Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Why DeVos is making Florida's charter system her 'model'. She practically owns it.

Betsy DeVos husband Dick, who own the Orlando Magic, spent millions buying pro-"choice" politicians.
Florida's charter schools are among the worst in the nation. The state's so-called "choice" system of charters and vouchers is highly segregated, riddled with corruption and mismanagement (like FL state government in general) and has been rocked by scandal after scandal. 

Gov. Rick Scott has diverted hundreds of millions of dollars away from public schools to bankroll politically connected charter operators. Scott, who's been advised on school policy by Michelle Rhee, is privatization crazed and even tried to privatize FL's health-care system as well as the state's prisons.

Therefore, I was not surprised to hear Trump's ed secretary, Betsy DeVos point to Florida's "choice" system as her model and "blueprint" for K-12 education. 

"I would point to Florida as being one that has had a variety of options for the longest period of time," DeVos told Frank Beckmann, a conservative radio talk show host on WJR, based in Michigan. She said the state, which has charters, also offers both a tax credit scholarship, something DeVos and company may push in Washington, potentially through legislation previously introduced by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, and vouchers for students in special education.
Billionaire DeVos, who owns a home in FL and who's part owner of the Orlando Magic, has more good reasons to favor the state's charter/voucher system. She helped pay for it. She's used her wealth to underwrite the election campaigns of pro-choice, anti-union school board candidates (both Republican and Democrat) across the state. The Sunshine State is second only to Michigan in the number of individual candidates DeVos or her husband wrote checks to during the past five years. Overall, members of the DeVos family, including Richard DeVos Sr., have donated more than $2 million to Florida candidates for state office and committees since 1996, according to the state database.

The money DeVos sent to the Volusia school board candidate back in 2014 was part of an effort to boot an incumbent she viewed as hostile to Florida's biggest school voucher program, which now pays to send to more than 97,000 children from low-income families to private schools. The strategy worked. The candidate DeVos backed won. So did another school board candidate she contributed to that year in Indian River County, for the same reason.

An NPR report found that Florida charters openly and illegally violate the rights of disabled students.  In fact, a recent Miami Herald investigation found that few charter schools in Florida  even try to serve students with severe disabilities. Statewide, 86% of charter schools do not have any students classified as severely disabled. That's despite state and federal laws that require charter schools to give equal access to these students.

Florida saw more charter schools shut down than any other state last year, according to a new report from the pro-charter National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Charters in the state are closing at nearly the same rate they are opening.
Florida might be expected to have a large number of closures since it has 656 charters, the third-most in the country, but the report shows the Sunshine State’s closure rate is disproportionately high. Florida is home to slightly less than 10 percent of the charters operating in the country, but accounted for nearly 14 percent of closures last school year.
Some charter advocates, like the National Alliance, argue that school closings are a good thing, a measure of accountability. But they ignore the great harm done to children and parents when schools close, especially in mid-year and lives are disrupted, student/teacher relationships broken and student mobility increased. All these negatives hit hardest of course, on the state's black and Latino families.

The Orlando Sentinel ran a series on Florida school re-segregation via charter schools. 

According to Sentinel writer Dave Weber:
Segregation is making a comeback in Florida's public schools with the new wave of charter schools springing up across the state. One out of eight charter schools has a student body with 90 percent or more of a single race or ethnicity, an Orlando Sentinel analysis of the state's 456 taxpayer-financed charters shows. That compares with one out of 12 traditional public schools.
Florida parent activist Rita Solnet did this interesting little research project.
Out of curiosity, I googled "successful charter schools" and "failing charter schools." About 20,200 results (0.22 seconds) related to "successful charter schools". About 76,600 results (0.23 seconds) related to "failing charter schools."
My favorite Florida charter scandal story had to do with the great Academica Charter hustle. It's my favorite because it carried way beyond FL and even involved celebrities like Pit Bull and Rep. Erik Fresen, a Tea Party Republican who chairs House Education Appropriations hearings on charter expansion. Fresen's sister Maggie, and brother-in-law, Fernando Zulueta run Academica Charter Schools, one of the country’s largest and wealthiest for-profit charter school management firms, with more than 90 schools in Florida alone.

Read all about it here and here. 

Can't you see why Sec. DeVos would find FL's charter system so attractive?


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.