Archives for category: Florida

Pat and Sue Legg of the Florida League of Women Voters have performed q public service by detailing how for-profit charter companies rip off taxpayers and cheat children.

You can be sure Jeb Bush will not assign this report when he lectures at Harvard this fall about the Florida “miracle” that no one can see other than himself and his hirelings.

Here is the beginning. Please note that 40% of taxpayer funds goes to the management company, not to educating students. What a racket!

Hall and Legg write:


“Florida now educates more than 230,000 students at more than 650 publicly funded charter schools. While many of these schools are providing good educational opportunities, we have found that the fundamental structure of the for-profit management companies, specifically Charter Schools USA, must be questioned. The following outline summarizes a very detailed report given the LWVF Board this past summer.

“1. CSUSA has six non-profit school boards that operate 49 schools in 12 urban counties in Florida. Additionally, CSUSA operates 17 schools in 6 other states.

“2. The six governing school boards cover the 49 charters and are run by CSUSA; they are not independent of the management companies.

“3. Inter related affiliated businesses include Red Apple Development, Ryan Construction Company, the Florida Charter Education Foundation and Connex (curriculum software). Furthermore, we found over 300 limited liability companies (LLCs) initiated by CSUSA.

“4. Facilities financing incorporates all aspects of land acquisition, site clearing, construction, bond financing and multimillion dollar lease fees. CSUSA charges the Hillsborough County School district at one of their four schools more than $30/square foot, significantly higher than downtown Tampa skyscrapers!

“5. Tracking expenditures of taxpayer monies is impossible due to for-profit business practices which are not transparent.

“6. Long term lease agreements, after flipping (changing deeds from one related company to the next) from Ryan Construction to Red Apple Development, are charged out 40 years, and charge rent and interest amounts on top of the lease payments. Most CSUSA lease fees in Hillsborough County take 25% of all taxpayer dollars designated for educating children. Some are even higher.

“7. Another 13% to 15% is charged by CSUSA for management fees, hence 40% of public money is not spent instructing children. State auditors have questioned how these costs are reported.

“8. Evidence exists of real estate “flipping” by CSUSA in Hillsborough County. This results in new real estate appraisals to increase value. Lease and rent costs use these values to justify cost charged to charter budgets.


“By Pat Hall and Sue Legg, LWVF Education Team, June 2016

“Introduction. District school boards grant charter school contracts to private entities and monitor their financial balance sheets, but by legislative intent, they do not have responsibility for their management and operation. Charters have little regulation, and the result has been a continuing saga of scandals. This report goes beyond the mismanagement and corruption issues to the fundamental structure of for-profit management companies, and it questions the accountability of these companies for their use of public funds. Charters may be self-managed or operated by non-profit or for-profit companies. We focus on one for-profit charter management company, Charter Schools, USA (CSUSA). Florida has several others including, Academica which was the focus of a federal investigation, and Newpoint charters which face indictments. A detailed example of the complex facility transactions for CSUSA’s Woodmont K-8 school raises the issue of excessive profiteering. We have data that indicate these business practices are not specific to one school or one company. CSUSA organizational structure: CSUSA is owned and operated by the CEO, Jonathan Hage. It has multiple interrelated entities whose operations are difficult to track. CSUSA has created six non-profit charter school boards to operate 49 publically funded, privately managed charter schools in 12 Florida counties. Additionally CSUSA operates 17 schools in 6 other states. These non-profit boards subcontract to the CSUSA for profit educational management firm which founded them.”

Jeb Bush has been advocating everything related to corporate reform for many years. As Governor of Florida, he imposed high-stakes testing, charters, simplistic accountability measures, letter grades for schools, and did whatever he could dream up to promote competition and choice. He tried to get vouchers, but was only able to get vouchers for special education (a program once described in a prize-winning article as a “cottage industry for graft”). He sought a constitutional amendment to make vouchers possible, and Michelle Rhee joined him to promote vouchers. But in 2012, voters said no by 58-42.

This fall, this hater of public schools will teach at the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance, which is supervised by voucher advocate Paul Peyerson. Students will no doubt learn that public schools must be replaced by a free market. They will learn that choice will create Mira Les. They will learn that families should schools just as they choose milk in the grocery store: whole milk, 2% milk, 1% milk, chocolate milk, buttermilk. No one will tell Jeb about Sweden and Chile.

