The Jacksonville Privatization Education Fund

JPEF will tell you the P stands for public, but their board of directors made up of privatization proponents and their school choice report which said, public schools do better than charters, we have no idea how voucher schools are doing and school choice hurts public schools but “duck it” we need more school choice anyways seem to indicate otherwise.

Well today they re-branded themselves.

Okay it’s a bunch of flowery retoric until about the 3:45 minute mark when they seemed to take credit for the rise in the graduation rates. I kitten you not, check it out.

The thought of a non profit working to inform the people of Jacksonville and getting them involved is a laudable and noble effort. Unfortunately the reality of what they are, fronts for privatizers, is a lot different.

Don’t believe the hype.

The American Enterprise Institute’s warped values and aims.

ReDefined Ed, was at it again today describing privatization as pro choice and shilling for its epansion. “The basic idea is that for choice to truly drive improvements in the education system, market forces need a chance to work. For that to happen, parents need to be able to select schools based on quality, and new, better schools need to be able to meet their demand.” 

I wonder which choice they think is best, charter schools, of which over 270 have failed in Florida taking public money and leaving communities in a lurch or Vouchers, you know the unregulated schools which nobody has any real idea how they are doing.  

The American Enterprise Institute is their latest dupe and they developed a series of talking points to push their agenda. It’s amazing what a group of mediocre tenth graders can come up with.

Here are their talking points with my comments afterwards.

On how parents select schools:
They first want to know if it is safe, then about academic performance, then about all of the other things that the school offers to help make their child a more well-rounded individual. Test scores can tell us one important part of what parents are looking for, but parents need more and wider information to make an informed decision about their child’s school.

By wider information, they mean advertising campaigns and propaganda that make public schools look bad and choice schools look good, because often safety, test scores, and the ability to make a child a well rounded human being are not enough.

On political engagement:

Many school choice programs are designed specifically to help low-income families, a demographic group that is often disenfranchised from the political process. Organizations that want to help parents select schools should also think about how they can help connect parents with the political process to ensure that school choice programs are able to continue.

You know by draining away resources from what in many neighborhoods was the centerpiece. Ironically most choice schools after they cash their check want nothing to do with the political process. Even if you love the concept of choice you have to admit it is terrible for democracy.

On the way school choice can change families’ disposition toward schools (a topic we’ve explored):

Participating in the voucher program helped convert families from clients to consumers. No longer did they feel like they lived according to the whims of distant bureaucrats. They had taken their fates into their own hands. What’s more, they started to expect more from the schools that taught their children.

Yes because before parents didn’t care what happened at their children’s schools they were zombies walking through life. Do you find it ironic, there is that word again, that parents in Florida have been screaming for more resources and less testing but they are ignored but somehow choice is going to free them from the whims of distant bureaucrats?

 On the hidden costs of regulation:

With each passing year, scientists produce new knowledge about how the brain works and how children learn. Schools should be free to take advantage of this and change their organization and instruction accordingly, but ossified standards and regulations could stifle such efforts.

You know all that brain research that schools are missing out on. Did I say mediocre tenth graders? I meant mediocre eight graders.  

On improving the supply of good schools for parents to choose from:
At current funding levels, voucher and tax credit scholarship programs do not provide enough money to finance new buildings, substantial technology purchases, or any of the other upfront costs that come with starting or expanding a school.

There is the rub, they want more money, more money siphoned away from public schools and often into the bank accounts of mercenaries charlatans and privateers.

On the (often lacking) human capital pipeline:
The skill set that will lead to success in a school participating in a school choice program is not necessarily the same skill set that would lead to success of a traditional public or private school. New programs must emerge to help cultivate the unique skill set needed to lead and work in schools of choice.

Certified teachers?  Trained professionals? People with content knowledge, why all that’s for suckers especially if we can pay what we’ll call knowledge facilitators 12 bucks an hour. Learnin’ that’s what google is for.

Here is a link to the article

Privatization, charter schools and voucher schools, and yes there are some in it for the right reasons and who do a good job, as a group aren’t here to serve children and communities. They are here to serve special interests and selfish interests.

We have to wake up people.

Jacksonville will never reach its potential as long as it ignores its teachers.

Superintendent Vitti announced that next year behavior
specialists will be put in some of our neediest and challenged schools. This is
a great idea and one I and other teachers suggested eight years ago and at a
minimum dozens of times since.
You see teachers understand that why so many kids act up or
perform poorly in school often has nothing to do with school. As the people
doing the actual educating we are closest to the situation and know what does
and does not work as well as what our children, our students both need and do
not need.   
Unfortunately like in most places teachers in Jacksonville
have gone largely marginalized and ignored. There is no other field like
education and I say that because in other professions the people that do it are
routinely consulted and involved in the decision making process and the people
making decisions about the profession usually rose from the ranks, that so
ignores and marginalizes its rank and file . Imagine a hospital where doctors
weren’t on the board or a police department run by laymen, whose experience
consisted of reading a few articles and watching a lot of Law and Order.
Our golden boy superintendent only has two years of teaching
experience total that took place in two schools in two different states. Then only
two of our seven school board members have any real education experience. How
do we expect to reach our potential? The answer is we never will as long as we continue
to ignore and marginalize teachers, to think of them as easily replaceable rather
than professionals.
So thank you superintendent Vitti for recognizing that our
schools need mental health professionals, but shame on you and the city for not
recognizing it despite the cries of teachers years ago.  Shame on you both for that and so much more.

