Islamic School Rape Shows Florida Voucher System to Be Void of Accountability and Oversight

They knew and did nothing.

If the assertions in the lawsuit filed by the families of the two young girls are true, the Florida Islamic School which participates in the taxpayer-funded McKay Scholarship program and the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program knew of the abuse in 2008.  From CBS Miami reporter Ted Scouten:

“There was significant sexual abuse, intercourse and other inappropriate behavior such that one of the students had to have substantial surgical repair of that (private) area. It’s horrific,” said attorney Scott Mager.

“The idea that they didn’t know about this is preposterous,” said Mager.

The attorneys allege Nur-Ul-Islam Academy officials knew of Ahmed’s illegal conduct for years  and did nothing until now.

“They knew in 2008. What do they do? Absolutely nothing, expect accuse the kid of doing it. What do they do, they blame, they cover up, they don’t tell the parents,” Mager said.

If true, questions will need to be answered by school officials. Why did the feel they could ignore such a horrific incident which was occurring within their building. Whatever the outcome, the incident has unmasked fatal flaws in schools which participate in Florida’s voucher systems. The state is not providing oversight, parents have no local recourse and school officials aren’t subject to the same professional standards as are public school professionals.

 

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Florida Islamic Voucher School Teacher Raped Two Students; Accepts McKay and Step Up for Students Scholarships

From Daily Mail:

Police are hunting the former head teacher of a private Islamic school accused of the sexual abuse and rape of two middle school female students.

Tariq Ahmad, 35, who worked at Nur-Ul-Islam Academy, Florida, has been charged with five first degree counts after the alleged abuse which left one student needing ‘substantial surgical repair’.

The girls were aged 14 and 15 when Ahmad allegedly forced them into sexual relationships, according to a lawsuit.

Their attorneys said Ahmed would use text messages, social media and even code on the chalk boards in the classroom to set up meetings with the girls.

They also claim the Academy officials knew of Ahmed’s illegal conduct for years and did nothing until now.

The school’s website indicates that it accepts taxpayer funded scholarships from Step Up For Students and also participates in the McKay scholarship program.

We accept the following Scholarships:

STEP UP FOR STUDENTS scholarships are privately funded through Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Funds. These scholarships are awarded to eligible Florida students entering Kindergarten through 12th grade from eligible low-income households to help them attend an eligible Florida private school or Florida public school of their choice.

Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program – If you live in Florida and have a child who turns 4 years of age by September 1, your child is eligible for Florida’s FREE VPK program. For information in Miami-Dade call (305) 373-3521, and for information in Monroe call (305) 296-5557.

McKay Scholarship Program – Allows parents of students with disabilities to choose the best learning environment for their children. The parent of a Florida public school student who is dissatisfied with the student’s progress may request a McKay Scholarship to enroll in and attend a private school or choose another public school that better suits the student’s needs. Scholarships range from $5,500 to up to $22,000 a year, depending on the level of your child’s diagnosed disability, as indicated by the IEP. You may file your intent to participate in the McKay Scholarship program by logging on to the Florida School Choice website at www.floridaschoolchoice.org

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The Fatal Flaws of Rick Scott and Jeb Bush’s Tests: Florida Kids Aren’t College Ready

As former Florida governor Jeb Bush has been anointed king of kings on education policy and is now doing TV spots to save Rick Scott’s reelection bid, its only fair to include his name in such headlines. But the well-financed and well-paid  educrats who do his bidding twist high-stakes test data into multi-dimensional pretzels to assail public schools and demonize teachers. What better time is there than now for schadenfreude at their expense?

This just in, courtesy of Florida Times-Union reporter Denise Smith Amos:

Graduation rates are up and dropout rates are down at Florida’s high schools, yet six out of 10 seniors from the Class of 2014 were not ready for college, according to recent SAT statistics by the College Board.

The problem is worse among minorities.

Nearly 86 percent of African-American and 70 percent of Hispanic students in Florida scored too low on the SAT last school year to be considered ready for college. They likely would need remedial courses, which usually don’t count for college credit, the College Board says.

Scathing Purple Musings reported on this report here and a press release from FairTest’s Bob Schaeffer who was quoted by Amos:

But revising the SAT and giving free test prep won’t be a enough, predicts Bob Schaeffer, public education director of the anti-test National Center for Fair & Open Testing. He linked stagnating SAT scores to No Child Left Behind’s emphasis on annual testing in elementary, middle and high schools.

