the youths had histories of mental disorders, and more than half had access to guns.

Just wondering whether charter schools and religious schools are bound by the same laws or whether they have the right to expel the students they can’t handle.

 

 

Thousands of teachers in Florida are rallying at the state capitol today to demand higher wages and better working conditions. The Republican-dominated legislature has been handing out public monies to charter schools and for voucher programs, but ignoring the public schools that enroll 85% of the state’s students. Several of the key legislators are related to charter operators. Conflicts of interest are not a problem in Florida. The State Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran–former Speaker of the House–is married to a charter operator.

Bernie Sanders wrote a message of support to the teachers who are speaking out. It appeared in the Sun Sentinel. 

Every Democratic candidate should heed Senator Sanders’ advice (except, of course, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who wants more privatization, merit pay, and larger class sizes).

This week, tens of thousands of teachers from across Florida are rallying outside the state capitol to demand real support for their public schools. They are taking this action despite the outrageous threats from Republican officials to fire them just for standing up for their students. These educators are part of a massive nationwide movement, from Maine to California, that’s fighting back against years of underfunding, privatization, and draconian high-stakes testing. I am proud to stand with them in this struggle.

Florida educators have good reason to be angry. Their pay is among the lowest in the nation and far too many support staff live below the poverty line. Gov. Ron DeSantis and his fellow Republicans have refused to increase pay for veteran teachers, and yet just last year, they gave corporations half a trillion dollars in tax breaks. As a result, large numbers of teachers are leaving the profession and this year, more than 300,000 children entered classrooms without a full-time teacher.

The indignities and stresses of high stakes testing are another reason teachers are quitting in droves. Like in other states, educators are being made to teach to the test and schools are being forced to sacrifice important subjects like arts education. But in Florida, children are required to take their first standardized test within 30 days of beginning kindergarten and Governor DeSantis wants to extend harsh accountability requirements to preschoolers. That’s not only absurd, it’s also pointless given that testing such young children in this way does not yield reliable results.

Florida’s Republican leaders are also forcing children with severe cognitive disabilities to take standardized tests. This is downright abusive. In one case, the state required the teacher of a critically ill boy with cerebral palsy to regularly document his medical condition. They did not stop even when he lay in a coma on his deathbed. Sadly, the list of such horror stories in the state of Florida goes on and on.

Florida is ground zero of a school privatization movement intent on destroying public education. It has the largest private school voucher program in the country, and each year almost $1 billion in state money goes to private instead of public schools. These private schools operate with little to no accountability and in many cases their students’ math and reading skills have declined.

Moreover, almost half of the charter schools in the state are run by for-profit corporations. These schools perform no better than traditional public schools, yet they still benefit from public support. Between 2006 and 2014, more than a third of the Florida charter schools that received federal funding — almost $35 million — have either closed or never opened to begin with.

It is long past time we put an end to these attacks on public education. Under my Thurgood Marshall Plan, taxpayer money will be used to invest in our teachers and students, and not in corporate welfare. We will establish a national minimum salary of $60,000 for educators; triple funding for Title I schools; and strengthen the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) by ensuring that the federal government provides 50 percent of the support for students with special needs. We will combat privatization by eliminating school voucher programs and placing a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools. And we will put an end to high-stakes testing once and for all.

Betsy DeVos and her billionaire friends in the Walton and Koch families do not want any of this to happen. If it were up to them, we would continue to give corporations trillions of dollars in tax breaks and starve our public education system of the resources it needs to be the best in the world.

 

What happens when Florida’s biggest for-profit charter chain takes over three low-performing public schools? Follow the money. Ka-Ching!

Sue Legg of the Florida League of Women Voters guides you through a path paved with greenbacks. 

Here is her summary:

The whole sordid affair was orchestrated by the current Senate Ed. Committee Chair.  Millions of dollars were poured into the K12 consolidated school that were not available until the state took the school over. The political and financial maneuvers were beyond sad.  Problem students were given 45 day suspensions.  They were given laptops and access to online courses made available by the once bankrupt Doral College which the Ed Chair manages.  Most disappeared. The school grades rose the first year, and now the elementary students are back to a ‘D’ grade.  These racially and economically segregated schools are the result of choice policies. 

