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Charter schools, kids deserve same support as other district schools

The following is a re-post of an op ed column in the Palm Beach Post

By Marie A. Turchiaro

As a charter school administrator for the past 18 1/2 years, I’ve seen so much misinformation regarding charter schools and I’d like to try to set the record straight.

Myth #1 – Charter schools have no accountability. Every charter school completes a “Program Review” annually consisting of 158 benchmarks in Personnel, Curriculum, Finance, Governance, Food Service, Facilities, ESE, ESOL, Student Performance and Insurance. A team of Palm Beach County School District personnel comes out to the school to physically look at evidence of every single item. “Charter–Tools” contains 10-15 additional monthly benchmarks including ESOL meetings, Bilingual Verifications, Financial Statements, Transportation, ESE Compliance, Governing Board Minutes, etc. We also submit various other reports to both the state and the district, and use the district accountability systems. This is quite a bit of accountability.

Myth #2 -- For-profit management companies run charter schools. We do not have a management company, are a not-for-profit, and have a governing board comprised of volunteers in education and finance whose sole mission is to provide for increased student achievement. This is the case with almost all charter schools in Palm Beach County – a very small minority are run by for-profit management companies.

Myth #3 – Charter schools are not public schools. Yes, they are. FS 1002.33(1) says: “All charter schools in Florida are public schools and shall be part of the state’s program of public education.”

Myth #4 – Charter school students aren’t entitled to the same dollars as other district schoolchildren. FS1002.33(17) states: “Students enrolled in a charter school, regardless of the sponsorship, shall be funded as if they are in a basic program or a special program, the same as students enrolled in other public schools in the school district.” The statute later states that “funds from the school district’s current operating discretionary millage levy” must be included in these payments.

So Charter schools are public schools, do follow numerous accountability protocols, and are entitled to the same per-student funding as other district schools, including funds from the district’s operating discretionary millage levy – the referendum pledging to increase security and teacher pay.

The money follows the child, as it should. Period.

But let’s put aside the statutes and the “which kids are more deserving” arguments. Charter school kids are district kids. They live in the district, have attended district schools and have parents who are taxpayers. They will bleed red at the end of a gun barrel like district kids, yet don’t “deserve” the same protection as district children? All current charter schools follow the same licensure requirements for their teachers as the school district. They have the same training, work the same long hours, and care for their students. Don’t they deserve the same benefits?

Charter school kids belong to Palm Beach County just like other district kids do. They and their teachers deserve to be treated as such.

Marie A. Turchiaro is executive director of the Palm Beach Maritime Academy and High School, Lantana.

 

Erika Donalds brings years of commitment to school choice issue

She is the face of school choice in Florida.

The following is a re-post of an article from floridapolitics.com dated January 22, 2019

By Jacob Ogles

Erika Donalds today serves as the face of school choice in Florida.

But just a decade ago, the Naples mother and former Collier County School Board member had no strong opinion on the political issue that’s come to define her.

Donalds’ oldest child performed well at the neighborhood public school, and she didn’t want another option. She didn’t even think to ask.

“Similar to other parents, I didn’t know (about) school choice,” the Collier County activist said. “That’s until you need it. Then you realize there are not many options.”

When her second child had a negative experience in the public schools, she confronted the administration, who sided with the educator.

“It wasn’t the right fit,” she said. Then she looked for another place her child could learn. That was in 2013.

She ended up enrolling her son in a small private school. Then she learned of an effort to found a charter school her son could go to for free.

Donalds became involved in launching Parents ROCK, and when the school opened, there was an 800-student waiting list for a campus with 450 spots.

“That told me there were a lot more parents out there like me who wanted something different.”

In 2014, Donalds ran for Collier County School Board and won a seat there.

“I ran to be a parent voice,” she said, “and in hopes traditional public schools would become more responsive to parent feedback and students’ needs. My vision was (that) students would not need to leave public schools.”

She grew agitated, though, when she learned the Florida School Boards Association not only had put up a legal fight trying to stop state vouchers, but that they actively sought to limit the number of charter schools in Florida.