Florida is broken for public education and so many others too.

For a long time now the republican dominated state
legislature has blamed teachers and public schools for the ills of society.
They have hoped people wouldn’t notice that they have saddled them with bad
policies and a lack of resources and they have used flowery rhetoric like
school choice and accountability to fuel their privatization agenda.  Well who holds them accountable because it
certainly has not been the voters?
In Florida they have sent tens of millions to for profit
charter schools and over a billion to unregulated private schools. All reputable
studies also say as a group we have no idea how voucher schools are doing
because they have barely any accountability measures in place and charter
schools as a group perform worse.   
When Speaker Crisafulli adjourned the house three days early
without a budget agreement, he not only thumbed his nose at 800 thousand
uninsured Floridians, teachers and students but at all the citizens for Florida
as well and not by just shirking this important responsibility as they have
also ignored the will of the people with the class size amendment and with the acquisition
of conservation lands.
Florida needs a better mechanism than elections, where just
a third of the people because they are so disillusioned or apathetic bother to
participate, to hold our political leaders accountable, because for public
schools and way too many others the current system, just serves special
interests or the selfish interests of those elected.   
Public education should be given to a non-partisan authority
of experts to run and salaries and benefits of legislators should be withheld
until budgets are passed.

Tampa Times loser of the week Education Commissioner Pam Stewart

Loser of the week
Pam Stewart. Florida’s education commissioner was “exasperated, frustrated, dismayed, angry” as Florida’s computerized testing system failed yet again and forced teachers and students across Florida to cancel testing for the day. They may be even more exasperated, frustrated, dismayed and angry over the latest testing debacle than Stewart.
It is my contention that students and teachers of Florida have been losing since she became commissioner. This testing debacle is squarely on her and the state board of education’s shoulders and it doesn’t help that she seems to routinely divorce herself from the reality that is occurring.

Is Duval County Public Schools at least partly responsible for a young mans death?

I have been saying that tragedy was just around the corner. That kids need discipline, consequences and then corrective support for their actions. I wonder if our lack of intervention and consequences after an in school fight at least partly led to a murder this past weekend.

Just look at the passage below from an article in the Times Union about a young high school student from First Coast high school that was gunned down at at house party. 

The students said Johnson, who was 18 but was initially identified as 16, got into a fight at the high school with a senior. Johnson, who was well-known for his scrappiness, won the fight against the larger combatant, the students said.

They said Johnson was warned not to go to the after-prom party because the student he fought was already there. He went anyway. Once at the party, one of Johnson’s friends directed derogatory lyrics from a song at the shooter, the students said.
He then pulled out a gun and shot both Johnson and the person who had been taunting him.

He was well known for his scrappiness. I wonder if the district ever took notice or if either student received consequences for the fight they were in. I somehow doubt it was the first fight for either. Maybe they both felt invincible because in the past their poor behavior had been ignored or dismissed.

I am not victim blaming here but if it turns out he was killed by a classmate how close were we from seeing this beef played out at school? It seems pretty close.

Kids need consequences for their behavior and fighting should never be tolerated. If the fights recently publicized would have happened at the landing or in a grocery store kids would have went to jail. Society wouldn’t have just shrugged their shoulders and said, oh kids will be kids. they would have demanded we do something.

Vitti’s heart may have been in the right place, we were probably suspending children at to fast of a pace and we were definitely ignoring the underlying causes of their behavior, who knows given proper training and resources restorative justice might even work. We however have an epidemic of violence in our schools and it’s just a matter of time before a tragedy like the one that happened at the party happens at one of our schools.  

I wonder what would have happened if after the first fight both would have gotten a serious consequence followed up by behavior supports. I wonder what would have happened had our school system taken the time do thing right.

Discipline is not easy but ignoring it just makes our problems worse and in this case if the original beef happened at school and then nothing of consequence was done, ignoring discipline may have played a role in a young mans death, 

We have to wake up before this happens again.

Is the luster coming off the Voucher shine?

Here are some facts, vouchers schools drain money from public education, they have practically zero accountability financially and academically and nobody can say for sure how well of a job are they doing educating children. Are there good schools that take vouchers? I imagine there are but I also know there are terrible ones too.