“SAT score trends show a total failure, according to their own measures,” Schaeffer said.

“Scores have declined since 2006 for every [ethnic] group except Asians. Doubling down on unsuccessful policies with more high-stakes K-12 testing … is an exercise in futility, not meaningful school improvement.”

The icky sweet, disingenuous rhetorical taunts of Bush, et al questioning teachers as to why they don’t want to be held accountable have come home to roost. A decade of your dominance of Florida education policy has created an FCAT generation of kids who can bubble with the best of them, but not much else. So Floridians are being asked to trust you and your College Board tool on Common Core and close reads now?

Many of the state’s top Democrat field people, bitter over Nan Rich’s dispatch by Crist in the primaries,  are sitting this one out. A flawed and easy-to-campaign against candidate like Charlie Crist is schooling you right now. And you even have benefit of a complaint Florida media who loath tea party supporters more than they do Scott and Florida republicans.

So what gives?

You’ve allowed the hand that feeds to marginalize you.  Rich guys like school privatization zealot John Kirtley and the once treasured, but tragically self-interested Chamber of Commerce invest against families whose kids attend public schools.  And every other public servant, too. You chose to ignore the reality that they are middle class families with middle class values, too.  For a party which whines how the other is one is the divisive one, you’re doing an awful lot of dividing. You’re school choice self-aggrandizements are only intended for voters who choose what you want them to choose.

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Another Rick Scott Lie About Charlie Crist’s Education Record

After staging a hissy-fit about Charlie Crist’s fan before last night’s debate even began, Rick Scott made another false counter attack about Crist’s education record. From Lauren Caroll and Amy Sherman for PolitiFact:

At an Oct. 15 debate between the candidates — the second debate of the campaign — Scott repeatedly said 832,000 Florida jobs were lost during Crist’s term. (We’ve previously rated that claim Half True.)

Crist swatted away Scott’s critique, arguing that the recession was to blame for those job losses. He said he took federal stimulus money that “helped us make sure we didn’t have to fire 20,000 school teachers.” (We’ve rated that claim Mostly True.)

Scott retorted by saying Crist was responsible for killing thousands of teacher jobs as he focused his attention on other career opportunities.

“He spent all his time trying to be vice president and then running against Marco Rubio for the Senate,” Scott said. “3,000 teachers lost their jobs when Charlie was governor.”

The claim omits some key points. The number was derived from media reports about possible layoffs; not all of them materialized. Also, the claim glosses over the fact that Crist accepted federal stimulus money that preserved thousands of teacher jobs. Finally, Crist was not solely responsible for teacher layoffs. Crist and the Republican-led Legislature signed off on budget cuts amid a national recession — something no single politician is personally responsible for.

Clearly, some teachers were laid off statewide, but there’s a lack of evidence that it amounted to 3,000 positions.

We rate this claim Mostly False.

The numbers probably don’t exist, but an excellent counter from Crist would be to assert that thousands of “great teachers” – have left the profession because of Scott’s test-dominated teacher evaluation bill.  Moreover, the elimination of tenure in the same bill, SB 736, has made teaching an unattractive option for talented new grads. Low salaries the elimination of due process that tenure ensured  makes not a good job

“Great teachers” is something Scott said would be the norm with passage of SB 736.  “Great” for whom? A teacher is most effective between their 10th and 20th years. Scott’s SB 736 is already shrinking that pool of experienced teachers.  Perhaps Scott needs to be asked what he feels determines “great teachers.” He likely hopes to dodge such an inquiry over the next three weeks as his signature on SB 736 establishes “great teachers” as one who generates great test scores – the emphasis on which he has stated he wants to decrease.

 

 

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The Scorched Earth Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Florida’s Voucher Challenge

Perhaps the advocates of Florida’s school voucher program senses real danger in the lawsuit which is challenging the constitutionality the law. Travis Pillow of redefinED provides this background:

The lawsuit, filed in late August by the statewide teachers union, the Florida School Boards Association, the NAACP, the statewide PTA and other groups, argues the tax credit scholarship program violates the state constitution by creating a parallel education system backed by public money. They also argue the program violates a prohibition on state money going to religious institutions.

Pillow points out that an expansion of the opposition to the lawsuit now includes a group of parents of McKay scholarship students who receive vouchers to alternative schools. McKay recipients are special needs students. The parents inclusion in the opposition is because their lawyer “contend” that McKay students “would also be threatened by the legal arguments in the case.”

