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Trump Administration Proposes $9.2 Billion Cut to Public Education.

 

Take Action Today- Florida PTA Opposes Conformation Of Bill 7069

Late Friday afternoon a massive education bill was introduced through the budget process.  This bill was negotiated behind closed doors, bypassing the democratic process of public input and the option for amendments.  While testing reform, daily recess, and other good education policies have been placed inside this bill, it has a devastating impact on the education budget that will leave our most vulnerable children behind.

Now is the time to act!  Please CALL today and tell your Senator to vote NO on Conforming Bill 7069. Our children are worth more than this.

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As the largest child advocacy association in the state, the Florida PTA’s mission has always been to serve and support EVERY child.  Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that the Florida PTA must oppose conforming bill 7069.

http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?m=1104540460460&ca=c72d3503-aa21-4f47-94ed-193595e2ba4b

 

BLUE LOGO-SMALL
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

May 7, 2017

Contact Information:

Cindy Gerhardt, President

president@floridapta.org

407-855-7604

FAX 407-240-9577

www.floridapta.org

Late Friday afternoon, a massive education package was introduced through the budgeting process.  While there are many valuable elements in this bill like sensible testing reform, parent friendly testing reports, daily recess, and important early learning initiatives, conforming bill 7069 will leave too many of our most vulnerable children behind.  The Title I provision takes away our school districts’ ability to effectively support our at-risk students.  The required sharing of local tax dollars intended for school construction and repair diverts resources away from traditional public schools in all neighborhoods.  Other provisions of this bill were never vetted in committee, thereby excluding essential input from parents and other community members.
As the largest child advocacy association in the state, the Florida PTA’s mission has always been to serve and support EVERY child.  Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that the Florida PTA must oppose conforming bill 7069.
Florida PTA comprises hundreds of thousands of families, students, teachers, administrators and business and community leaders devoted to improving the lives of children/youth in our state. PTA is the oldest and largest child advocacy association in the state of Florida, as well as the nation. PTA is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit association that prides itself on being a powerful voice for all children. More information is available by contacting Florida PTA (407/855-7604 or executive.director@floridapta.org).
 
For more information visit our website www.floridapta.org and/or our Facebook page for programs available in your community. 
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PTA Members Take Action Now! April 27

Vitti Email Do Not Accept House Bill (HB) 5105

Here is an email from Superintendent Nikolai Vitti to the Florida House.  You can use some of these points when you contact your legislators.  Here is the link to Contact Your Legislators

———- Original Message ———-
From: “Vitti, Nikolai P.” <vittin@duvalschools.org>
To: “Vitti, Nikolai P.” <vittin@duvalschools.org>
Date: April 17, 2017 at 1:49 AM
Subject: Reject HB 5105

April 17, 2017

Florida State Senators,

I implore you to not accept House Bill (HB) 5105 during budget conference negotiations. The bill seemingly attempts to address the authentic need to improve educational outcomes in schools serving students facing higher concentration of poverty but does so without a research-based, data driven, realistic, or sustainable solution. Although this bill has created a visceral reaction among those of us who have dedicated our lives to improving the outcomes in the most struggling of schools through traditional public education, this letter avoids emotionalism and rests on logic and facts to persuade you to reject HB 5105.

This is not a letter written by a supporter of the status quo or a protectionist for lower standards, expectations, or failing schools. This is not a political critique. Please do not deflect the arguments below with rhetoric or accusations. I write and send this letter as someone who has done the real work of improving urban schools, someone who has the scars of reform as a teacher, principal, state administrator, principal supervisor, and superintendent. The work has not only been done—but it has been successful and recognized across the state and country.

Below are the several flaws to the premise that HB 5105 will improve outcomes for students in struggling schools:

Supply and Demand

Through the identification of low performance defined by a single “F” or “D” and the acceleration of the process to demonstrate improvement or closure-like options, Florida will witness a proliferation of failing schools whose children will need to be served in other educational settings outside of traditional public education.  Demand will be enormous. So called “turnaround” charters will not be able to fill this demand consistently with supply.