Vouchers is an argument that could come to an end if the legislature would both fund public schools properly and put some reasonable accountability measures both academically and financially on schools that take vouchers.

Okay there have been three articles recently which I think are pretty disturbing.

First there is a charter school operator saying he was going to switch his school to a voucher taking private school in order to avoid accountability.

From the Sun Sentinel: 

A year-long battle by the Broward school district to shut down two troubled Fort Lauderdale charter schools is finally over: the schools have agreed to close their doors.

The Obama Academy for Boys and The Red Shoe Charter School for Girls will voluntarily terminate their contracts in June but say they plan to reopen as a private school in the fall.

The two schools have been rife with financial and academic problems, violations of state law and breaches of contract with the district, records show. The district has tried twice to shut down them down: once last March when the schools relocated and failed to provide a certificate of occupancy, and again in October when the schools failed to document how they spent $876,000 in public money.

The schools appealed both decisions to an administrative law judge and have been in a lengthy legal fight with the district since the fall. Christopher Norwood, the legal representative for the charter schools, said the schools’ governing boards decided to terminate the charters and begin operating as a private school.

“When you are a private school, you don’t have to deal with an elected school board. This school would not have to continue to always look over its back,” said Norwood. “There’s less regulation.”

Reading above had to be a wake up call for many people. The next article is about how more and more private schools are dependent on vouchers.

From the Orlando Sentinel: Private schools in Florida are becoming vastly more dependent on state voucher programs that pay all or part of tuition for students with disabilities or from low-income families, an Orlando Sentinel analysis has found. 

The families of nearly 100,000 Florida students received vouchers worth about $544 million this year as the Legislature has steadily increased support for the programs. That growth has come despite critics who contend that vouchers divert money from public schools to private institutions that do not have the same student-testing or teacher-accountability rules and can freely mix education with religion. 

About 45 percent of the state’s private schools that accept state scholarship vouchers rely on them for at least half of their students, the analysis found. That’s up from 30 percent three years ago. And for 200 of them, at least 90 percent of their students are on either the state’s McKay Scholarships for students with disabilities or Florida Tax Credit scholarships for low-income families. That’s a 50 percent increase from 2012.

Finally the voucher program is having a harder than normal time finding donors.

Also from the Orlando Sentinel:

Expansion of a state program that pays private-school tuition for children in low-income families may be slowed this fall by an unexpected problem — fundraising woes. 

The state’s Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program relies on corporate donations in lieu of taxes. And this year, the organization that raises nearly all of the funds fell short of its fundraising goal by more than $20 million.

I believe people are slowly waking up about vouchers and people should remember vouchers are not here to help children, they are here to undermine public education and to allow public money to go to private mostly religious organizations. The entire program should be under scrutiny.

Florida’s legislature isn’t serving our children.

By Kathleen Oropeza
With just days left in the 2015 Florida legislative session, it’s clear that citizens are not being served. Legislators are locked in an embarrassing health care battle they knew was coming for over a year. Things have ground to a halt and bills are dying on the vine.
Politicians who were assigned education reform bills last summer by powerful lobbyists are in a panic. They know full well that these ideas are hostile to public education and there’s no time to artfully conceal them in other bills.
There are at least 18 reform concepts dangling out there. They include destroying the Florida High School Athletics Association by turning student athletes into free agents, allowing students to “open enroll” across district lines, requiring districts to show borrowed money as revenue in capital outlay accounts to justify handing over even more tax dollars to for-profit charters and forcing districts to share voter-approved millage increases with charter chains so they can pay for and improve buildings the public may never own.
Desperate to keep these reforms alive, former Senate president Gaetz and Sen. Negron, a presidential hopeful, stuffed every single bill into SB 948 at an Appropriations Committee stop, making it ready for the Senate floor. It’s hard to imagine Sen. Lee, chairman of Appropriations, ever allowing something similar when he was Senate president.
In response, the House is packing HB 1145 with their “must carry/must pass” school reform assignments. SB 948 doesn’t match, which will lead to further squabbles. The entire enterprise is forced and awkward.
The reformers, vendors and choice investors driving these laws know that public education cannot be privatized all at once. Taking down something as noble as public education requires disciplined patience. The reforms found in HB 1145 and SB 948 will contribute greatly toward privatization.
Leaders who force passage of giant bills filled with ideas that could not stand on their own mock the legislative process. Florida public education is under attack from those who will not rest until every penny of the $19 billion dollars Florida budgets per year for public education is transferred to private hands. Lawmakers who knock each other over to please reform lobbyists are letting us down.
Parents, teachers and districts realize the toxic nature of education reform and are pushing back to protect our children and preserve our public schools. The outrage is growing. What we really want are leaders in the House and Senate who are there to serve us and no one else.
Kathleen Oropeza is co-founder of, a non-partisan Florida-based education advocacy group.