Remember when the three Jefferson County schools were closed and taken over by Academica, the largest for-profit charter management company in the state?  The story makes your hair curl.  Here is a report by WLRN news that details where the money came from and where it went.

New funding included a $2.5 million special appropriation from the Florida Legislature, $2 million from federal startup grant funds, and a $1.9 million interest free loan from Academica’s Somerset division.  This was funding denied unless it became a charter district. Academica received $327,000 in fees in 2017-18 to manage the fewer than 800 student K12 school.  The per student cost rose to $16,600 which school leaders recognize cannot be sustained.  The state pays much less.

The behind the scenes orchestrators for the takeover were Senators Manny Diaz and Anitere Flores, both of whom have close ties to Academica. Diaz is an administrator at Doral College and is Chair of the Senate Education Committee.  Flores is deputy Majority Leader for the Florida Senate and moved from being the head of Doral College to the Academica foundation.  The current Doral College president, Rodriquez,  was named to supervise the transition of the Jefferson County schools to Academica.

In previous posts, I reported on a series of misdeedsassociated with Diaz and Flores related to their association with Doral College.  The college was bankrupt and had no students or faculty when Academica took it on.  It now offers online courses to Academica students.  The credit was worthless because the college had no accreditation.  Diaz worked to get a private school accreditation agency to recognize the college.  Diaz’s personal interest is noted here.  

What is the result of the takeover?  Behavioral specialists were hired to help students, teacher salaries increased, and the physical facilities were improved. Initially, the school grades rose to a ‘C’, but the elementary school has now reverted to a ‘D’.  The increase in the percentage of students passing the FSA state examinations in order to raise the school grades may have had as much to do with discipline policies as with learning strategies.  The charter school policy created a 45 day suspension policy in which students were given a laptop and sent home.  They were to take online classes from Doral College.  Many students never returned.  It is one way to raise school grades…just limit which students take the tests.

How convenient when those who give and those who receive public funds are one and the same.

 

Valerie Strauss wrote a column in her Answer Sheet blog at the Washington Post about the two most horrifying stories in the past decade of high-stakes standardized testing. Both occurred in Florida, a state where standardized testing is treated as an unerring and essential metric, except for students who use state money to attend religious schools, which are exempt from the state’s testing regime.

So devoted is Florida to standardized testing that all its legislators, the governor and the State Commissioner Richard Corcoran (whose wife runs a charter school) should be required to take the tests required of eighth graders and publish their scores.

You should subscribe to the Washington Post just to read Valerie Strauss.

Strauss writes:

Of all of the absurd and appalling stories that emerged from the standardized test-based school reform movement in the 2010s, there were two that, arguably, best revealed to me how bankrupt and even cruel some of the things policymakers foisted on children could be….

There were stories about teachers being evaluated on the test scores of students they didn’t have and subjects they didn’t teach.

There were stories of high-performing teachers getting poor evaluations because of complicated and problematic algorithms that were used to calculate their “worth” in class — which some reformers said could be ascertained by eliminating every single other factor (even hunger and chronic grief) that could affect how well a child does on a test….

But there were two that still resonate deeply and reveal just how vacant — and mean — some of the policy was. Why recount them? Because as new school reform efforts are being implemented, it is worth remembering that good intentions are not enough and that bad policy has real and sometimes extreme effects on children and adults.

One of these stories was from 2013, when the state of Florida required a 9-year-old boy who was born without the cognitive portion of his brain to take a version of the state’s standardized Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). The boy, Michael, was blind, couldn’t talk or understand basic information. Judy Harris, the operator and owner of a care facility for children in Orlando where Michael was left shortly after birth, told News 13 at the time:

Michael loves music, he loves to hear, and he loves for you to talk to him and things like that, but as far as testing him, or questioning him on what is an apple and a peach, what is the difference? Michael wouldn’t know what that is.”