Turnaround charters have not, and will not, be interested in coming to Florida for three main reasons. One, per pupil funding in Florida is too low. Two, the risk of failure due to Florida’s more rigorous accountability system as compared to other states’ brings too much risk (failure) for the reward (revenue or profit through per pupil funding). Failure hurts the turnaround brand of the operator or network and prevents the opportunity to scale in other states throughout the country. Third, the very few and limited national turnaround charter operators or networks with a track record of success are not interested in “turnaround” work as defined in HB 5105 because their model relies on years of slowly establishing schools one grade level at a time. 

The disequilibrium between supply and demand will create chaos in the lives of our most fragile children and their communities. Closed schools will be concentrated in zip codes where options will be limited, thus forcing students to travel long distances to access other schools. This will mean students will be unable to access schools in their own neighborhoods. The bill will decimate the already fragile state of historic neighborhood schools in urban cores throughout Florida with no real alternative. This will accelerate the depopulation of urban core neighborhoods, lower property values, business disinvestment, unemployment, and crime. To attempt to improve lower performing schools under the weight and stress of the proposed HB 5105 accountability system, scarce resources will be shifted and concentrated in the lowest performing schools, which will divert resources from other fragile schools serving working class families outside of the urban core that will be the next set of schools facing closure but cannot be supported at the level required to avoid declines in performance.

Current Title I Charter Schools do not Outperform Traditional Title I Public Schools

This bill attempts to scale a model that is not outperforming the current model. There is a greater percentage of “D” and “F” Title I charter schools in Jacksonville and across the state than there are for traditional Title I public schools in Jacksonville, even though many in the Legislature commonly point to lower performing schools in the district. In most large urban school districts throughout Florida this is also the case—charter Title I schools do not outperform traditional public school Title I schools. Even “Schools of Hope” such as Jacksonville’s KIPP have faced “D” and “F” school grades. More importantly, KIPP is not outperforming the district’s Title I average for reading and math proficiency. 

There is no evidence that scaling charter schools as turnaround options will lead to greater academic success for lower performing students. In fact, we have enough evidence now to conclude that such a strategy will reduce overall performance considering that Title I charter schools have not been more successful than traditional Title I charter schools at scale. Even the few isolated Title I charter schools have not successfully scaled success. Any district with “D” and “F” schools have improved individual and small groups of “D” and “F” schools. The challenge is scaling and sustaining that improvement. Charters face the same challenge and typically fail at higher rates because they lack the pool of talented principals and teachers to replicate success that is isolated to one or two of their schools. The fact is that districts are more likely to scale improvement and provide sustainability than charter schools in urban areas. Hence, investment should be in districts, not charters.

 Ignoring Previous Mistakes and Usurping Local Control

As is common for new leaders who are interested in creating a legacy, history is often ignored, dismissed, disrespected, or simply not reviewed. The previous Differentiated Accountability (DA) statute called for four Intervene turnaround models for the lowest performing schools: district managed turnaround, closure, operation through a private management company, or conversion to a charter school. In 2011-12, the Legislature expanded these options with the recommendation of the Florida Department of Education and State Board of Education to include two additional strategies: partnering with an outside educational expert and a hybrid option, which combined two of the other options. This was done because as schools did not reach the exit criterion of a “C” letter grade under the previous DA model, it was clear that the original four options were insufficient.

Local school boards, superintendents, and especially communities were not interested in closing schools, and private management companies and charter schools were also not interested in the turnaround work in Florida. This scenario will simply repeat itself as schools do not reach the “C” grade in three years despite improvement. Ultimately, only local school boards have the authority to open and close schools, not the Legislature. This will inevitably lead to distracting but necessary legal battles across local school districts with the State. Threats of withholding funding will be made for non-compliance, thus limiting resources to those students who need it most. Courts will be the new arena where it will be demonstrated that Title I charters are not keeping pace with Title I traditional public schools and for every one of the few and isolated successful Title I charter schools, we will provide dozens of successful traditional Title I public schools.

Choice Already Exists

Students are not stuck in lower performing schools as is popularly stated by supporters of HB 5105. The state of Florida has one of the most robust choice systems in the country from Opportunity Scholarships, charter schools, McKay Scholarships, and controlled open enrollment. In addition, most districts allow students to internally transfer among schools. In fact, once Florida started to issue school grades to schools and initiated the Opportunity Scholarship process, which requires districts and schools to allow students to transfer to “C” or higher performing schools with transportation, parents who are unsatisfied with their child’s school have already left for other schools.