Soon, she led a fight to ensure school board members statewide need not become members of the FSBA. With other pro-school choice elected officials around the state, she became a founding member of the rival Florida Coalition of School Board Members.

Her husband, Byron Donalds, meanwhile won a seat in the Florida House and became a voice on school choice. And Erika’s own role continued to grow as a state advocate.

She elected not to run for re-election to the Collier County School Board in 2018, she said. That came partly from a desire for family time before her oldest son graduates.

Also, she grew tired of being in the minority on the local board even as her stature in Tallahassee grew, she said.

“The majority of the school board was not as passionate about public school choice as I am,” she said. “It was a better use of my time, passion and resources to direct energy toward what I think is the best way to reform. That’s an expansion of competition.”

With new Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, and former House Speaker and newly appointed Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, both choice advocates, she feels good about the role she can now play.

 

Education Statistics: Facts About American Schools 

The following is a re-post of an article from edweek.org dated January 4, 2019

By Maya Riser-Kositsky 

How many K-12 public schools, districts, and students are there? What does the American student population look like? And how much are we, as a nation, spending on the education of these youth? 

These data points can give perspective to the implications and potential impact of education policies. The Education Week library provides answers to these questions, and some other enlightening facts, below. 

SCHOOLS AND DISTRICTS 

How many schools are there in the U.S.? 

There are 132,853 K-12 schools in the U.S., according to 2015-16 data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Here's how they break down: 

All: 132,853

Elementary schools: 88,665

Secondary schools: 26,986

Combined schools: 16,511

Other*: 691

*Includes special education, alternative, and other schools not classified by grade span.

How many are traditional public schools, public charter schools, or private schools?

While charter schools are often the topic of debate, they make up only a small portion of all schools.

Traditional public schools: 91,422

Public charter schools: 6,855

Private schools: 34,576

What is the average public school size?

The average public school enrollment is 526 students, according to data from 2015. That's up 6 students from the average school size in 2011, according to NCES.

What is the average public school size by type of location?

City: 591 students

Suburban: 657 students

Town: 445 students

Rural: 354 students

How many school districts are there?

There are 13,584 regular school districts in the U.S.

Note: Regular districts exclude regional education service agencies and supervisory union administrative centers, state-operated agencies, federally operated agencies, and other types of local education agencies, such as independent charter schools.

Where are the largest school districts in the U.S.?

Big cities like New York and Los Angeles lead the list of the largest school districts, as identified by NCES in 2015. But the rest of the top 10 may surprise you:

Rank -- District name, State, Enrollment

1 -- New York City, NY, 981,667

2 -- Los Angeles Unified, CA, 639,337

3 -- Chicago, IL, 387,311

4 -- Miami-Dade County, FL, 357,579

5 -- Clark County, NV, 325,990

6 -- Broward County, FL, 269,098

7 -- Houston, TX, 215,627

8 -- Hillsborough County, FL, 211,923

9 -- Orange County, FL, 196,951

10 -- Palm Beach County, FL, 189,322

What's the average tenure of a big-city superintendent?

Superintendents in large cities stick around for an average of 6 years, according to a report by the Broad Center.

STUDENTS

How many students attend public schools?

In America's public schools there are 50.7 million students, based on federal projections for the fall of 2018.

How many students attend charter schools?

According to data from three years earlier, 2.8 million public school students, or 5.7 percent, are in charter schools.

How many students attend private schools? What are the religious affiliations of those schools?

In total, 5,750,520 students attend private schools, according to NCES 2015-16 data.

36.2% of those in Catholic schools

24.3% in nonsectarian (non-religious) schools

16.0% in unaffiliated religious schools

13.2% in conservative Christian schools

10.2% in other religiously affiliated schools

How many students are homeschooled?

There are 1,689,726 homeschooled students. That's 3.3 percent of all students, according to NCES 2015-16 data. After doubling between 1999 and 2012, the number of homeschooled students in the United States appears to have leveled off. So who are the nation’s homeschoolers? This overview of homeschooling includes more information on the topic.

