Posts Tagged ‘vouchers’

California group defends Florida’s ‘Parent Trigger bill’

Posted on: March 2nd, 2012 by Sofia Resnick 2 Comments

Pic by sebrenner, via Flickr

According to a California-based organization backing Florida’s controversial “Parent Trigger bill,” the measure isn’t being led by charter schools or business-backed groups, and actually has the support of many in the public school system.

Among its many provisions, the controversial “Parent Trigger bill“ would authorize parents of students who attend a failing public school “to submit a petition to the school district requesting implementation of a school turnaround option.”

The U.S. Department of Education‘s “turnaround” models include replacing the principal, rehiring no more than 50 percent of the staff and reopening a school as a charter school (i.e. one that is publicly-funded, but privately-managed).

The bill passed in a party-line vote in the Florida House on Thursday. The Senate version of the bill, filed by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Ft. Myers, passed a state Senate subcommittee Tuesday.

Opponents of the bill, including the Florida Education Association and Fund Education Now, argue that it is not driven by parents but by for-profit charter school companies.

Linda Serrato of Parent Revolution, a California organization supporting the bill, tells The Florida Independent that that isn’t the case. “This is not an effort led by charter schools to come in and take over [public] schools,” says Serrato. “There is a very strong base of public school support in our organization.”

Serrato says that her group first thought that if all parents agreed on an issue, school districts would have to listen. It eventually became clear, however, “that districts didn’t have to listen.”

“We started to think about this like a union,” says Serrato says, adding that “parents needed a walk-out law” that would allow them to use one of Obama’s Race to the Top solutions or turn-around options.

Parent Revolution worked with California Democrats to pass that state’s bill, which eventually had bi-partisan support. She adds that her group has no ulterior motive, and no monetary incentive, to change state-run schools to charter schools.

Serrato, who is currently in Tallahassee to support the House version of the bill, explains that the Florida version of the bill includes language that would bar school districts from transferring a failing school to a charter school in the first year. “…the district has to have the opportunity to make the school better,” she says. “That year-long process encourages parent involvement from the get go, [so that] the [school] district has the opportunity to reach out to parents.”

Supporters of the “Parent Trigger bill” include the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a non-profit led by former governor Jeb Bush.

“The Foundation for Excellence is very pro-school choice, but for us there are stopping points,” Serrato adds. “We don’t want vouchers – vouchers help one kid get out, they don’t make the community better. But. in this particular instance, people from Jeb Bush’s foundation and former Clinton workers and employees are working together to help underprivileged kids.”

Supporters in Florida also include Students First, a national organization founded by Michele Rhee (an education advisor to Gov. Rick Scott) that supports “school choice,” charter schools and standardized testing.

Mark Pudlow, of the Florida Education Association, told the Independent earlier this week that the bill springs not from parents, but from a business-backed group known as the American Legislative Exchange Council. “[The bill is] a solution in search of a problem,” says Pudlow. “It comes from the playbook of American Legislative Exchange Council, a business-backed group that writes legislation and shifts it to state legislatures across the country.”

Serrato says that the American Legislative Exchange Council, also known as ALEC, ”has not been working with us at all in Florida,” and that her organization is actually rooted in very liberal, Democratic politics.

She adds that ALEC might support the bill, but says that any claims that ALEC has helped draft the bill are merely “red herring arguments.”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of 14 organizations funding Parent Revolution, gave ALEC a $376,000-plus donation in November 2011, to “educate and engage its membership on more efficient state budget approaches to drive greater student outcomes, as well as educate them on beneficial ways to recruit, retain, evaluate and compensate effective teaching based upon merit and achievement.”

Teacher pay tied to “merit and achievement” is an issue school choice reformers (including gov. Scott, Jeb Bush and Michelle Rhee) also support.