Real Solutions for Lower Performing Schools

So what is the solution then if we recognize that we cannot accept lower performing schools? To answer that question let us rely on actual research, data, and practitioners to properly see a return on investment for a $200 million dollar initiative. For starters, the Legislature must recognize that per pupil funding needs to be weighted to address poverty. Poverty should never be an excuse for low expectations but it is a real and legitimate obstacle to academic success. Obstacles can be overcome with the implementation of the proper wraparound systems, such as access to full service schools, early learning, quality afterschool services or extended learning opportunities, the arts, athletics, and mental health and wellness support.

 More importantly, poverty can be overcome through education if students have access to the best principals and leaders. This is, again, the challenge of scale. The Legislature must invest in the development of current and future leaders and teachers, namely in high poverty areas. The investment is obviously associated with the need to increase current teacher salaries and sustainable incentives for leaders and teachers to stay or relocate in struggling schools. Just as important is support for universities to recruit, incentivize, and develop the strongest undergraduates to enter the teaching profession and be properly trained how to teach through residency programs where future teachers are under the tutelage of master teachers in actual classrooms. Leaders need to be instructionally sound so they can develop safe, trusting, and collaborative cultures in schools to support and hold teachers accountable to the highest levels of instruction and student engagement.

At the same time, the Legislature needs to hold districts and schools accountable to improving lower performing schools. No credible board member, superintendent, principal, or teacher dismisses that challenge. However, it is questionable when the accountability system changes over forty times in a short span of time so performance cannot be fairly measured and declines are not actually linked to performance but changes to how performance is calculated. These changes always tend to have the greatest impact on schools serving students in the highest concentrations of poverty. What frustrates practitioners is when the criteria associated with state sanctions changes after schools demonstrate improvement, as is the case with HB 5105, and adjust the rules to favor the competitor, in this case charter schools. In other words, do not change the rules of the game at halftime in order to favor the opponent! This is demonstrated with a longer timeline for lower performance for turnaround charter schools or less stringent criteria that does not tie charter school enrollment to actual neighborhood boundaries, as is the case for many of the lowest performing schools in Florida.

In the end, the current accountability system for Priority schools is fair. The change in 2011-12 was supported by superintendents whose districts have always worked through challenging environments. It accurately identified the lowest performing schools and provides a reasonable criteria and timeframe for improvement. Districts, such as ours in Duval County, have taken ownership of our lower performing schools. This administration assumed responsibility for a large number of fragile schools that weakened due to changes in the accountability system and faulty districtwide systems for school improvement.  We have made hard decisions regarding personnel, curriculum, programs, and even converted historically lower performing schools to new school models. The district has negotiated MOUs with the teacher’s union to overcome challenges within the collective bargaining agreement and locally raised millions of dollars to incentivize our best leaders and teachers to stay or relocate to our most struggling schools. Although there are some schools that still require a final push to exit the lowest performing criteria, we have led districts statewide in the percentage of the lowest performing schools improving their letter grade and exiting the lowest performing category.

In conclusion, HB 5105 is ideological and myopic. Please review the history of Detroit Public Schools. It provides a case study of what Legislatures and Governors should avoid when attempting to improve lower performance in urban districts. The story is one of local resistance to state usurpation on decisions that should rest with local communities and school boards. It is a story of a political and blinded policy that distrusts traditional public education for private-like solutions that have no track record of success at scale.

 Please reflect on the fact that this bill once used the term “Schools of Success” and not “Schools of Hope.” This is telling and indicative of why it needs to be rejected. The term success could not be used because the suggested turnaround charter schools do not have a record of success—at scale—anywhere. This is a multi-million dollar strategy of marketed hope. When did “hope” become a strategy? This is not even about hope, though. We have no research or data to be hopeful that this strategy will work—it will not. The research and data already tell us this.

 Please use logic and reject HB 5105.

Sincerely,

Nikolai P. Vitti, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

Urge House & Senate to oppose “Schools of Hope/High Impact Charter Networks”

Please contact you state legislators on the Schools of Hope bill this week.  This email gives you important talking points .