But the rules said every student could take a test and be evaluated, however severe their disabilities might be. I wrote about the situation at the time and asked education officials in the Florida Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education why this was happening. They all said every student could be assessed. At the time I wrote:

State Rep. Linda Stewart of Orlando told me she didn’t think that a young boy who can’t tell the difference between an apple and a peach should be taking any test, and tried to get officials in the Education Department to step in to stop the charade of Michael taking a test.
She said nobody did. “Nobody wanted to take the responsibility of stopping it,” she said.
Rick Roach, an Orange County, Florida, school board member who was following Michael’s story, confirmed that Michael was in fact forced to take the test, meaning that a state employee sat down and read it to him, as if he could actually understand it.

In 2013, Roach had told Michael’s story to educator Marion Brady, who wrote about it for The Answer Sheet. I recently asked Roach about Michael’s status and he said Michael, now 15, still lives at the home run by Harris.

The second disturbing story was about a boy in Florida named Ethan Rediske, who suffered a brain injury at birth and had cerebral palsy, epilepsy, cortical blindness and the developmental equivalency of a 6-month-old child. He died on Feb. 7, 2014.

In 2013, Ethan was forced to “take” a version of the FCAT over the space of two weeks because Florida still required every student to take one. His mother, educator Andrea Rediske, managed to obtain a waiver so that he didn’t have to take the test in 2014, but it turned out there was a hitch. As Ethan was in a morphine coma dying in a hospital, the state insisted that his family prove he deserved the waiver. The ugliness of the situation was captured in the following email she wrote to Orange County School Board member Rick Roach and to reporter Scott Maxwell, who wrote about Ethan and similar cases for the Orlando Sentinel:

Rick and Scott,
I’m writing to appeal for your advocacy on our behalf. Ethan is dying. He has been in hospice care for the past month. We are in the last days of his life. His loving and dedicated teacher, Jennifer Rose has been visiting him every day, bringing some love, peace, and light into these last days. How do we know that he knows that she is there? Because he opens his eyes and gives her a little smile. He is content and comforted after she leaves.
Jennifer is the greatest example of what a dedicated teacher should be. About a week ago, Jennifer hesitantly told me that the district required a medical update for continuation of the med waiver for the adapted FCAT. Apparently, my communication through her that he was in hospice wasn’t enough: they required a letter from the hospice company to say that he was dying. Every day that she comes to visit, she is required to do paperwork to document his “progress.” Seriously? Why is Ethan Rediske not meeting his 6th-grade hospital homebound curriculum requirements? BECAUSE HE IS IN A MORPHINE COMA. We expect him to go any day. He is tenaciously clinging to life.This madness has got to stop. Please help us.
Thank you,
Andrea Rediske

The cases of Michael and Ethan were not isolated. Since that time, the national obsession with standardized testing has somewhat abated. Many states have moved away from evaluating teachers by test scores and reduced the consequences for low scores. Yet most students are still required to take standardized tests, and problems with them remain.

These stories are two I don’t believe I will ever forget.

 

Bob Shepherd surprised me with this post. I thought he was going to write that you should move to Florida to vote out the scoundrels now running the state and destroying public schools.

I thought he would say to move to Florida because it is 75 degrees there today.

But he has other reasons for you to join him there.

Here are two reasons of his reasons. Open the link to learn about the others.

 

Economy. It’s the home of free (I mean really free) enterprise. Selling sinkholes and swampland to Yankees has mostly given way to late-night erectile dysfunction infomercials (yes, a big industry in Florida), casinos, tort law, strip clubs, megachurches, guns shows, and charter schools, but it’s still the capital of the con, so, of course, it’s home to Donald Trump. (Mar-a-lago recently won a prestigious award for second tackiest dwelling in the universe, after Trump’s apartment in Trump Tower.) Of course, the man who brought you Trump University would locate here. It’s wilder than the Wild West. How do all those grifters end up here? Basically, ne’er-do-wells throughout the country flee the law until they can’t flee any further because there’s an ocean in the way.
O Florida! Of thee I sing!
 
Geography. The state has two zones–North Florida (which is basically Southern Southern Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi without the high levels of education for which those states are known) and South Florida, aka, The Swamplands. To get to Florida, go East until you smell it and South until you step in it. The highest elevation in the state is Mount Trashmore, aka the Miami Dump (true), from the top of which you can see all the way to Tallahassee. It’s important for you to relocate to Florida soon, as with global warming and the flatness and low elevation of the state, it soon will not exist anymore.

