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Registration is now open for the National Charter Schools Conference in Las Vegas on June 30-July 3, 2019 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.

 

The Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools
Friday, December 7, 2018

TWO FCPCS BOARD MEMBERS NAMED TO DESANTIS EDUCATION TRANSITION TEAM

Robert Haag, CEO & President, and Fernando Zulueta, Treasurer, of the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools have been named by Governor-elect Ron DeSantis to his Education Transition Team. The team will be chaired by State Board of Education chair, Marva Johnson and University of Florida trustee Mori Hosseini.

The transition team will focus on DeSantis’ "vision of ensuring that every student in Florida has the chance to get a world-class education and develop the skills they need to get a great job and pursue their dream."

The group is very diverse with a broad array of educators from public charter schools, home schools, district public schools and higher education. We are very proud that FCPCS will be so well represented on the team.

 

 

No Matter What Anyone Says, the Money Ought to Follow the Kid Regardless of What Kind of Public School They Choose

The following is a re-post of an op ed column at educationpost.org.

By Zachary Wright

I am punching above my weight.

I am no education policy wonk, nor am I a mover or shaker in America’s larger educational conversation. But a recent blog post by the well-known edu-legends Carol Burris and Diane Ravitch on The Washington Post’s website made me so confused, angry and frustrated that I had to respond.

I am a former high school English teacher who spent more than 10 years in Philadelphia’s schools, including private, traditional public and public charter. Now I have a job teaching future teachers.

I am also the father of two young boys, one of whom attends the traditional public school in our suburban neighborhood.

I presume Ravitch and Burris want what’s best for kids. But well-meaning as they may be, they are out of touch, biased and at times flat-out wrong in their vitriolic hatred of charter schools, which they argue are the ever-creeping cancerous cells seeking to privatize our nation’s education system.

Harping on a well-worn anti-charter trope, Ravitch and Burris argue that charter schools “drain finances” from the traditional public school system for which they were intended.

There’s a problem with this theory, however.

The money doesn’t belong to the school system. It belongs to the public. Those are not the same thing.

In fact, many states allocate funding the way we do here in Pennsylvania, based on per-pupil expenditures, not per-school expenditures. In other words, the money is meant to meet the needs of each child, not the needs of a system or institution.

This point was recently made by Professor James V. Shuls who put the scenario this way: How would you respond if you stumbled across a headline that asked, “How much do farmers markets cost Walmart?” It’s a ridiculous question. It presupposes that the customer belongs to Walmart; that any time the individual chooses to buy cucumbers from a local grower or salsa from an aspiring entrepreneur, he or she is “robbing” the dominant grocer. That’s just absurd. Yet this is the standard frame we use when talking about education.

Public charter schools do not rob traditional public schools of funding, because the money does not belong to the traditional public schools in the first place. It belongs to the public, and it is meant to educate each child in the environment where they can most thrive. That money ought to follow them regardless of whatever form of public education they choose. (For the record, this does not include vouchers, which are ineffectual at best).

Ravitch and Burris go further by maligning all the so-called sordid bad actors supporting charter schools. They strategically use the oft-demonized figures of the Walton family, Betsy DeVos and, somewhat oddly, Michael Bloomberg (I doubt they find him equally nefarious in his generous support of gun reform).

The assertion is that these mega-donors are on a “quest to elect school board members and policymakers who will undermine the public’s right to govern its schools.”

Let’s be honest, though. Burris and Ravitch play readers dumb by selectively pointing out the financial backing of their adversaries while remaining quiet about the treasure chests wielded by those more closely aligned to their own interests.

In the 2018 midterms alone, the nation's two largest teachers unions are on track to invest nearly $27 million  in campaign activity. But that’s hardly surprising—here in Philadelphia, the local teachers union has long been known to use its significant power to support city council members.

But apart from being perhaps a bit disingenuous, Burris and Ravitch also seem blind to their own privileged isolation when they decry the out-of-touch elites whose philanthropies support school reform.

Not only is this somewhat amusing given what these so-called advocates of public education earn themselves (leader of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten earns just under $558,000 a year, more than 10 times what the average teacher in America makes), but Burris and Ravitch demonstrate their own ignorance when they assert that it is only those who support charter schools who “believe that the role of the average woman or man is to be a consumer, not a decider.”

First of all, this is a false dichotomy between “consumers” and “deciders.”

Charter schools do have public oversight (although some states could do better at it) and are judged by the same test scores and criteria as traditional public schools. They are all free schools open to all children, and we are all still “deciders” in that we can use our vote to elect officials who will support educational equity and access for all public schools, including charters.

And furthermore, families are deciders precisely because they are consumers. Like it or not, education in America is a commodity and we the people are the “consumers.” Anyone who disagrees with this need only go to http://Zillow.com and peruse the real estate listings. Right there, alongside the square footage, is the school to which that property is zoned.

When we purchase our homes, families all across this country include the neighborhood schooling option as a key factor in where we spend our money. This is obviously not lost on realtors and sellers who attach higher costs to schools in “good” school districts.

I, personally, have made this choice for my family. We bought a home in a middle- to upper- middle-class suburb because of its school system. We were consumers and bought access to a high-quality school system.

Families of privilege use their wealth to access high-quality education while those without are stuck. The sooner we admit that, the sooner we can work to make such access equitable regardless of socio-economic standing.

I have great respect for what Ravitch and Burris have contributed to the education conversation in their (very) long careers. As I said in the beginning, I am punching far above my weight here.

But, I think they’re willfully burying their heads in the sand. They deride charter schools—they even go out of their way to condemn the ones I work in here in Philadelphia.

I go into these schools every day. You know what I see?

I see access.

I see access for families who have been forgotten and told to wait, yet again, for another generation or two. Oftentimes by the very people who claim to be their advocates.

