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More Charter Schools, Less District Oversight: Where Rick Scott and Jeb Bush Merge

| February 12, 2011

One of the forks Gov. Rick Scott is about to stick into public education.

As Gov. Rick Scott backs away for now from a push for an expanded school voucher program, former Gov. Jeb Bush’s education foundation has begun quietly circulating draft legislation that may serve as the Legislature’s template to massively expand the number of charter schools throughout the state.

Scott’s budget team this week preached the governor’s belief in school choice, saying the Scott wanted to expand virtual school offerings, allow more students to transfer from failing or sub par schools and create more charter school opportunities. Meanwhile, Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future has brought forth a plan that would allow colleges and universities to open charter schools without school district approval and set up a system for the per-student funding to follow the student and not be tied to a school district.

The governor and the foundation got a high profile push this week from former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, who made her name by promoting school choice and firing teachers she deemed failures. Rhee, who also serves as an informal adviser to Scott, was in Tallahassee this past week to lobby the Legislature on an education reform issues, particularly expanding school choice and abolishing teacher tenure.

“We have to be putting policies and laws in place that don’t hamstring charters … that create the right environment for them,” Rhee told reporters. “And if Florida can do that, I think you’re going to attract more and more of the high quality charter providers into the state.”

Republican lawmakers have indicated they are open to a number of school choice options, expanding the state’s largest voucher program, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship. When Scott campaigned and then prepared to take office, his transition advisers, led by Bush foundation executive director Patricia Levesque, championed the idea of education savings accounts.

The concept, championed by the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, allows parents to create a savings account for their children in which they can request and receive funds equal to 85 percent of what the state earmarks for students in the public system.

The money could be used for private school tuition and fees, online “virtual” school, tutoring, books and tuition for dual enrollment programs, textbooks or curriculum for a home schooling program or contributions to a child’s higher education savings plan.

news service of florida

The Foundation for Florida’s Future continues to push for expanding vouchers, but Scott has backed away a bit, at least for this year. Also clouding the voucher debate are unresolved issues about the legality of vouchers in the state of Florida.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that a Bush-created voucher program that allowed students in failing schools to attend private ones using state dollars ran afoul of state law. The high court, however, let the corporate tax credit voucher program stand.

Charter school expansion may be an easier route for Scott to test the waters of school choice expansion.

State Sen. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville, who chairs the Senate’s Prek-12 Education Committee, has been cool to the idea of the education savings account, creating a major roadblock for backers of the plan. Wise’s committee would likely be one of the stops for a proposal of that nature.

He is, however, open to the idea of charter school expansion, noting that the Kipp Charter School in Jacksonville has been relatively successful.

“Sometimes, they have a little bit more flexibility than the school districts, but I think they’re going to be in this game,” Wise said. “And we’re going to try to work with them as best as possible.”

Union officials aren’t weighing in yet on potential charter school legislation. A Florida Education Association spokesman said the teachers’ union has generally been in favor of charters in theory, but that it would not favor a system where per student funding left a school district to follow the student to a charter school.

A line in the foundation’s draft legislation reads, “Charter school students shall be funded without regard to whether the student’s home address lies within the school district sponsoring the charter school.”

Wise’s committee doesn’t write the budget, but Wise does sit on the Prek-12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee and on the Senate’s overall budget committee. Wise wouldn’t say where he falls on the funding right now, but said the Legislature will likely have to take up the funding formula if it wants to go forward with charter expansion.

–Kathleen Haughney, News Service of Florida

18 Responses for “More Charter Schools, Less District Oversight: Where Rick Scott and Jeb Bush Merge”

  1. Monica Campana says:

    In these days of data driven decision making, presumably the data supports this? Why NO. Charter schools are not more effective than public schools. They are certainly not more efficient as there has been so much fraud. So why are we doing this? Do people really believe that when education is privatized and governed by $, more students will succeed? Or will someone get rich?