Saddest of all is that he is giving the annual Godkin Lecture, an honor once reserved for distinguished scholars.

As the evidence piles up that choice is no panacea, do you think he will apologize for the schools and communities he has disrupted?

In Sarasota, the Island Montessori School kicked out a well-behaved student without giving a reason. The parents were active in the school and supported it. The child was thriving.

But the school hired a new principal, and the parents asked too many questions.

Unlike a public school, the kid was booted because of his parents’ actions.

Caroline Grannan writes here about the rise and fall of a Big Reform Idea called “the parent trigger,” championed by an organization called Parent Revolution. Ben Austin started Parent Revolution as a way to empower disgruntled parents to take control of their low-scoring public school and turn it over to a charter operator. Austin led the charge for new legislation to codify Parent Revolution’s big idea (Gloria Romero claimed credit for writing the legislation; she became executive director of DFER after leaving the legislature). Parent Revolution attracted millions of dollars from the usual billionaires, including Gates, Broad, and Wasserman.

After many favorable articles, editorials, and massive publicity, what has PR accomplished?

Not much.

Grannan writes:

“Parent Revolution (PRev) started in Los Angeles in a blaze of publicity in 2009, predicting with great fanfare and much enthusiastic press coverage that it would transform many “failing” public schools into charter schools. PRev created the “parent trigger,” whereby a 50%+1 majority of parents at a school can sign a petition forcing “transformation” of the school, or forcing the school to close. PRev lobbying led to a California law in early 2010 allowing parent triggers statewide.

“Despite the fanfare, in those seven years, PRev has succeeded in turning only one school into a charter school – Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto (San Bernardino County), Calif., in 2012. That effort ripped the school community apart — splitting up friendships, creating deeply hostile factions and even leading to schoolyard fights among the kids. Reports on the results of the charterization are wildly mixed, and the mainstream media, which descended on Adelanto eagerly to cover the battle, lost interest in following up afterward.

“Parent Revolution began in 2009 under the auspices of Los Angeles’ Green Dot charter school chain, launched by the mercurial, once-admired Green Dot founder Steve Barr. The intent appeared to be to enable Green Dot to take over schools.

“Barr’s name is no longer mentioned in connection with PRev, possibly because of his checkered history, including a rapidly squelched flap about misuse of funds and some much-publicized failed projects. The story of Barr and the Green Dot charters he founded has been marked by rifts, feuds and separations, as has the story of PRev itself. Since PRev began operating on a statewide and then national scope, there has never again been public discussion of Green Dot taking over a parent trigger school.

PRev has run parent triggers in a few schools around Los Angeles, claiming to have achieved some changes less drastic than charterization. In one case, its petitions got the principal fired – and all but one or two teachers left the school in protest, with many parents objecting that they hadn’t meant to get rid of the principal or drive out the teachers.

“There’s never anything but the most vague and sketchy press follow-up of PRev efforts. Reports pop up in the press trumpeting PRev efforts that are never heard from again. I started following PRev to begin with because former PRev Executive Director Ben Austin told the press he had operations going in my school community in San Francisco. Yet there has never again been a sighting of PRev operations here.

PRev moved to the national stage, lobbying to get laws allowing parent triggers in various states. Because my ability as a volunteer to keep tabs on every PRev activity is limited, I can’t give a complete count of what states PRev lobbied in and what states passed parent trigger laws, but the efforts and the story that the parent trigger was spreading nationwide were widely and enthusiastically covered in the press.

“During those campaigns, PRev had paid staffers pose as school parents and testify before lawmakers – as was known to happen in Florida and Texas – and PRev claimed routinely and falsely that it had successfully transformed many schools in California, as reported in the Florida press.”

In short, after spending millions of dollars, PRev took over one public school.

PRev now plans to advise parents on how to choose a school.

PRev has been yet another disastrous failure for corporate reform.

The parent trigger fires blanks.

A Florida judge supported parents who fought for alternatives to the mandatory state reading test. Some districts permitted alternatives, others insisted that children would be retained in third grade if they didn’t take and pass the third grade test.