Zachary Wright, a national finalist for the United States Department of Education’s School Ambassador Fellowship is an assistant professor of practice at Relay Graduate School of Education serving Philadelphia and Camden. 

 

FCPCS Honors Champions at State Conference

The Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools (FCPCS) has honored winners of its 2018 Florida Charter School Champions Awards, which were presented at the at the recent Florida Charter School Conference in Orlando on October 17, 2018.

For the seventh consecutive year, FCPCS received nominations in several categories, including charter school board members, charter school leaders, charter school teachers, charter school pioneers and charter school preferred partners. Winners received their awards at an evening awards reception and presentation.

Champions Awards for charter school board members were presented to Jim Notter of South Tech Schools in Boynton Beach, Any Banov of Sebastian Charter Junior High School in Sebastian, John D'Amico of St. Cloud Preparatory School in St. Cloud and Ana Diaz of Somerset Academy, with various South Florida locations.

Champions Award winners in the category of charter school leaders were Carlos Alvarez of the City of Hialeah Educational Academy in Hialeah, Tammy Lara of SunEd High School in Margate, Kelly Mangel of Treasure Village Montessori in Islamorada, Tracy Nessl of Charter Schools of Excellence in Davie and Pamela Dwyer of Oakland Avenue Charter School in Orlando.

Winners of Champions Awards for charter school teachers were Arlene Gebber of Somerset Academy Boca in Boca Raton, Denise James of Hope Charter School in Ocoee, Cynthia Pierre of Charter Schools of Excellence in Davie, Tiffany Hunt of Burns Science and Technology Charter School in Oak Hill and Kristi Engels of Pinellas Preparatory Academy in Largo.

Winning Champions Awards as charter school pioneers were Erika Donalds of Treasure Coast Classical Academy in Stuart, Jeffrey S. Wood, Attorney-at-Law at Tripp Scott in Fort Lauderdale, Cynthia Aversa of Indian River Charter High School in Vero Beach, Devarn Flowers, retired and living in Pembroke Pines, and Amy McClellan of the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools.

Finally, awards were given to two preferred vendor partners of Florida charter schools. The two Preferred Partner Award winners were Charter School Capital and Building Hope.

About the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools

The Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools (FCPCS) is the leading charter school membership association in the state, with a membership of nearly 75 percent of all operating charter schools. Since its inception in 1999, FCPCS has been dedicated to creating a national model of high quality, accredited public charter schools that are student-centered and performance-driven. FCPCS provides a wide array of technical support, mentoring, training, networking, and purchasing services to its membership, as well as serving as an advocate for all Florida public charter schools.

 

Re-posted from a Naples Daily News op-ed column.

By Erika Donalds, Constitution Revision Commission member

Education reform requires thick skin. As the League of Women Voters cheered the end of Amendment 8, I was sick to my stomach.

Voters deserved to have a say whether to allow the school district monopoly over schools to continue, but activist judges decided otherwise. League members patted themselves on the back while blocking mothers from voting on something most precious to them: the education of their children.

They grinned at the news while hurting the women they want to run for office, squashing the term-limit policy and ensuring more career politicians stay cozy in their school board seats.

The once-laudable League disgraced its mission and showed it’s yet another FEA surrogate to obstructing school choice.

The devastating 4-3 Supreme Court decision to remove Amendment 8 from the ballot was a loss not just for many students in desperate need of education reform, but millions of voters now susceptible to disenfranchisement anytime an activist group pushes and funds its agenda.

In addition to term limits and civics education, the most publicly contentious priority was to create new pathways for public schools of choice for Florida’s families. We know that choice, competition and innovation are avenues to continuous improvement for our education system.

More parents than ever are selecting schools outside their zoned district school. Parents and the public at large approve of charter schools and other education choice options at an increasing rate. The education establishment sees these trends and has doubled down on its antiquated policies and structure. Their interest is preserving the status quo and maintaining power and control over the most sacred of choices — who will help raise our children.

In Lee and Collier counties, more than 14,600 students attend charter schools at the decision of their families. I cannot emphasize this enough. No one is forcing families into these schools. In many cases, there are waiting lists.

Most charter schools are great examples of student success and school resourcefulness. The $3 billion in local tax dollars collected statewide that go to traditional district schools are never seen by charter schools — they are achieving results for students with fewer dollars.

Despite tremendous gains for students, at a cost savings to the state, it’s clear we still live in a state where the education establishment cares more about the system than students. They are considered “butts in seats.” I know this isn’t the sentiment of many hardworking, passionate individual teachers, but the union mentality has lost sight of what matters. It’s incredibly sad, but I won’t pretend it’s surprising.

These latest actions ensure that student-centered choice will now have to expand further through private options instead. Amendment 8 would have created a pathway to more high-quality public schools, but the monopoly defenders and activist Supreme Court won’t have it.

The students most impacted by this awful decision cannot write checks, organize to write misleading editorials or hire high-priced out-of-state lawyers to distort the truth in the courtroom. I was proud and determined to speak up for them. I’ll continue to do so.

Education reformers don’t give up on students. The greater mission of bringing true education freedom to every Florida family will continue. It’s our goal that every child be afforded a free public education that meets his or her unique needs.

Schools can look different and be a perfect fit for an individual child. Please stop fearing something different. Schools of choice are real schools, too, with real students and loving teachers. That’s all that matters.

Families want choices. Choices are working for students. We will find a way to give them the choices they deserve.

You can be sure this isn’t the end. If anything, roadblocks re-energize reformers. We have thick skin.

Constitution Revision Commission member Erika Donalds, of Naples, is a mother of three school-age children and Collier County School Board member. She was the CRC’s main sponsor of Amendment 8.

 
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