Sue Legg is a leader of the League of Women Voters in Florida and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education.

She writes here about Miami, a district that is “all in” for school choice. 

Miami seems to have taken the place of Denver as their favorite district, now that the choice Majority was booted out of power.

Legg writes:

Miami is the school choice capital!  According to this EducationNext article, 20% of Miami’s public schools are charters.  Another 20% of students are in private schools, and approximately half of those are paid for with vouchers and tax credit scholarships.  It does not stop there.  District-run choice programs now enroll 61% of public school children.  Is this a school choice dream or a nightmare?

Dade County schools tout high academic achievement.  The district receives an ‘A’ grade from the state and no failing school grades.  Of course, there are only 15 schools in the state that have an ‘F’ rating, so Miami is not unique there.  An ‘A’ school only has to earn 62% of the possible points based on state assessment test scores etc.  Over one-half of all Florida’s schools earn an ‘A’ or ‘B’ grade.

Miami’s  fourth grade students rank above the national average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading test, but there is no statistically significant difference between Duval, Hillsborough and Dade Counties’ scores.  Could it be that third grade retention pushes Florida scores up because so many fourth graders were retained?

The Dade County eighth grade NAEP scores also seem to be higher in comparison to other cities.  Yet, the average Miami-Dade score is right at the national average.  Miami’s high school graduation rate is just below the national average.  It would seem that Miami-Dade is good at hype.  The reality is quite different on the ground.

According to the report ‘Tough Choices‘, Miami is the second most segregated district in the state.  Of 460 schools in Miami, 214 are considered isolated.  They are more than 85% single race.   Miami’s lowest performing schools are overwhelmingly black.  Hispanic students also tend to be enrolled in segregated schools.

Is this what Florida is striving for?  Our schools are driven by grades which are easy to manipulate.  Yet, Florida, the third largest state in the nation, is just average in student achievement and children are increasingly separated by race and economic status.

Florida is ground zero for school choice, since it has been controlled by Jeb Bush and his allies since 1998. By now, it should have surpassed Massachusetts on the NAEP, but its eighth grade scores continue to be mediocre.

 

Sue Legg of the Florida League of Women Voters wrote here about concerns about teachers’ pensions and whether the 2020 legislature is planning to undermine them.

She writes:

There are rumblings that the 2020 Florida Legislature may revise funding for the Florida Pension Plan.   There is no question that the retirement system revenue has declined; it has not been 100% funded since the 2008 recession. The current rate is about 84% of the cost if all people retired at one time. Of course that is an unlikely scenario, but there are now more people vested in the system than are contributing to it. One million public employees participate in the system, about half are teachers and the others are local and state government employees. As retirees increase and new participants decrease, covering costs becomes more problematic…

Pensions are not the problem..The real question as always is whether funding pensions is mostly a political, not a financial issue.  The National Association of State Retirement Administrators cited a report stating that an 80% funding level is the federal benchmark for financial stability of state pension systems.  Florida’s level exceeds that benchmark. Nevertheless, there is a political divide over providing pensions, and it is closely tied to those supporting school privatization.  Florida charters and private schools typically do not contribute to retirement systems, and the resulting high teacher turnover keeps salaries lower.   Thus, there is more money available for management companies in the private sector.   This is not a recipe for a high quality educational system.

 

Last spring, the Network for Public Education published a report on waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal Charter Schools Program. The report, called Asleep At the Wheel, documented the Department of Education’s failure to monitor the veracity or feasibility of applications for the program or to follow up on what happened to the money spent to launch new charter schools. It found that nearly $1 billion of federal dollars had been wasted on charters that either never opened or closed soon after opening.

Today, NPE released a new report that delves into what happened with federal money from the Charter Schools Program in the states. The findings were even more concerning than last spring’s report.
The new report is called Still Asleep At the Wheel.

An excerpt:

This report, Still Asleep at the Wheel: How the Federal Charter Schools Program Results in a Pileup of Fraud and Waste, takes up where our first report left off. In it, we provide detailed information, state by state, on how federal dollars were doled out to schools that no longer exist or never existed at all.