Where do most students attend school—the city, the suburbs or rural areas?

According to 2015-16 data, the majority of public school students attend suburban schools, but enrollment in urban schools is not far behind.

Suburban: 39.7% of public school students

City: 30.2% of public school students

Rural: 18.7% of public school students

Town: 11.3% of public school students

Meanwhile, most private school students attend schools in the city.

City: 43.0% of private school students

Suburban: 40.2% of private school students

Rural: 10.7% of private school students

Town: 6.2% of private school students

What are the demographics of public school students?

Here's a racial breakdown of the student population in American public schools, as of 2015:

White students: 48.9%

Hispanic students: 25.9%

Black students: 15.5%

Asian students: 5.0%

Two or more race students: 3.4%

American Indian/Alaska Native students: 1.0%

Pacific Islander students: 0.3%

The 2015-16 school year was the first in which the majority of public schoolchildren were minorities. For a look back at what that milestone meant for schools, revisit this story from 2014.

How many students graduate high school?

The national graduation rate is 84 percent, according to the latest data.

How has that changed over time?

The graduation rate has increased by 5 percentage points from 2010-2011 to 2015-2016. What's behind record rises in U.S. graduation rates? More on that here.

TEACHERS AND PRINCIPALS

How many teachers are there in the U.S.?

In America's public schools there are 3.2 million full-time-equivalent teachers, according to federal projections for the fall of 2018.

How many principals are there?

There are 90,410 public school principals in the U.S., according to 2015-16 data from NCES.

What percent of teachers are women?

Teaching continues to be a profession dominated by women. According to 2018 projections from NCES 76.6 percent of teachers are female, while 23.4 percent are male.

What are the racial demographics of teachers?

When it comes to race, America’s teachers looks very different from its student population.

80.1% White

8.8% Hispanic

6.7% Black

2.3% Asian

1.4% Two or more races

0.4% American Indian/Alaska Native

0.2% Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander

Who are U.S. public school principals?

Like teachers, most American principals are white and female.

54.2% Female

45.8% Male

77.8% White

10.6% Black

8.2% Hispanic

1.4% Asian

1.1% Two or more races

0.7% American Indian/Alaska Native

0.2% Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander

Another finding from the latest federal data: Charter school principals are more diverse.

What's the average U.S. teacher salary?

The average base salary for teachers is $55,100, according to 2015-16 data from NCES. Of course, teacher salaries vary widely from state to state. Although its findings differ from the federal data, the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers' union, releases an annual ranking of state salaries. Here are the latest numbers.

How does that compare with principals' salaries?

According to data from the same year, the average principal salary is $95,700.

How big are the teachers' unions?

According to NCES data from 2015-16, 69.9 percent of teachers are members of a union.

As of April 2018, the National Education Association has 3,018,492 members who are active educators or retirees.

As of October 2017, the American Federation of Teachers has 1,591,911 members.

What is the average student to teacher ratio in schools?

On average, there are 16 students assigned to a single teacher, NCES projections for fall of 2018 show.

The state with highest student to teacher ratio is, as of 2015, California, with 23.9 students for each teacher. The state with lowest student to teacher ratio? Vermont, with 10.5 students for each teacher.

Note: The pupil/teacher ratio includes teachers for students with disabilities and other special teachers, while these teachers are generally excluded from class size calculations.

SCHOOL SPENDING

How much does the U.S. spend on K-12 education?

In 2014-15, $625 billion was spent on public elementary and secondary education by local, state, and federal agencies.

How much is spent per pupil?

Education Week examines per-pupil spending as part of its annual Quality Counts report. On average, the nation spends $12,536 to educate each student. These expenditures vary state to state. Vermont has the highest per-pupil expenditures in the nation at $20,795, as adjusted for variations in regional costs. At the other end of the scale, Utah spends the least at $7,207 per student.

 

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.

 

 
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