From: “Kathleen, Fund Education Now” <info@fundeducationnow.org>
Date: April 25, 2017 at 12:25:44 AM EDT
To: Rebecca Couch <beckicouchdistrict6@gmail.com>
Subject: Urge House & Senate to oppose “Schools of Hope/High Impact Charter Networks” l
Reply-To: info@fundeducationnow.org

Fund Education Now!

Urge the House & Senate to oppose any bill containing “Schools of Hope/HIgh Impact Charters” language

This dangerous concept has worked its way into at least a dozen bills, making it intentionally harder to track. All of this activity feeds the goal of making it easier to slip this bad public policy into one of several massive “train” bills far removed from public view.

Take action now. Tell our Senators and Representatives to oppose all bills, including HB 5105, SB 796, and SB 1552, that contain “Schools of Hope/High Impact Charter Networks” language.

“Schools of Hope”/“High Impact Charter Networks” create two separate, unequal publicly funded school systems – one under the control of duly elected school boards and the other controlled by outside private corporations under the direction of the appointed State Board of Education.

The deck is stacked. The BOE picks and chooses which district turnaround plans are accepted or rejected while at the same time exercising oversight authority over competing High Impact Charter Networks.

Because the BOE determines cut scores on state assessments and the calculation of school grades which can be manipulated to increase the number of D and F district schools this language will clearly drive the expansion of “Schools of Hope/High Impact Charter Networks.”

Use your voice now! One click easy. Please do not let “Schools of Hope/High Impact Charter Networks” trigger the immediate transfer of  115 “D & F” public schools and their 77K students into private, for-profit hands.

This isn’t about helping our most vulnerable students; it’s about promoting unmitigated charter school growth in an effort to erode district schools. 

 The Charter “Schools of Hope/High Impact Charter Networks” exponentially expand the effort to allow for-profit charters to keep grabbing tax dollars and tapping new markets to beef up the annual reports of corporate charter chains. None of this has been proven to help students or improve education. 

 Please tell the Florida Legislature to vote no on the “Schools of Hope/High Impact Charter Networks” language, SB 796, SB 1552 and HB 5105 with its $200M slush fund and block its inclusion in the Senate Budget and prevent it from being slipped by either chamber into a “train” bill.  

 Your voice has power. Our children are depending on us

TAKE ACTION TODAY: Recess Bill SB78/HB67

TAKE ACTION ALERT: Recess Bill SB78/HB67

The Senate recess bill SB78 passed unanimously on the Senate floor on April 4th and has been sent over to the House in messages.  Please urge your Representative to contact Speaker Richard Corcoran TODAY and ask that he pull SB78 out of messages and send it to the House floor with no changes or amendments.

SB78 offers 20 minutes of daily unstructured play for K-5 elementary students.  Unlike the House version HB67, the Senate bill calls for true recess separate from PE and includes all elementary students not just k-3 students.

Click the link below to log in and send your message:
https://www.votervoice.net/BroadcastLinks/lB_jNr0lOAEoE39YIv40YQ

Urgent! Contact Senator Bean By Monday Regarding Duval Schools

Please review the attached correspondence and contact senator Aaron Bean at

https://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/S4

———- Original Message ———-
From: “Couch, Rebecca A.” <couchr@duvalschools.org>
To: “president@dccpta.org” <president@dccpta.org>, “Zinamon, Sabrina D.” <zinamons@duvalschools.org>
Date: April 15, 2017 at 9:57 AM
Subject: Urgent! Fwd: Article of Interest: Breaking down the House ‘schools of hope’ bill

FYI. Three middle schools, Northwestern, Ribault Middle, and Matthew Gilbert, would be shut down according to this bill if they do not get a C this year. There are several other schools that would potentially be impacted the following year if they make a D or an F. Essentially, if a school makes a D or F for two years, we would have to close, hire a charter company or EMO. It eliminates district managed turnaround and the current hybrid option. Charter schools would be allowed five years to turn a school around. You may want to engage your members about this bill and have them contact Senator Bean. He has a bill filed that will be heard this Monday and it is believed to be the Companion bill that will allow this to take place (currently there is no companion that has been heard in the senate). This is urgent!
Becki Couch

Begin forwarded message:

From: “Sparrow, Nena” <SparrowN@duvalschools.org>
Date: April 15, 2017 at 8:48:22 AM EDT
To: “Shine, Scott” <ShineF@duvalschools.org>, “Couch, Rebecca A.” <couchr@duvalschools.org>, “Wright, Paula D.” <wrightp@duvalschools.org>, “Grymes, Cheryl G.” <grymesc@duvalschools.org>, “Smith Juarez, Ashley T.” <juareza1@duvalschools.org>, “Jones, Warren A.” <JonesW2@duvalschools.org>, “Hershey, Lori O.” <HersheyL@duvalschools.org>
Cc: “Begley, Michelle G.” <begleym@duvalschools.org>
Subject: Fwd: Article of Interest: Breaking down the House ‘schools of hope’ bill

Please see email below from Carol.