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) published a list of charter schools that received grants between the years of 2006 and 2014. Using that database of 4,829 schools, we meticulously determined which charters that received grants were still open, which had closed and which had never opened, resulting in state by state records of enormous waste. We examine the detailed spending records of some of Michigan’s ghost charter schools that received grants exceeding $100,000. We explain how money moves into the hands of for-profit management organizations and tell the stories of subgrantees that engaged in fraud—sometimes amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars—all beginning with funding from the federal Charter Schools Program.

Major findings of our research include the following:

Documented charter school closures and the waste of federal funds exceeds our first report’s estimations.
We believed that about 1,000 recipient charters were defunct. However, using the 2015 database (active grantees from 2006-2014), we identified 1,779 grantee schools that either never opened or had shut down. The number of non-operational recipients, across 25 years of the program is inevitably in the thousands.
In the first report, we estimated the fail- ure rate for recipient schools to be 30 percent. For schools listed in the database, however, our latest review found a failure rate of 37 percent.

It is impossible to document total waste for the entire 25 year program because the Department never required the states to report the names of funded schools until 2006. However, we have now documented $504,517,391 (28 percent of the total database amount) that was awarded to schools between 2006-2014 that never opened or that have closed. Applying that percentage to the total expenditures ($4.1 billion) of the CSP programs designed to create new schools, approximately $1.17 billion in federal funding has likely been spent on charters that either never opened, or that opened and have since shut down.

The disbursement of over one billion dollars during the program’s first decade was never monitored for its impact or results. There is no record of which schools received the funds.

From 1995 to 2005, enormous funds were pushed out to the states to distribute to schools via subgrants. Yet the Department has no complete record of which schools re- ceived funding during the program’s early years, because it never required the states to report the names of subgrantee schools or their status. The Department’s over- sight ended when the funds left Washington.

During the first decade of the program when states did not have to report where the money went, Florida, a state where nearly half of all charter schools are run by for-profit organizations, received four grants totaling $158,353,525. Michigan, where about 80 percent of all charters are run by for-profit management companies, received four grants totaling $64,608,912. California also received four grants, totaling $190,857,243.
Although the overall rate of failed charter projects was 37 percent, in some states the rate of failure was much higher.

Iowa and Kansas have the largest propor- tions of failed subgrantee charter schools. Eleven charter schools in Iowa received grants. Ten failed, wasting over $3.66 million. As of 2014, the database indicates that Kansas doled out $8.51 million to 29 schools. Twenty-two (76 percent) of those schools either never opened or are closed today–$6,389,964 of the $8.9 million was wasted.

States with a subgrantee failure rate exceeding 50 percent include: Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, Virginia and Washington (state). Mississippi had only one grantee and that school failed. Georgia had 75 failures, resulting in over 23 million federal dollars wasted.

The percentage of defunct charter school grantees in Florida was 37 percent ($34.2 million); the Michigan failure rate was over 44 percent ($21 million) and Lou- Asian’s failure rate was 46 percent ($25.5 million).
The most astounding loss, however, was California’s: nearly $103 million was awarded to charters that never opened or have shut down—37% failed.

Five hundred thirty-seven (537) schools list- ed in the database never opened at all. Many received over $100,000 in federal funds.

Since 2001, charter school entrepreneurs have been eligible to receive CSP grants before they have even identified an authorizer or submitted a detailed application to open a school. In total, we identified 28 states that had at least one charter school (537 schools in total) that never enrolled even one student for one day and yet had received federal funds. According to the CSP database, those schools received, or were due to receive when the database collection ended, a total of $45,546,552 million.

Topping the list was the state of Michigan where 72 never-opened schools received grants, most exceeding $100,000. Over $7.7 million was wasted. In California, we identified 61—with waste of $8.36 million.
Other states with large numbers of never- opened schools receiving CSP funds in- clude Arkansas (18), Florida (46) Illinois (20), Maryland (38), Massachusetts (17), New Jersey (23), Ohio (20), Oregon (40), Pennsylvania (41), South Carolina (34), Tennessee (43) and Wisconsin (15).