  2. Mike says:

    Private schools are basically business-driven, looking for the almighty dollar. Kind of like ick Scott. And apparently he will not be content until he has driven public educators to other venues or other states. Other states may very well take notice and open their doors to the top-notch public educators here. I hope that is the case.

    Remember, folks. You voted him in! Congrats to the tea-baggers.

  3. palm coaster says:

    Totally agree with you Monica. Maybe data is flunked. Since when the taxes that I pay for our children education should instead be derailed to revenue for profit corporations called “charter schools”. My paid for school taxes, are for education not for conservative driven private businesses profits! This charter frauds always fail their proper accounting and financial’s, required to be funded from our public schools. We have lived always with privatized health insurance and here is were we are today, with the have’s and have’s not preventive and medical coverage, while the big white elephant private health insurance business thrive on continuously increased premiums and outrageous profits for their elite administrators. Education as well as health insurance should not be a luxury only afforded by the wealthy, but a right of all citizens and taxpayers to afford even when unemployed….This started by conservatives, privatization of our elementary, middle and high school education only will lead to more deterioration of our public schools budgets and to end up like our higher education is today. If you can afford it, then you can go to college, if you can’t….then yo go only if you are Einstein and get a scholarship or otherwise like most do not ever put a foot in our universities. As a tax payer you are to know that most countries in the world have government funded colleges and universities were only dedicated good point average students are accepted after passing the minimum average admission exam/test. Then they get a free tuition that allows them to become graduated professionals and only have to fund their personal expenses and can get books or written text at very low cost while maintaining the point average in courses. That is why you see in all these countries engineers, architects doctors and lawyers that thru their dedication have been able to become a professional and many from very poor families. We do have a lot of wasted bright minds in our country thanks to the un affordability of colleges and universities that are strictly not for education but instead “for profit institutions”.
    We can’t afford to make more affordable higher education for our future leaders, as we need to keep on funding our wars, foreign aid and policing this world.

  4. Anonymous says:

    As a graduate of Florida’s lousy public school system, I only hope that serious reform takes place … soon. I spent two years learning what should have been learned in high school, and then went to college. There’s little reason to preserve a system that doesn’t prepare kids for college or vocation. Furthermore, it seems only fair that kids can attend schools that cater to their particular strengths and needs. WHy not have a math/science charter school, an arts school, a traditional school, and voc-ed schools, all specialized and top-notch in their particularities. Why not have a school for kids who are misbehaving and preventing the rest of the kids from learning? The day when a school can be all things to all kids is over, folks.

    I support, wholeheartedly, any reform that enlarges the scope of possibilities for kids. I support any reform that includes online learning as part of the solution — it works!

    Every school should be a charter school. Every one. Let the parents in a particular community decide what sort of school(s) they want. If they want five little schools, all specialized, so be it.

    The role of the state should include annual standardized testing of kids so their progress can be compared to that found in objective data used internationally. I suppose the state should assure all schools are safe. No more. The money, per kid, should follow the kid to whatever educational setting best fits that kids interests, abilities and learning style. All kids should receive equal money, with the rare exception of special needs kids — the truly needy. Its only fair that all kids get the same amount to spend on education.

    And let the parents and kids redo education the way that works best for them. As one family at a time finds the educational setting they need, they’ll leave their legacy of change for the next family. And within a few years, the educational system will be organically changed,, just a neighborhood stores come and go according to how well they serve the real needs of the community.

  5. val jaffee says:

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you Anonymous!

    When George Carlin said that our education system was designed for us to know just enough to function but not enough for us to realize we don’t know much, he certainly had it right.

    Case in point – just look at the current state of our economy – great and increasing wealth diaparity and a dumb down populace totally obvlivious to the fact that each and every day we are systematically beig s—— over and over again! Yet we want more of the same. Unbelievable!!!

  6. teacher says:

    I hope we get better charter schools in Flagler County than the current crap we have now.