Sent from my iPhone

Begin forwarded message:
From: Carol Bracy <carol@ballardfl.com>
Date: April 14, 2017 at 8:22:34 AM EDT
To: “Nikolai P. Vitti” <vittin@duvalschools.org>, Dana Kriznar <kriznard@duvalschools.org>, Nena Sparrow <sparrown@duvalschools.org>, “Mark Sherwood” <sherwoodm@duvalschools.org>
Subject: Article of Interest: Breaking down the House ‘schools of hope’ bill

 

 

Begin forwarded message:

 

From: POLITICO Florida <states-alert@politico.com>
Subject: Breaking down the House ‘schools of hope’ bill
Date: April 14, 2017 at 5:25:06 AM EDT

 

Breaking down the House ‘schools of hope’ bill

 

By Jessica Bakeman

04/14/2017 05:20 AM EDT

TALLAHASSEE — One of House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s top priorities, HB 5105, which aims to attract charter schools to communities where traditional public schools are failing, was approved Thursday by his chamber.

The complex, 34-page bill will now be part of budget negotiations with the Senate.

Here’s a comprehensive look at what’s in it:

Traditional public school turnaround

Florida law compels schools that consistently earn D or F ratings under the state’s A-to-F school grading system to implement mandatory turnaround plans, requirements called “differentiated accountability.” HB 5105 would direct struggling schools to begin turnaround efforts sooner and eliminate some options available to districts, making it more likely they would choose to convert schools into charters or bring in outside entities such as charter operators to run the schools.

Under current law, when a school earns an F, the district must design a plan for rapidly improving performance and get it approved by the state Board of Education. The district may choose to manage its own overhaul of the school’s operations, close the school, convert it to a charter school, hire an external operator to run the school or design a hybrid plan combining two or more of the options. The school gets one year to plan and two years to implement, and if its grade hasn’t improved, the district must choose a different turnaround option and try again. Schools that earn three consecutive Ds must implement a district-managed turnaround plan.

The bill would make more schools subject to “differentiated accountability” and speed up the process. If a school is rated D or F for one year, the district would have to submit a plan for how it would turn around the school. After the plan was approved, the district would implement it for the rest of that school year and then one full school year. The board could allow for another year if it believes it is likely the school will improve to a C after the first full year.

If a school earned scores below a C for three consecutive years, the district would be required to choose one of the following options: reassign students to other schools and monitor their progress, bring in an outside operator to run the school or close the school and reopen it as a charter school. If the school doesn’t improve to C after two years of implementation, the district would be forced to choose a different option.

Also under the bill, schools that earn a D or F for one year would have to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with local unions specifying the “selection, placement and expectations of teachers and principals.”

Eligibility for charter operators

The bill’s main focus is creating a system under which charter school operators would be allowed and encouraged to open schools near traditional public schools that are failing.

Under the bill, eligible charter school operators — called “hope operators” — would be 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations that already operate three or more charters in the U.S. serving low-income students in kindergarten through 12th grades.

Operators would be able to qualify by meeting the following criteria: students in their existing schools perform better than average in the districts and states in which they operate; 80 percent of more of their existing students go on to attend college, if that data is available; 70 percent or more of their existing students qualify for free or reduced price lunch; they are in good standing with the charter authorizers in the states where they operate; they have clean financial audits; and any other requirements determined by the state board.

Another way they can qualify is if they have received certain federal or private grants within three years prior to seeking “hope operator” status. The awards are Grants for Replication and Expansion of High-Quality Charter Schools from the U.S. Department of Education (list of recipients here) or and national and regional grants from the nonprofit Charter School Growth Fund (list of recipients here).