“A Leon County circuit court judge has come down in favor of families challenging Florida’s third-grade retention practices, ruling that school districts ignored the children’s right to alternative forms of promotion and the state Department of Education allowed that to happen.

“In her order, Judge Karen Gievers highly criticized the Hernando County school district for its “illegal refusal” to allow students to have a portfolio option to demonstrate their reading abilities, as permitted in statute. Notably, she also included report cards “based on classroom work throughout the course of the school year” as an acceptable option.

“Gievers took a further step in undercutting Florida’s long-time reliance on testing by validating the Opt Out Network’s use of “minimal participation.”

“The statute does not define participation,” Gievers wrote in her order. “The children were present on time, broke the seal on the materials and wrote their names, thus meeting their obligation to participate.”

The article calls this a “mixed” ruling, but I think it looks like a home run for parents who didn’t want their child’s future to be tied to one standardized test.

Andy Goldstein addressed the school board of Palm Beach County, where he teaches, at a recent meeting:

Why My Wife and I Are Opting Out Our Daughter From Third-Grade High-Stakes Testing

Transcript of the original text:

Good evening. My name is Andy Goldstein. I’m a teacher at Omni Middle School and the proud parent of an eight-year-old daughter who attends one of our public elementary schools.

It seems like it was just yesterday when my daughter entered kindergarten. At that time, I talked about her at our August School Board meeting in 2013.

I said that my hopes and dreams for my daughter were that she would develop a lifelong love for learning that would serve her well as she learned to construct a life that would serve her and serve others as well.

I told this board that my wife and I were not particularly interested in having her be seen as a data point for others to make money from.

Now, three short years later, which seem to have gone by in the blink of an eye, she is entering third grade.

Tonight, I’m speaking as a parent, who also is a teacher.

In Florida, third grade is the beginning of high-stakes, standardized testing for our children.

What are the high-stakes?

• Our children, on the basis of one test, will receive a number, a 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, which, will serve to define them.

Some students, may do well learning throughout the year, but do not test well and may receive a 1, a one being the lowest possible score.

Some may come from disadvantaged backgrounds and will receive a 1.

Some may be special needs students, who receive a 1.

These numbers work to define our students as to whom they are. “I’m a one. I’m a Failure.”

This high-stakes testing policy, mandated by state law, works to stigmatize our students and they grow up with a limiting self-concept of who they are and what they are capable of doing and becoming.

• On the basis of this one high-stakes test, some schools—those comprised of the poorest students, who need the most help—are labeled with an “F.” Failures. This stigmatizes these schools, whose faculty and staff may be working hard to meet the high needs of the surrounding neighborhood they serve. It also serves to increase the segregation at these already segregated schools. What parents, given the means to choose what community they will move into, will choose a neighborhood with a school labeled “F.”

• There is a lot of money being made on the part of testing companies, publishers, and vendors, based on this annual imposition of this high-stakes testing.

• This high-stakes testing is part of a corporate agenda, an agenda by the rich and powerful to demonize our public schools and privatize them through the rise of publicly funded, privately managed schools called charters. Our state legislature, bought and paid for by corporate interests, is cheating our children by defunding our public schools.

• “That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital,” says Noam Chomsky, an MIT professor.

• Our third graders are still babies, really. Do they really need the pressures of this high-stakes testing?

Recently, I read one account from a parent recounting the experience of her son when he was a third grader taking the FCAT. He was a good kid. He worked all year to learn. But he missed passing the FCAT by one point. He went to summer school to do more work and took it again. And again, he missed passing the test by one point. His mother was afraid to tell him, but he could tell by her reaction that he had not passed. He was crushed by the sense of failure. His mother, working on making dinner in the kitchen, called him to come down to eat. He did not respond. She had a premonition that something was the matter. She rushed up to his bedroom and found him hanging by a bedsheet. She got him down.

• Is there anyone who thinks this high-stakes testing is worth such a price?

• As a parent, I can answer with a resounding NO!

• My wife and I believe that our public schools should work to develop the whole, creative child in all of our schools, and in all of our communities of all colors and all socio-economic backgrounds.

• For these reasons, I’m announcing to you, our school board, that my wife and I do not support high-stakes testing in Florida, and will be opting out our daughter. Evidence for her learning will be through a portfolio.

• Thank you.