  7. palm coaster says:

    Unfortunately both A and J are aiming at the wrong tree..Why we have to have education blamed and sacrificed when the reasons of our country current failing economy are not our public schools? The reasons are Wall Street unpunished and overlooked thievery, never ending outsourcing of our jobs, always increasing foreign aid to our so called and some very rich “allied’s”, never ending costly war conflicts, our no longer affordable policing the world and tax exemptions to billionaire corporations that pay less than 1% or zero until now:
    Also with 9% at least (probably more as Flagler has16.5%) unemployed out of a total population per our 2010 Census of 310,817,713 million, not paying average of 35% income taxes to our government now and further more receiving an average of 1,500/month in unemployment. Figure out how many billion dollars losses, are just there. Add the cost of at least 8 to 9 billion a month in our ongoing wars that we really have to end as can no longer afford..then you will come up with some hefty figures and nothing was caused by our children education system. The unaffordable foreign aid to our “so called allies” countries, that hold the largest amounts of billionaires in the world and that suck from us billions a year in aid “so we can call them allies”. Why don’t we let them fight and fund the wars they pick and spend the up to 6 billions yearly that many receive from us in foreign aid, in our country that needs it badly? A and J will serve better our country addressing our elected one’s regarding those wasted tax payers funds, than criticizing a fair funding for our “public schools” and not any charter one, at least from my contributions.

  8. palm coaster says:

    Is this “teacher” with such a descriptive language, the one that drives a brand new red Corvett convertible with the “Imagine” plate on it? or the one with the brand new Lexus. If so, sure she has lots of reasons to bash our public school system in favor of the “for profit charters”

  9. Citizen says:

    If you do your research you will find that most charter schools are not “for profit”. I think it is sad when 1 or 2 bad charter schools give them all a bad name, if you research the charter schools in Palm Coast and take a tour through them you can see the difference! And charter schools are Public schools, not private and do NOT charge tuition. There is a big difference between charter school and private schools!

  10. ignorancecosts says:

    Having participated in the start-up of a ‘private’ (meaning that tuition is paid) Christian High School, I can guarantee you that they are not in it for the profit. Children were not turned away who could not afford tuition. Which when I had 4 children enrolled, (there was already an elementary school) the tuition for all 4 was right at $1100 per year total. We took in kids who the public school had given up on. Children who had more ‘traditional’ families with more resources and time pitched in to fill the gaps financially, raising money and buying supplies. And all the parents, poor or not were regularly seen on campus helping out. Financially, the school is always coming up short, the teachers are not paid enough, but yet they love their jobs, and stay each year. The school maintains an excellent reputation with the teachers, parents, graduates, and the community. The school was fully accredited within the first 2 years, which is pretty amazing if you are familiar with that kind of thing.
    The public schools in that community are excellent btw…they are a ‘separate municipal school district’ and have much more freedom than the surrounding schools in choosing curriculum and maintaining discipline. The separate school system stays true to the community’s lower to middle class Christian values, though not overt. It is about 45% black and about 45% white, the rest Asian and ‘other’. The same falls true for the Christian School. The only reason the Christian School was started is we wanted our kids to receive a more classical, traditional type education with strong Judeo/Christian foundations, along the lines of Comenius. The High School still does not own it’s own property. 6-12 grades meet in a church that volunteers it’s classrooms, gyms, etc during the week. We have science labs, art labs, lunchroom in portable buildings that we bought. (The elementary does own it’s own building, but was started 15 years before the high school.)

    And if you think the public schools aren’t in it for the money, you’ve never heard what goes on at the Federal level in education, much less the shenanigans of the Unions at the state level. They HAVE to keep the money train rolling to keep feeding the Unions and the Department of Education. I personally think that dinosaur has outlived its usefulness.