Operators are also eligible if they’re chosen by districts as part of the state-mandated turnaround plans.

The “hope operator” designation lasts for five years, and renewal is based on its academic and financial performance since it achieved the status.

Establishing a ‘school of hope’

Once a nonprofit is designated a “hope operator,” it can submit a notice of intent to a school district that includes its plan to open a “school of hope.” The school must serve students from one or more “persistently low-performing schools;” be located in the attendance zone or within a five-mile radius of a “persistently low-performing school,” whichever is greater; and be eligible for federal Title I funding.

A “persistently low-performing school” is one “that has been subject to a differentiated matrix of intervention and support strategies,” meaning state-mandated turnaround, for more than three years. It could also be a school that closed within two years of the operator submitting a notice of intent. The state board will publish a list of “persistently low-performing schools” annually. The House has already circulated a list of 115 schools that would currently meet those standards.

The notice of intent would have to include an academic and financial plan, goals for increasing the achievement of kids from low-income families, a community outreach plan, an explanation of which grade levels and how many students the school would serve, its proposed location, a staffing plan and information about the operator’s history of success with similar student demographics.

The district would then have 60 days to hash out a performance-based agreement with the operator. If the agreement is not reached in that time frame, the amount of money the district typically collects in administrative fees from all of the charter schools it oversees would be reduced. Once the contract is final, the district could once again collect the full amount of administrative fees but it could not recoup the lost revenue. Charters pay districts fees to cover the costs of administrative services they provide.

The state board could enter its own agreement with an operator if a district doesn’t comply.

The performance-based agreements would have to include information about how operators would choose which students could attend a “school of hope,” such as by conducting “transparent” lotteries. Students from “persistently low-performing schools” would be exempt from participating in lotteries.

Also, the agreement would have to include a description of students’ baseline performance, the operator’s goals for improving performance and how it would measure performance as well as a plan for how the operator would gather parent input.

There would be provisions specifying the grounds for terminating the agreement, including if the operator doesn’t meet the agreed-upon performance standards or mismanages the school’s finances.

The initial term of the agreement would be five years. If the operator sought renewal of the agreement, it would have to be renewed unless the operator did not meet student performance goals or mismanaged the school’s finances.

Operators and districts would be required to use standard notices of intent and performance-based agreements adopted by the state board “to eliminate regulatory and bureaucratic barriers that delay access to high quality schools for students in persistently low-performing schools,” according to the bill.

The state board would be empowered to resolve disputes that arise between districts and operators over the agreements. The state education commissioner would appoint a special magistrate, who would have subpoena power, hold hearings and make a recommendation within five days after the final hearing. The commissioner would then accept or reject the recommendation at the state board’s next regularly scheduled meeting that’s between seven and 30 days later. The commissioner’s decision would be able to be appealed to the First District Court of Appeal. If the charter operator prevailed, it would be allowed to recover attorneys’ fees.

Funding ‘schools of hope’

Upon request from the operator, it could be designated a “local education agency,” which means its schools’ shares of federal funds, including Title I funds, would come to the schools more directly rather than first flowing through districts. If operators choose to become “local education agencies,” students in their schools would not be counted as a part of their districts’ grades.

The schools would receive per-pupil state and local funding the same way other charter schools do. They would also be subject to the same eligibility requirements for state capital funding as other charter schools, except they would not be allowed to use the dollars to buy property for the construction of facilities, because that’s provided for in a different part of the bill.

Schools would have access to a $200 million pot of state funding for the following uses: providing professional development; hiring and paying teachers, school leaders and specialized support personnel for services beyond the school day or year; acquiring supplies, equipment and educational materials; one-time startup costs for transportation; and community engagement activities, which could include student and staff recruitment.

Any money not appropriated by June 30 of a given year would carry forward for up to five years.

If a school closes, any leftover funds and any equipment or property purchased would revert to state ownership.

If operators borrow money for “schools of hope” from a source other than the state or a district, then neither the state nor the district would be liable for repayment of principal or interest.

Housing ‘schools of hope’

The bill creates a revolving loan program for the schools’ startup capital costs. The loans could cover up to 25 percent of the cost of a project. The total cost of a project could not exceed 80 percent of the state’s established per-student limits for construction spending.