I am sorry that I frequently ask for your financial support, but crowd-sourcing is the best way for parents and public education activists to make their case. Unfortunately, we do not have the deep pockets of the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Walton Foundation, or hedge fund managers. If 1,000 people who read this appeal and others each send a gift of $10 or $20, it will make a difference.

Colleen Wood, a parent of students in Florida public schools and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education, asks for your help for parents who are in court fighting the state’s third grade retention law:

Friends – I know we are pulled in so many different directions, but I’m asking for your help in Florida.

Florida has a mandatory retention policy for 3rd graders who do not pass the FSA (Florida Standards Assessment). Statute spells out good cause exemptions and there are ways for districts to look at a portfolio of the students work all year, and to promote. There are also ways for the districts to fight parents, to force them to have their child take some standardized tests.

This group of 3rd grade parents refused and are now suing the state to have their students promoted to 4th grade. These are students whose teachers have testified they are on grade level, but certain districts are still refusing to promote them to make a point.

It is insane that we have to sue to do what is right, but we do. And 3rd grade retention is a central tenant of Jeb Bush’s education reform policies, even though we know there is no sound research supporting automatic retention. Discrediting it in court would be a huge step to undoing the damage he has brought to our state.

In court yesterday, Mary Jane Tappen, the Vice Chancellor for all Florida public schools said under oath that a student could have F’s all year and get a 2 on the FSA and be promoted. Or they could have A’s all year, not score at least a 2 on the FSA and be retained. Out loud. She said that out loud. District lawyers argued that report cards are meaningless. At least we’re getting them on record.

But here’s where we need your support:

financially –

Click here to support 3rd Grade Parents v. FLDOE by cindy Hamilton

David v Goliath: Parents prepare to challenge the FL DOE This past spring, hundreds of families consciously chose to participate, though only minimally, in the Third Grade FSA and their children, therefore, received no test scores. Many students (including many who failed the FSA) were promoted

donate here if you are able. The districts are now petitioning for a change in venue and want to have the case heard in each individual district, which would make the costs prohibitive to most parents. And FLDOE is burying the lawyers in paperwork to continually drive up the costs.

share on social media – please link to the donation page, use #180DaysCount or link to any stories. Here are a few:

Parents challenge Bush-era third-grade retention law in nine-hour hearing in state court

TALLAHASSEE – Parents whose children were retained after ‘opting out’ of standardized testing challenged a Jeb Bush-era state law requiring third graders to pass state reading tests in order to be promoted during a nine-hour long hearing in state court on Monday.

I am not a plaintiff in this lawsuit, but feel like these parents are doing what we have been asking and we need to provide all the support we can, in all the ways we can, as often as we can.

Thank you!


A state court judge in Florida will soon issue a ruling that will either validate or refute parents’ right to opt their child out of state testing. The specific issue is the high-stakes third grade reading test; if students don’t pass it, they may be held back, even if their teacher says they are proficient readers.

A state judge is weighing a decision that could shake Florida’s education-accountability system following a marathon hearing Monday in Tallahassee.

After nearly nine hours of testimony and arguments, Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers wrapped up a hearing on state and local policies for allowing students to move to the fourth grade but did not rule on a request that would allow about a dozen students across Florida to advance.

The practical effect of Gievers’ decision, and the appeals that are almost certain to follow, could either validate or shatter the “opt out” movement led by parents who say a state standardized test should not decide whether their children are allowed to move from third grade to fourth grade.

The parents of the students involved in the case told their children to “minimally participate” in the Florida Standards Assessment for third grade by filling in their names, breaking the seals on the tests and then refusing to answer any questions.

Those parents believe state law gives them the right to tell their children not to answer questions on the test. But while the law spells out ways to advance that don’t require passing the assessment, the Florida Department of Education and school districts say that doesn’t give students the opportunity to refuse to take it.

Gievers, who seemed in an earlier hearing to sympathize with the parents, gave no clear indication of how she intended to rule on the request for an injunction.

“You’ve given me a lot to look at, and I plan to do this the right way,” she said.

But the hearing laid bare not only the legal questions at the heart of the case, but the philosophical ones: Is a report card based on a year’s worth of work a better measure of a student’s knowledge, or is an objective test the proper measure? Where is the balance between a parent’s right to control his or her child’s education and the state’s right to determine how to measure learning?

