Home > Uncategorized > Florida’s “Schools of Hope” Based on Wishful Thinking, Faulty Logic

Florida’s “Schools of Hope” Based on Wishful Thinking, Faulty Logic

April 1, 2017

The Florida GOP, having had charter school laws on the books for more than 20 years and having no evidence whatsoever that they are more successful than public schools, has now introduced old wine in new skin in the form of “Schools of Hope”. As reported by Kristen Clark in the Miami Herald, the Florida GOP is proposing a “…bold– and costly– idea” to help the 77,000 students who are “trapped” in failing schools.

They want to spend $200 million in 2017-18 to entice “the best of the best charter schools in the entire country” to set up shop near Florida’s failing traditional schools and establish “schools of hope” that would offer a better education — and better chance to succeed — to those students currently in struggling neighborhood schools.

Republican House leaders say traditional public schools and county school districts have had ample opportunity, flexibility and resources to turn around perpetually failing schools, but the results haven’t yielded enough success.
And what does the “schools of hope” legislation offer in place of “traditional public schools and county school districts”?

(The bill) provides a pathway for a nonprofit charter school operator “with a record of serving students from low-income families” to set up and run a “school of hope” for a minimum of five years in a community where there is a perpetually failing traditional school that’s eligible to receive Title I federal funds.

The bill offers some guidance on what criteria would be required for a “hope” operator, but which operators ultimately get that status would be up to the State Board of Education. Operators with that designation would then have access to grants, loans and other state funding from the $200 million pot to build their “school of hope,” train teachers, recruit students, promote community engagement and implement their innovative strategies.

Each “school of hope” would have to be able to accommodate the entire student population of the struggling public school — potentially allowing the new “school of hope” to muscle out the traditional neighborhood school.

As Ms. Clark reports, there are several Democratic party legislators who contend that the failure of schools is tied to the conditions in the community that are beyond the reach of educators:

But some Democrats, school board members, public school teachers and parents caution that the solution isn’t as simple as bringing in out-of-state operators to run brand-new schools that could essentially replace languishing neighborhood schools.

The problems are far more complex than who the teacher in a classroom is or which principal leads a school, they say; it’s generational and systemic poverty that plagues these students — who are most often black or Hispanic and who also face racial and geographic disparities in their educational opportunities.

“When you look at these communities where these schools are, there are some common threads to all of them: Poverty, you have kids having kids, and a lot of times these kids don’t know how to be parents,” said Port St. Lucie Democratic Rep. Larry Lee, who said he grew up in such a community.

“We’re bringing in external forces in these school districts and asking them to turn it around,” he said. “Sometimes I, as a black man, go back into the area where I grew up and, at times, even I am not accepted because they say, ‘You don’t live here anymore.’ You need people in those communities to buy in.”

Some other legislators note that the $200,000,000 infusion of new funds would be better spent supporting existing schools and, I would note, making the safety net more secure. For example, if the legislature REALLY wanted to support children in need they should give serious consideration to expanding Medicaid funding so that they can offer health benefits associated with the so-called Obamacare bill. Instead, the market-drivenlogic of the GOP would rather make more choices available to the “consumers”. And then there’s this little detail Ms. Clark interjects near the end of her article:

Several House Republicans involved in the legislation — such as Corcoran, Bileca and Diaz — have connections to the charter-school industry.

And one of those legislators, Hialeah Republican Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., the House Pre-K-12 education budget chairman, was quoted as characterizing the funding of this $200,000,000 choice plan as a “moral responsibility”.  The marketplace, unfortunately, is amoral… and it is the government’s responsibility to balance the scales so that students in those schools in poverty stricken areas have the same chance for success as students in affluent schools. Until that happens, there will be no “schools of hope”.

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