The loan fund would include money appropriated by the Legislature as well as dollars received from loan repayments and interest. The funding would carry forward for up to five years. The state Department of Education would administer the loan program or contract with a third party that would do so.

The department would be required to post on its website a list of projects that have received loans, including the costs, statuses and geographic distribution of the projects as well as the educational outcomes of the students enrolled in the benefiting schools.

“Hope operators” would be able to locate in existing public school buildings through agreements with districts, paying no more than $600 per student. The districts would have to agree to maintain the buildings to the same standards they maintain other buildings.

The department would be required to annually provide a list of “underused, vacant, or surplus facilities owned or operated” by school districts.

The schools could also locate in public universities and colleges, libraries, museums, performing arts centers, churches or other facilities.

Charters would be exempt from property taxes and certain fees and wouldn’t have to comply with the state’s more stringent building code for schools.

Regulatory flexibility for ‘schools of hope’

“Schools of hope” would be exempt from a broad array of state education laws and local school board policies but must follow those dealing with assessments and school grading, graduation requirements, services for students with disabilities, civil rights discrimination protections and student health, safety and welfare. The school would also be subject to public meetings and records laws.

The schools would be allowed to comply with a 2002 constitutional amendment placing limits on class sizes by calculating class size as a school-wide average.

Teachers and administrators may be exempt from state certification requirements as long as they aren’t disqualified for employment because of certain felony convictions. Employees would have to adhere to state ethics laws.

The schools may operate as public or private employers. If they are public, their employees would be compelled to enroll in the Florida Retirement System.

The bill doesn’t specifically require the schools to offer transportation, but it says, “transportation may not be a barrier to equal access for all students residing within reasonable distance of the school.” “Hope operators” would be able to enter into agreements with districts, private providers or students’ parents for transportation.

School districts would not take on any civil liability for “schools of hope.”

TAKE ACTION ALERT: Senate Bill 376 CHARTER SCHOOL FUNDING

TAKE ACTION ALERT: Senate Bill 376 (CHARTER SCHOOL FUNDING)

Today, April 12, SB 376 (Charter School Funding) will be heard on the Senate floor, with a final vote likely to take place on Thursday. This bill would require school districts to share locally-raised capital outlay tax revenues with charter schools, and would thus decrease the funding traditional public schools rely upon for school construction and repair, as well as large purchases such as school buses.

Florida PTA’s position statement on charter school speaks directly to this issue: “Charter schools must not deplete funding from existing public schools.” Accordingly, we oppose SB 376 as currently written. We believe that the capital needs of charter schools should be fully met through other revenue sources within the state budget.

Let us join together and act today! Let our voices ring out from Key West to Jacksonville, and from Pensacola to Okeechobee! Please send a direct message asking your Senator to stand with PTA in opposing SB 376.

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Superintendent Vitti Updates PTA April 10, 2017

The following is an email response from Superintendent Nikolai Vitti referring to the DCCPTA Board Meeting held 4/6/17.

Dr. Vitti’s comments.

I understand that you had several questions at your board meeting this morning and I wanted to provide you with the information requested.  As you know, the legislative information is time-sensitive, as some of these bills move through the process rather quickly.  Thank you for your continued advocacy.

  • Capital Outlay Funding (HB5103 and SB376) – OPPOSE

o   Below is the slide requested at the meeting that explains the manner in which the funding can be allocated.  Right now one of the bills requires local governments to keep the funding at 1.5 mills

  • School Improvement (HB5105) – OPPOSE

o   For all schools on their first D or F:  1 planning year, and if a school is lower than a C the following year, 3 options

  • Closure and transfer students to another school in the district
  • Close and reopen as a charter
  • Close and reopen under a management company

o   Very little opportunity for community input regarding options

o   Allocates $200 Million for Charter “Schools of Hope”

The Powerpoint presentation from the board meeting is attached, that includes additional information.

  • Education (SB926) – SUPPORT

o   Reduces testing by allowing districts to substitute nationally recognized exams such as AP, IB, AICE, and Industry Certification exams in lieu of FSAs and state end of course exams

o   Requires the DOE to have a paper/pencil alternative for all state assessments

Please feel free to call Dr. Kriznar at 390-2115 if you have additional questions regarding legislation.