This is an unusual political campaign. Matthew Fitzpatrick, an educator in Orange County, Florida, is running for a seat on the district school board on a platform opposed to the evaluation methods of Robert Marzano. Now, I have no views for or against Mr. Marzano since I am not a classroom teacher and I am not familiar with his method, but I have seen remarkable pushback on this blog from teachers. Since I too oppose the reduction of teaching to numerical measurements, I am sympathetic to his arguments.

He gives 40 reasons to oppose the Marzano method. I am posting only four of them. Read his post if you want to see the other 36.

My name is Matthew J. Fitzpatrick, and I am running for the District 7 Seat on the Orange County School Board. I am currently an Assistant Director at Orange Technical College, Westside Campus in Winter Garden. I’ve been in education for 23 years — 12 years as a teacher, and 11 years as a school and district administrator. In all my years of being involved in education, in my opinion, I have never seen a more demoralizing and destructive system than the OCPS implementation of the Marzano Teacher Evaluation system. I believe the Marzano system, more than anything else, is driving teachers out of education…and thus, OCPS has long lists of teacher vacancies. I believe this enough that I am willing to set aside my own administrative career and take a 50% pay cut in order to bring common sense back to the classroom. We must turn things around now.

Here are my first 40 Reasons to Replace the Marzano Teacher Evaluation System…splitting hairs on a system designed to split hairs on the art of teaching…

1. Dr. Marzano himself said on page 4 of his famous book, The Art and Science of Teaching, that, “It is certainly true that research provides us with guidance as to the nature of effective teaching, and yet I strongly believe that there is not (nor will there ever be) a formula for effective teaching.” If Dr. Robert J. Marzano says there is not a formula for effective instruction, who am I to argue with him? Why have we settle for a cookie-cutter approach to teaching?

2. Non-educators may not completely understand all of this “teacherese” jargon about teacher evaluations, but simply mention the name Marzano to an Orange County Public School teacher and take note of how they react…watch what happens to their face…feel the emotions of their words. Anything that causes such disdain among the very lifeblood of education–the teachers–surely is not good for education…no matter how much the sanitized research is quoted in support of it.

3. Where are the amazing results from using the “research-proven” Marzano strategies? Our District’s test scores and grades went down in many areas and schools. Why haven’t 6 years of Marzano transformed our District? If something is not delivering results, and at the same time it is driving great teachers out of the profession, we must make a data-driven decision and move in another direction…for the sake of our students and teachers.

4. Teaching should not be reduced to the numerical measurements of individual instructional strategies. Just as Mr. Keating (Robin Williams), in Dead Poets Society instructed his students to resist the armies of academics who want to reduce poetry to a passionless score that misses its true beauty and purpose, so, too, must students, parents, teachers and administrators stand against such a heartless, nitpicking view of the art of instruction. We must “Rip It Out” as an evaluation tool in our District.

A reader who works for a software company explains why it is so difficult to teach the standards effectively and so unfair to judge teachers by an impossible task: It takes 300 days to teach them, but there are only 180 days in a school year. Oops!



Here is the main problem with these tests. The FLDOE has absolutely no clue on how long it takes to teach each standard effectively. So the question is, “can a teacher teach the standards in the allotted time during the year?” As an educational software company we looked at the standards that a fifth grade teacher is required to teach effectively and stopped counting when we found it would take a minimum of at least 300 school days to teach the standards to an effective level. This does not include teaching a child how to type effectively if the state required typing on the writing portion of the test. The problem is, it’s impossible for an elementary school teacher or for that matter anybody including the testing companies to teach the standards that are on the test in a school year. In order for a teacher or school to score effectively on these tests you have to hope that the students that are coming into your classroom have at least some prior knowledge of the standards.



You have to understand that these tests are not built to test your child’s learning knowledge, they are built to evaluate the schools and teachers on their effectiveness on teaching the standards. Finally, ask yourself this question… “Who benefits if the teachers and schools FAIL teaching the standards effectively?” Teachers? Schools? Children? No benefit here!… Private Charter Schools? Testing Companies? Publishers? ED Tech Companies? Lobbyists and the list goes on and on and on…..