Clever lawyer speak doesn’t make it so, does it? Its clear that voucher proponents are looking for as many victims as they can find and to drum up as much public sympathy as they can. Their legal filing goes as far to include that the families reasonably fear for the educational future of their children, not to mention their safety.”

Their safety?

This blog draws significant criticism from voucher advocates and expects to do so again with this post. Lets consider one such comment.

MY CHILD LIVES IN A NEIGHBORHOOD WHERE AT ONE TIME IT WAS SAFE, AFFLUENT, AND GREAT. NOW THEY CAN NOT EVEN GO OUTSIDE TO PLAY IN THE FRONT YARD. THIS PROGRAM ALLOWS MY CHILD TO GO TO A PRIVATE SCHOOL WHERE SHE IS SAFE AND THRIVES ACADEMICALLY, SHE DOES NOT NEED TO BE FORCED INTO AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL THAT HAS STABBINGS AND WEAPONS BROUGHT WEEKLY!!!

Commenting in all caps is revealing enough, but this person left two names via  an insta- email address to gain access. Even the most ardent supporters of school choice legislation probably find the assertion that an “elementary school” has “stabbings and weapons brought weekly.” Scathing Purple Musings asked this person which school they were referencing, but has not received a response.

Additional comments referred to this writer as a “union hack” and a “Marxist.”

Why is opposition to the lawsuit been so outrageously shrill? Its clear there is an attempt to single out public school teachers from the plaintiffs with such attacks as listed above and hit pieces from Jeb Bush loyalists on union leadership. Is it because they realize that the lawsuit has merit? If so, Floridians are witnessing a scorched-earth propaganda campaign to save an unconstitutional taxpayer-funded program

 

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Revisiting Rick Scott’s Charter School Crony Capitalism

Imagine Charter Schools boss Dennis Bakke was one of three charter school executives named to Rick Scott’s education transition team in 2010. The make-up of Scott’s team signaled that Scott was going nuclear on public schools. Only one representative of public schools was named – and a dubious one at that. Hillsborough superintendent Mary Ellen Elia had just received funding from the Bill Gates Foundation for a pilot program to evaluate teachers by test scores. Elia was one of them.

Back to Bakke and Imagine Schools. The shady manner in which Imagine operates in Florida and Missouri have been documented in this blog. Aside from having three failing schools, it was clear that Bakke’s facilities were engaging in the practice of double-dipping in which the company’s real estate arm, SchoolHouse Finance was charging rent. It seems that Imagine is operating similarly in Ohio and its remarkably drawing criticism from folks who are  normally over-the-top in their support for charter schools. Writes Caitlyn Emma in POLITICO:

A subsidiary of Imagine Schools Inc., named SchoolHouse Finance, buys buildings and resells them for two or three times the purchase price. SchoolHouse Finance then leases the building from the new owner and rents the space back to Imagine. “It’s legal, but that doesn’t mean it should be,” said Greg Harris, Ohio director of StudentsFirst, an advocacy group that supports charter growth. “We don’t want charter-school operators profiting as landlords.”

“Let’s call this what this is: Crony capitalism,” Fordham Institute President Michael Petrilli tweeted [http://bit.ly/1s7ZXzT]. At least three states and Washington, D.C. are investigating Imagine for similar practices, the Dispatch noted. One state even shuttered schools operated by Imagine. After an investigation conducted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in Missouri, the state board of education shut down six schools run by Imagine in 2012. The paper uncovered real estate deals similar to the ones happening in Ohio and poor academic performance.

Golly. When you draw the ire of the Fordham Institute AND Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst,  you must really be shady.  So how close are Florida’s biggest for-profit charter schools to being just like Imagine? Closer than you think.

The Miami Herald’s  Kathleen McGrory reported this past April that Academica Charter Schools was under federal investigation for “conflicts of interests in its business practices.” Charter Schools USA has a real estate management arm similar to that of Imagine’s in Red Apple Development.

Both the Zulueta’s who run Academica and the Hage’s who run Charter Schools USA are close to Florida republican politicians and donate heavily to their campaigns. Academica has two GOP legislators on their payroll in Sen. Aniteres Flores and Rep. Manny Diaz of Miami. The sister of Rep. Erik Fresen is married to Academica boss Fernando Zulueta. The wife of disgraced Florida and Indiana state boss, Tony Bennett, at least at one time was employed by Charter Schools USA. Jonathan Hage cut a $50,000 check to Rick Scott’s Let’s Get to Work PAC last year. Like Bakke, Hage was on Scott’s education transition team in 2010.