Koch-affiliated tea party group promotes School Choice Week rallies

Posted on: January 18th, 2012 by The American Independent No Comments

Americans for Prosperity Florida logo (source: americansforprosperity.org)

The Florida chapter of the Koch-affiliated tea party group Americans for Prosperity on Tuesday called for people to sign up for rallies affiliated with National School Choice Week, which starts next week. (more…)

Standardized testing opponents call for National Opt Out Day

Posted on: January 4th, 2012 by Patrick Brendel No Comments

Pic by sebrenner, via Flickr

Public school advocates who oppose mandatory standardized testing to determine teacher salaries and state and federal funding for public schools have called for a National Opt Out Day.

United Opt Out National

has declared January 7th as National Opt Out Day. On this day we are encouraging Occupy movements everywhere to endorse this action. We are asking parents, students and community members to write letters/postcards to their school districts stating how they will OPT OUT.

United Opt Out adds: “Members of this site are parents, educators, students and social activists who are dedicated to the elimination of high stakes testing in public education.”

High stakes testing, or standardized testing, is a strategy of the national movement to change public schools, a movement that has implemented publicly funded, privately run charter schools and merit pay for teachers.

The No Child Left Behind Act signed into law in January 2002 by George W. Bush and supported by the Obama administration mandated standardized testing that evaluates teachers by score results. In late 2011, the Obama administration offered states “waivers from the most onerous requirements of No Child Left Behind.”

The Washington Post reports today: “The battles over education policy that marked 2011 will continue, ever more heated, in the new year. As a starting point, and in honor of this Sunday’s 10th anniversary of the day when president George W. Bush signed No Child Left Behind into law, here is a speech written by education historian Diane Ravitch that addresses what is really at stake in the fight over how to fix troubled public schools.”

Ravitch, who supported testing and now opposes the reform movement led by conservatives like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, said in July that test scores in U.S. schools with less than 10 percent poverty rank No. 1 in the world and schools with less than 25 percent poverty achieve test scores that equal Finland and Korea, considered education world leaders.

Students First, which supports standardized testing, writes that “Florida passed sweeping education reform legislation” in 2011 “that takes huge strides in ensuring that every Florida student has access to a great teacher and a great school.”

Students First — led by Gov. Rick Scott advisor Michelle Rhee, supports school choice, charter schools and standardized testing — adds: “The Student Success Act reforms teacher tenure, saves great teachers even in the face of layoffs, and raises effective teachers’ salaries. Other reforms empower parents through providing them with real information and better options so they can make the right education choices for their children.”

In August, Scott said at a gathering for conservative politicians and organizations that his administration has done four things in education: eliminate more teacher tenure; pay teachers based on standardized test results; support and increase charter schools (which Scott defined as public schools run by a third party); and offer scholarships.

Florida People’s Convention drafts proposals for 2012 session

Posted on: December 20th, 2011 by The American Independent 1 Comment

Florida Speaker of the House Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, right (Photo: Mark Foley, via myfloridahouse.gov)

Occupy Wall Street-inspired groups from around the state have begun to draft proposals to be handed to House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, on the first day of the Florida legislative session, Jan. 10.

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Judge tosses ‘Religious Freedom’ amendment from Florida’s 2012 ballot

Posted on: December 14th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

Judge Terry Lewis today ruled that a proposed amendment to Florida’s constitution that would repeal a ban on taxpayer funding for religious institutions is deceptive and must be rewritten before it can appear on the state’s 2012 ballot. (more…)

National Education Association announces plan to improve teacher quality

Posted on: December 9th, 2011 by The American Independent 2 Comments
The National Education Association, which represents 3 million teachers and education professionals across the U.S., announced new initiatives on Thursday “to increase the quality of teacher candidates, make sure that teachers remain at the top of their game throughout their careers, and to improve student learning by helping educators become leaders in their schools.”

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Court will hear challenge to Florida’s ‘Religious Freedom’ amendment today

Posted on: October 27th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments
Leon Circuit Judge Terry Lewis will hear a legal challenge to the ballot title and summary of the state’s “Religious Freedom” amendment today.

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Florida state senator wants K-12 education commission

Posted on: October 3rd, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments
A few weeks ago, Gov. Rick Scott put out a challenge to teachers across the state: Come up with new ideas for Florida’s K-12 education system. One of the responses to that call is now coming in the form of a bill sponsored by state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey. (more…)