This report provides details on how several of these never-opened charters in Mi- chigan spent those federal funds.

Although Congress forbids for-profit opera- tors from directly receiving CSP grants, they still benefit by having their schools apply.

Although we could not identify every charter in the CSP database that was run by a for-profit management company, we were able to identify those run by the large for-profit chains including Academica, K12, National Heritage Academies, White Hat and Charter Schools USA. In total, we found 357 schools in the database run by major for-profit chains. These schools had received a total of $124,929,017 in federal CSP start-up funds. Unsurprisingly, most of this money flowed to for-profit run schools in Florida ($46,936,979) and Michigan ($26,452,927). Eighty-three (83) schools run by the Flor- ida-based, for-profit chain Academica received CSP grants, totaling $23,426,383.


Still Asleep at the Wheel also describes why so many charter schools fail, along with the stories of grantee schools that abruptly closed, sometimes with little or no notice to their students and families. Far too often those schools shut down due to corruption and fraud. Our report provides disturbing accounts of grifters and profiteers who took CSP and other taxpayer funds only to enrich themselves at the expense of the students they had promised to serve.

The staggering amount spent on schools that have closed or never opened, as well as those that have engaged in fraud, is nothing short of a national scandal. As public dollars are diverted from public schools, the students who attend their neighborhood schools have fewer resources. It is time to put on the brakes and chart a new course.

We were heartened that after the publication of our first report in March of 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives reduced funding for the CSP program for 2020. However, a small reduction is not sufficient to address the program’s structural flaws.

We therefore strongly recommend that Congress end appropriations for new charter school grants in the upcoming budget and continue funding only for obligated amounts to legitimate projects. Once those grants have been closed, we recommend that the CSP be ended and that charter schools continue to receive federal support only through other federal funding streams such as Title I and IDEA. Students, not charter school en- trepreneurs, should benefit from federal funds.

We also recommend thorough audits by Congress of previous grant awards, the establishment of regulations to ensure grant awards still under term are being responsibly carried out and that misspent money is returned to the federal coffers.

 

 

The Florida Education Association rejected Governor Ron DeSantis’ bonus plan. Bonus plans have a long history of failure.

 

Nov. 14, 2019                                        CONTACT: Joni Branch, (850) 201-3223 or (850) 544-7055

FEA reacts to DeSantis bonus plan announcement

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Education Association (FEA) was disappointed to learn Thursday that what Gov. Ron DeSantis envisions as a way to properly compensate experienced teachers is another bonus plan.

“Teachers and all school employees should be paid fair, competitive salaries,” said FEA President Fedrick Ingram. “Our educators do not want another bonus scheme, especially not one built on the back of a flawed school grading system. Bonuses don’t help you qualify for a mortgage; they can’t be counted on from year to year. We know that all too well here in Florida, where adjusting the current bonus plan is almost an annual event.”

The bonus plan announced Thursday and DeSantis’ minimum teacher salary proposal provide no benefit to many of the school employees who provide essential services to students. Despite the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission’s call for more support in addressing mental health needs in our schools, the plans do not appear to account for guidance counselors, school psychologists, social workers and other mental health professionals. The plans as outlined also leave out thousands of other employees, including pre-K teachers, librarians, nurses, teacher’s aides, bus drivers, custodians, office personnel and food-service staff.

But the basic fact on bonuses is that they do not work. Merit pay and bonus structures for instructional personnel have been tried again and again both in this country and this state, for decades, without proven success. Florida has tried six bonus programs in the past 13 years. Meanwhile, we face a severe teacher shortage along with shortages of other school employees. Why do we continue to throw money at a failed concept? State dollars would be better spent on an effective strategy for recruiting and retaining educators — overall salary increases.

To overcome years of disinvestment in our public schools, the Florida Education Association is calling for a Decade of Progress, starting with a down-payment of $2.4 billion for public education in the next state budget. Florida currently ranks 43th nationally in funding for public education.

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The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with more than 145,000 members. FEA represents pre K-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational staff professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.

 

FEA | 213 S. Adams St. Tallahassee, FL 32301 | 850.201.2800 | Fax 850.222.1840
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