 

 

 

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Floridians Won’t Buy Rick Scott’s “Me, Too” Concerns About Testing

While his ideological allies on the Florida Board of Education and in the Florida Department of Education are solidifying the grip that his new Common Core tests have on state schools, Rick Scott wants voters to believe that he’s suddenly concerned about the amount standardized tests kids have to take. This in an August piece from Matt Dixon :

TALLAHASSEE _ Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign Monday unveiled an education platform that calls for an “investigation” into the state standardized tests fought for by former Gov. Jeb Bush, a GOP political heavyweight who already endorsed Scott.

The platform rollout from the campaign comes on the heels of Scott’s state office requesting Friday that the Legislature approve more than $19 billion for public education during next spring’s legislative session.

The announcement came during Scott’s heated campaign with likely Democratic nominee Charlie Crist. That timeline — months earlier than normal — led Scott’s opponents to cast the announcement’s timing as political.

The standardized test portion of the plan opens up a different brand of politics, with the incumbent Republican governor calling for a review of Bush-supported policies. Bush’s early November endorsement helped quell rumors that Scott could face a GOP primary.

Scott said he wants to look at issues such as why students are required to take a test, how much time is given for the test, and what types of students must take a test.

“We share governor Scott’s commitment to expanding school choice options for Florida families, increasing the state’s commitment to expanding digital learning investments in our schools and ensuring fewer, better tests are used in our classrooms,” Bush foundation spokesman Jaryn Emhof said in a statement.
The Florida Education Association (FEA), the state’s top teachers’ union, opposed increased testing, referring to recent policies as a “testing frenzy.”

“Suddenly now we are interested in that? Seems like a political ploy to me,” said Joanne McCall, the association’s vice president.

Scott also called for a committee to review standards that were implemented after conservative uproar over the Common Core education standards adopted in states across the country. Bush has been a national advocate for those standards, which Crist also supports.

Anyone buy it?

No?

From his passage of the test-dominated SB 736 to his publication of FCAT rankings by district to his Common Core tests and his establishment of separate accountability systems for public and voucher schools, Scott has been the testing governor. And he calls Charlie Crist a flip-flopper?

 

 

 

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How Step Up For Students’ Numbers Serve As An Indictment of Rick Scott

The well-compensated executives of Step Up For Students, the administrators of Florida’s voucher program, are rooting for Florida republican governor Rick Scott to re-elected. Their propaganda arm, the website redefinED,  never stops churning out warm and fuzzy pieces intended to reaffirm their own benevolence. Consider this one from SUFS Policy and Communications director Jon East which addresses the average low household income of voucher recipients. East writes that it has fallen slightly from last year and over $2000 since the 2009-2010 school year.

 As of Monday, the scholarship was serving 68,768 students in 1,510 private schools across the state — an increase of roughly 9,000 students from last year. The average household income was $24,067 and the average household size was 3.8. Program officials are not sure what explains the drop. It may be tied generally to the economy, as the jobless rate still suffers and wages have stagnated for those at the lower end of the income scale. It could be that public school students who are at the lower end of the income threshold for free or reduced-price lunch are more inclined to seek the scholarship option. The threshold for the school lunch program, which is also the eligibility level for new scholarship students this year, is 185 percent of poverty or $44,122 for a household of four.

Embolden emphasis mine.

The talking points that Rick Scott’s handlers have advanced focus of his stewardship of the economy, with particular emphasis on job growth. Charlie Crist’s governorship was supposed to have been a disaster for the economy. Yet SUFS’s numbers indicate that demographic whom should be doing better with Scott as governor are actually doing worse. The poor are getting poorer. The average household income of voucher recipients  listed in SUFS’ data is in the 2009-2010 school year when Crist was still governor.

East’s likely intention was to point out that low-income families are indeed successfully securing vouchers. This is a good thing. But East unwittingly admits that the guy he needs to stay in the governor’s mansion has done nothing to improve the lives of lower-income families.

Moreover, East understands the danger that Crist as governor poses for SUFS who has promised to even the playing field for public schools. Crist proposes that Florida businesses receive the same tax credit for “investing in Florida public schools.” For an organization like East’s noted for always asking “why anyone would be against a program which helped poor kids,” Crist’s proposal puts the shoe on the other foot. Why would the executives at SUFS be against giving Florida businesses a “choice” in which schools they invest and receive the same tax credit?

