Legislators pulled a bait and switch last night to open up Alabama to charter schools. But, they did much more than that. They passed a bill that will take your tax dollars and give them to a private school that your child may not be allowed to attend. It is such a bad piece of legislation, education groups who don’t always agree, agree that it should never have seen the light of day.
From The Birmingham News:
The bill would also give failing schools the ability to offer incentives or alternate employment tracks to teachers who waive tenure protections.
Bombshell and unprecedented were words used among lawmakers to describe the night’s action.
State Superintendent Tommy Bice and the Alabama Association of School Boards withdrew their support from the legislation after the change.
“NONE of the added language to the Flex Bill has been vetted with us at the State Department/State Board of Education. There are SIGNIFICANT negative financial implications for all of Alabama’s public schools. THIS IS NO LONGER THE BILL I GAVE MY SUPPORT TO!” said a statement by Bice that was distributed to lawmakers.
School Board Association Director Sally Howell said, “We are greatly disappointed.”
Republicans in bombshell move push through bill giving tax credits for kids at ‘failing’ schools to go to private schools (updated with video and audio) | al.com
Florida lawmakers outraged that a failed Orlando charter school paid its outgoing principal more than $500,000 last year are moving to tighten the state’s charter laws so taxpayer money doesn’t go to “unreasonable compensation” or to schools “failing our students.”
The Florida Legislature will consider several bills to prevent a repeat of what happened at NorthStar High School, which closed in June in lieu of being shut down by the Orange County school district for poor performance.
northstar charter school reform: Florida lawmakers launch charter school reform effort in wake of NorthStar High School payout to principal. – Orlando Sentinel
Despite denials by proponents of the “flex” bill (including Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard) that it will not open up Alabama to charter schools or any of the “reforms” that have led to the dismantling of public schools in other states, WSFA is reporting that Michelle Rhee, the controversial lightning rod who has crusaded against public schools and religiously pushed charter schools, is registered as a lobbyist in Alabama to push the “flex” bill.
Yesterday, the Alabama Education Association held a news conference concerning the “flexibility” bills in the Legislature. What was interesting, though, is the proponents of the bill offered no rebuttal about what’s is actually in the bill. Instead they resorted to name-calling without answering any of the questions, like “what does this bill really do?” At least the AEA offered an explanation of the bill does:
Alabama Education Association Executive Secretary Henry Mabry said school “flexibility” proposals being pushed by GOP legislators were charter school bills in disguise.
“It’s a way to back door charter schools,” Mabry said in a morning press conference.
Republican lawmakers last year tried to pass charter school legislation, but the measure, which had been a GOP priority, was defeated.
AEA chief calls school flex bills a way to ‘back door’ charter schools | al.com
In case you were wondering what the “flexibility” bill does, look no further than this story from Fox 6 in Birmingham. The leadership has denied the bill has anything to do with vouchers and charter schools, but the memo didn’t make it to everybody.
Republicans said the flexibility bill to give local systems waivers from state policies for curriculum, staffing and budgets.
“I think there is going to be a debate on school choice issues. I know the house is more interested in charter schools. I know people in the senate would like to see more of parental choice regardless of where the charter school setup is,” Senator Scott Beason of Gardendale said.
Ala. legislative session expected to be combative
From 10tv in Columbus, Ohio:
Millions of taxpayer dollars in Central Ohio are missing, and chances are the state will never get them back.
Much of the money is attributed to failed charter schools.
Millions Of Dollars Owed To State By Failed Charter Schools | WBNS-10TV Columbus, Ohio
The “flex” bill creates such a blank check in Alabama’s educational structure that passing it would create a vacuum and a wild-west environment in our educational system. The Legislature is fast-tracking the legislation hoping no one realizes the breadth of HB84 and SB54.
The Alabama Political Reporter reports Hubbard’s lieutenant sent out an email to caucus members, which the Political Reporter translates:
Translation, ”If you don’t vote the way Mike wants you to, any bills you want to pass on education are DOA. You follow, little fellow?”
This report is in no way a comment on the merits of the bill itself, but on the threats that face those who do not obey.
Do the people back home in the districts know that their elected officials are threatened?
Do they know how many of their leaders kowtow to the wish of one man or his special interests?
“We dare, defend our rights” is the state motto, and the one the GOP caucus has adopted for this session. Has it been highjacked to mean, “we dare not challenge the whims of leadership?”
Hubbard, sends message to house caucus, “Get in line on School Flexibility Act, or else”
As we’ve noted, charter schools do not perform any better than traditional schools, and in many cases perform much worse. In Pennsylvania they’re learning the hard way.
Under a new, broader, less-stringent assessment method that the department, without federal approval, used for the first time last fall, 49 percent of the 156 charter schools in the state were said to have met academic benchmarks, based on their students’ 2011-12 test scores.
But that already unacceptable rate dropped to an abysmal 28 percent after being recalculated according to federal guidelines. Philadelphia saw its recalculated percentage of charters meeting the standards drop from 54 percent to 29 percent.
The reassessments brought especially grim news for the state’s 12 cyber charters, which primarily provide online instruction to students using home computers. None met the benchmarks. Previously, only one met the standards.
State Auditor General Jack Wagner estimates taxpayers would save $315 million a year if the state stopped funding charters and cyber charters at significantly higher levels than their actual costs of educating students.
Inquirer Editorial: Truth revealed about charters – Philly.com
The conservative Eagle Forum has been reporting about the charter schools run by a Turkish religious sect known as Gulen. Gulen runs the largest charter school chain in the country. The Eagle Forum has a nice round-up of the Gulen charter schools. Here’s an excerpt:
The Loudoun Times reported that during a school board committee meeting, James Cha, a Presbyterian pastor in Herndon, VA, claimed he taught in a Gülen school in Uzbekistan. He stated that while religion was not directly taught during the school day, teachers and students were pushed toward Gülen’s brand of Islam. “There was recruitment for students into religious programs outside of the classroom,” Cha said. “Those who showed a lot of interest were actually taken to Turkey and trained in their religion and came back as jihadists.”
Turkish Charter Schools in America
Unlike public schools, which can show marked improvement, charter schools that start bad stay bad, according to a new report by Stanford University.
From The Washington Post:
Charter schools that start out doing poorly aren’t likely to improve, and charters that are successful from the beginning most often stay that way, according to a new study by researchers at Stanford University.
The report, done by Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) and funded by the Robertson Foundation, also found that charter management organizations on average do not do a “dramatically better” job than traditional public schools or charter schools that are individually managed.
Charter schools that start bad stay bad, study finds