I also understand that you asked where Detroit was in the superintendent search process.  As you may already know, I was selected as a finalist for the position, and last week I traveled to Detroit for my interview.  As a follow up, their board search team visited Jacksonville last week to visit schools and speak with community and district stakeholders regarding my leadership.  Next week they will be traveling to visit the district of the other finalist.  Their board has not provided a definitive date for the final selection at this time, but I would anticipate that a decision would be made this month.

Regardless of the outcome, there is still much work to be done here.  We are in the process of preparing a draft budget and have started the closing of school timeline.  I remain committed to the work in this district, and I am keeping my leadership team focused on support for our students and our schools.  I have worked hard over the past years to put in place a strong leadership team and I have every confidence in their ability to implement the systems already in place to move the district forward.

Once again, thank you for your support and commitment to public education.  If you have additional questions or concerns, please feel free to forward them.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti
vittin@duvalschools.org
April 10, 2017

Duval May Lose Three Middle Schools to Charters If State Bill Passes, Board Warns

Posted April 4, 2017 | 08:40 pm | Updated 09:45 pm | By Denise Smith Amos

Duval schools might have to close and give away three middle schools to a charter school operator next school year if a bill moving fast in Florida’s House gets approved, district leaders said Tuesday during a School Board meeting.  The district also could lose tens of millions more dollars each year to charter schools if other proposed changes are approved that would change the way capital dollars are awarded. Capital outlay dollars, which are raised locally and from the state, pay for school buildings, facility improvements and equipment. The result, if these bills succeed, could be massive transfers of tax payer dollars and tax-funded assets, such as school buildings, to charter school operators, district leaders said.  And if those charter schools close, taxpayers won’t recoup most of those assets, said board member Becki Couch.

Charter schools are publicly funded schools that operate like private schools, independent of elected School Boards. In Florida, many state legislators have received large political campaign donations from charter school operators. Charter school proponents in the Legislature have said they are trying to expand school choices for students in persistently under-performing schools.House Bill 5101 would force all Florida districts to close public schools that are graded D or F in consecutive years and turn those schools over to charter school operators. There are 115 D and F schools in Florida this year, said board Chairwoman Paula Wright.  In Duval County, Ribault Middle School, Matthew Gilbert Middle and Northwestern Middle are in danger, she said. Ribault Middle has a D, the same as last year; Gilbert has a D, up from F last year; and Northwest Middle has a D, up from F. Those schools serve about 1,600 students.If those schools don’t earn a C or better this school year, Duval could be forced to close them and allow a charter school to take over, if the bill succeeds, said Superintendent Nikolai Vitti.  Under Florida law now, only a school board can open or close a district school. The law change would give such decisions to charter operators and the state, he said.Also, the bill would significantly reduce how much time a district has to turn around a school. Now districts have several years, but the change would give them one or two.District leaders urged the board meeting audience to contact their state representatives this week.  “We still have time to pull together as a community so we make certain they understand that this is not what we want,” Wright said. “If they’re going to use our tax dollars, we should have a say-so.”  Oak Hill Elementary and Hyde Grove Elementary are also being monitored, Vitti said, because they have already been restructured by the district this school year, Vitti said.  Oak Hill now specializes in autism and Hyde Grove specializes in preschool through second grades.

The bill is designed to attract charter operators to Florida by allowing them to create “schools of hope” within those schools, which will mostly be in low-income neighborhoods. Vitti said the bill used to call them “schools of success” but legislators changed that because “success” would be difficult name to live up to.Under the bill, if a charter school takes over a low-scoring public school, they won’t have to provide transportation and their teachers won’t have the same requirements for certification as regular public school teachers do, Couch said.  Vitti added that so far, charter schools have not as a whole performed better than district schools in low-income areas.If a School of Hope fails to get a C or better over five years, the bill would require that charter school to close and the control over the school building would go to the state — not back the district, Vitti said.There is no a matching bill in the Florida Senate. State Sen. Aaron Bean, a Republican representing Nassau and part of Duval County, did propose one but later withdrew it.But some observers have said it would be possible to quickly pass a Senate version by including it in an omnibus education bill, sometimes called a “legislative train,” with little or no debate.Denise Smith Amos: (904) 359-4083

Article provided by Karen Nuland, President-Duval County Council of PTAs

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