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In the 2012 and 2013 legislative sessions, Jeb Bush, Michelle Rhee and allies in the privatization movement tried to get a parent trigger law through the Florida legislature but met a solid wall of parent resistance. Now the same forces are gathering for another run at privatizing the Sunshine State’s public schools. The method is to declare not just F schools eligible for charter takeover, but D and F schools; to get more such “failing” schools by raising the bar on the testing. Voila! A bigger market for the charter industry!
Does it sound familiar: legislating the privatization of “failing” public schools? This time, it seems like they have merely removed the parents from the “parent trigger.” And, by removing the option of a district managed turnaround option, this bill will force persistently low performing schools to close or become privatized. Like the previous “parent trigger”, this bill is about pushing a political agenda and little else. And the House has set aside $200 million education tax dollars to further this agenda.
Should it matter that when the House Education Committeeworkshopped strategies to “Close the Opportunity Gap”, the only invited speakers were from charter networks (KIPP, Uncommon and GreatHearts)? Should it matter that the House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee only scheduled charter chains to speak during its workshop addressing “innovative” ways to close the achievement gap (Basis, Achievement First,IDEA, SEED)? Why not hear about successful district managed turnaround plans?
Should it matter that House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who has made this bill a House priority, is married to a lawyer who founded a successful Pasco County’ Classical Preparatory (charter) School which is planning an expansion?
Should it matter that Rep. Manny Diaz Jr, who has been an outspoken proponent of this legislation (claiming “it is our moral responsibility to make this move and provide this option for our kids”), is employed by Florida’s largest charter chain, Academica?
Should it matter that the Florida Department of Education has repeated raised the bar and changed the School Grades calculations, which has potentially masked improvements and/or achievement of students in these so-called “failing” schools? In 2015, Commissioner Pam Stewart celebrated Florida ranking 7th in the nation in student achievement and reported that students in Florida who receive free and reduced lunches outperform those who receive free and reduced lunches in all other states. Is it possible these schools may have made significant gains that are unappreciated by the current accountability system?
Should it matter that school grades can be shown to be a reflection of the socioeconomic status of the student body? Researchers have been able to predict school grades based on US census data alone…
Should it matter that the FSA was never evaluated for fairness, reliability or validity for at risk sub populations of students, including low socioeconomic level, minorities and English Language Learners, the very kinds of students overrepresented in these chronically underperforming schools?
And finally, should it matter that charter schools do not get better academic results than public schools and often perform worse? Sometime, charters appear to do better because they can control the types of students they choose to serve. And THIS may explain why, even when Speaker Corcoran is dangling $200 million under their noses, successful charter networks appear to be uninterested in becoming Florida’s “Schools of Hope”.