    No one likes competition when it rears up to threaten their status quo. But competition ALWAYS makes a better product for the consumer. As a business owner who has had a lot of competition step into ‘my’ territory, I know this is true. In the case of Charter Schools, it is the case. If you want to see different results, you have to do something different. And throwing more money at a failing model, that doesn’t, and can’t address the problems of students from dysfunctional families today, doesn’t work. All of our future’s are at stake. Future generations are at stake. Literally. We need to stop trying to destroy any competition, and try some new ideas and innovation to help produce a better product. The Unions, if they were pure of heart, would cheer the charter schools, and any other new forms of education, for the sake of the children. I believe when you have a group of people who say, this is the way we are going to do it, and no other way is welcome…that is very limiting and elitist. And embarrassingly ignorant.

  11. palm coaster says:

    Dear Citizen “charter schools are for profit and forced tax payers funded” They take away funds from our regular public schools budgets and many times do not keep up their crystal clear financial’s in order and then our school boards threaten to cut their funding as happened lately…Charter schools do not charge tuition (by now) because they sustain themselves with funds provided by our schools. Why do you keep trying to mislead our county residents/ tax payers? Does the name “Imagine” ring a bell to you in our current school system? If not read the following and get informed, many more links out there:.
    Charter schools function like private schools, not really being so and going beyond and straight to draw funds from the taxes that we all pay for our public schools. The same good all story of many enterprises on which way is best to grab a hold of one of the greatest wealth in this world, called the American tax payers contributions/revenue.
    An yes you are somewhat correct charter schools are not private schools and the difference is that the chater ones are tax payers funded and private schools are not! Also as typical in Florida were outsourcing is killing this state jobs. Imagine is outsourced from Virginia.
    Charter schools are supposed to be non-profit in Florida and as such volunteer Board administered, but there is always a loop around it and if you have extra time to read get aquainted:

  12. palm coaster says:

    Regarding Ignorancecost. I applaud your private school that provides traditional type education with strong Judeo/Christian foundations. We have to have choices when parents want to send their children to private schools and pay for that and is wondeful that your organization offers the choice.
    My taxes pay for public education equal for all and not for private education, at least last I know.

  13. Jenn Kuiper says:

    So, ignorancecosts, does this particular private school take special needs kids? I’m not just talking about ADD. I’m talking about autism, physical handicaps, emotional disorders, etc. Just curious.

  14. val jaffee says:

    There is a LOT of fraud in public education. Simply google ‘cheating on state tests’ and fraud abounds! And who can say if the individual states are not aware that the cheating is more widespread but do not want to reveal more because of the outrage that will erupt. Not to mention lowering the standards for AYP so that schools can make the grade. So one really has to wonder how much does our kids really know. Let’s really put these schools under a microscope and see what going on!

    By the way I wonder where our lawmakers send their kids to school? Bolles perhaps?

  15. palm coaster says:

    Lets stop our school sytem bashing, in support of the GOP agenda. Here is how much our kids learn in our schools and hope is enough to all nayers.:

  16. NortonSmitty says:

    Don’t forget about one of the first charter schools in Miami started by Jebs right wing Cuban buddies. They invited the News cameras in to show how much better they were teaching their kids. They filmed a History class where the students were taught that John F. Kennedy was a communist agent who was assassinated by brave Cuban patriots who saved America.

    I guess I must have skipped that day at my school.

  17. Citizen says:

    Once again, the charter schools do not operate as a “for profit” and as far as not keeping clear financials that is simply not true. Charter schools just as public schools have to present financials and audits to the district. The “tax dollars” that pay for education should follow the student, again isnt the debate about the education of students. If a students “chooses” a charter school over a public school shouldn’t that money allocated for that child follow the child??? And as far as outsoucing from Va., I would think if you asked all the teachers and staff who work at Imagine that they are right here from Palm Coast and none were “outsourced” from another state. I have attended the school board meetings and funding for Imagine has not been cut for poorly documented financials. As I stated before 1 or 2 charter schools give all of them a bad name so why is just one being singled out and it would be the one that is by far the best charter school in our county – an “A” school at that.

  18. val jaffee says:

    Straight from the source – No bashing just the facts

    Florida’s High School Students Near Bottom in College Readiness; Flagler’s Do Worse
    FlaglerLive | August 19, 2010

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