 

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Outgoing Florida District Administrator Rips Test-Dominated Accountability System as “Reckless” and “Not Good For Children”

From Jeffrey Solochek in the Tampa Bay Times:

In resigning from Pasco County schools, outgoing assistant superintendent Amelia Larson submitted a three-page letter to the superintendent and School Board chairwoman detailing her passion for education and her strong concerns about Florida’s direction.

“Florida’s current system is reckless and will inevitably hurt the very children it is aiming to protect while also alienating the very professionals it needs to carry the work,” Larson wrote. “While serving as assistant superintendent over the past two years, I have always asked the question of every situation: ‘Is this best for kids?’ My answer to Florida’s current accountability system is, ‘No, this is absolutely not good for kids.'”

Larson goes further in her letter and finds that “there is a real concern over excessive student testing that does not inform instruction, but simply ties results to high-stakes educational decisions such as student promotion or generation of VAM scores for teacher’s evaluations.”

The non-educator educrats which surround current governor Rick Scott will dismiss such a point of view as virtual sacrilege from an infidel. Besides, they wouldn’t listen in the first place.

 

 

 

 

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A Fool’s Errand: Talking to Florida Republican Legislators About Testing

 

It’s not that Florida’s local school boards haven’t tried before. But to feel Florida’s republican legislative body will help – if they just listen  – that they will take action before the state’s schools plunge into chaos when public school students take Rick Scott’s new high stakes tests is a fool’s errand.

Unlike Tallahassee republican legislators, elected school board members are accountable to parents, students and their communities. The former takes their marching orders from the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the new class of Florida  educrats who float back and forth now between the Florida Department of Education, one of Jeb Bush’s think tanks or some firm which represents the for-profit school choice industry.  This reality doesn’t stop good school board members from trying. Jeff Solochek reports in the Tampa Bay Times:

School officials across Florida continue to voice grave concerns about the state’s ability to launch a new testing system this spring without major problems. Pasco County is the latest to wade in, as School Board members consider their own resolution seeking relief from high-stakes tests

But the widening effort to get the state’s attention has touched off a quiet debate over the best way to deliver the message. Leaders acknowledge that formal resolutions have had only limited effect so far.

Allen Altman, Pasco’s longest serving board member, said he’s more comfortable with another strategy: enlisting the help of local legislators. He said he’s been relaying school concerns directly to lawmakers.

“I am confident they will take that information and try to benefit the students in our district,” Altman said. “I don’t have that same level of confidence in our Department of E

The Florida School Boards Association got zero movement from its 2012 resolution to scale back the state’s reliance on test scores. Instead, the Legislature increased the stakes.

Superintendents called on lawmakers this past spring to establish a three-year transition period to new tests tied to revised standards. They felt lucky to walk away with a one-year easing of the school grading formula.

Altman is no fool though. He’s been around for all the recent republican-led shenanigans of the last few years. Altman was on the Pasco board when Jacksonville senator, Steve Wise tried to pass a bill which ended the salaries of school board members in 2011. He was probably in the audience that day when Scott’s “appointed” hand-picked education commissioner Gerard Robinson lectured “elected” Florida school board members during the summer of 2012 with this:

“(You) can express (you’re) opinion,” he said. “But let’s also remember the local school board’s obligation is to implement the laws approved by the Florida Legislature; to implement the regulations approved by the state board.

“And if it’s an expression that’s great. It may be more symbolic than binding. But we’ll see how it goes. This is democracy and this is how it works.”

“What (you’re) focusing on is high-stakes testing, which is a political way of saying that ‘We just don’t like testing,’”

This writer publishes this blog from Okaloosa county. Some of our school board members were there that day Robinson committed the gaffe of the century. They know all about Wise’s bill, too; and his sponsorship of SB 736, the tragically misnamed Student Success Act which carved in stone Florida’s devotion to high-stakes testing, the worst of which will be taken by Florida kids in a few months. Some, if not all, Okaloosa school board members are registered republicans. Some, if not all of them will probably be ignoring Rick Scott’s  savage attack TV spots that are playing locally and blackening out the bubble for Charlie Crist next month.

 

 

Posted in Charlie Crist, Common Core, EDUCATION, Florida, FLORIDA POLITICS, Jeb Bush, Rick Scott | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment