How Florida Charter Schools Are Trying to Exploit School Safety Issue to Get More Funding

From Sherri Ackerman’s post in redefinED:

Some charter school supporters, meanwhile, are worried about the costs of new safety measures, especially if lawmakers mandate them. That could become a financial burden for charters, which already receive less in per-student funding than districts, and little in the way of capital outlay dollars, said Lynn Norman-Teck of the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools.

“It’s going to hurt,’’ Norman-Teck said, and it’s really not right. If lawmakers are going to look at ways to make schools safer, including allocating more dollars to public school districts, she said, they need to “bring charter schools to the table. They need to look at them [charters] as public schools because they are public schools.’’

Student safety has dominated discussions among parents, school leaders, politicians and safety experts across the nation following the fatal shootings last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Twenty students and six educators died after a gunman entered the school and fired a semi-automatic rifle into classrooms before killing himself.

In Florida, the conversation is expected to intensify this week as state lawmakers meet in Tallahassee to begin discussions about how to make schools safer.

The Florida Senate Education Committee addressed school safety Tuesday during its first meeting of the year. Charter schools weren’t mentioned, but committee Chairman John Legg, R-New Port Richey, said he believes charters are part of the discussion.

“Charter schools would be treated equally with public schools,’’ said Legg, who is a charter school administrator. “They are public schools.’’

Legg knows that charter schools would be included in any new bill on school safety. So does Norman-Teck who is taking advantage of the issue to make the case for more charter school funding. Her statement is part of an orchaestrated PR campaign to push for more funding for charter schools during this legislative session. From Foundation for Florida’s Future executive director Patricia Levesque in a Florida Voices piece earlier this month:

Currently, more than 200,000 of our children attend public charter schools in the State of Florida. But did you know that students at these public schools receive less funding than their peers at other public schools? We support equitable funding for all Florida public school students, whether they are utilizing neighborhood, charter, magnet or online schools.

The same statement appears on the Foundation’s web site. A large group of charter school parents crashed a Broward townhall meeting to make the case for more funding. Perhaps the Broward effort was organized by a charter school parent advocacy group closely aligned with Norman-Teck’s lobbying group.

But neither Norman-Teck or Levesque want Floridians to know that charter schools do not provide the same services as do public schools nor do they have to abide by the same costly building codes. A Miami Herald-StateImpact story last year revealed that 86 percent of the state’s charter schools do not accept special needs students, the most costly of children to serve. An Education Week story from last summer reported that a federal GAO report found that “charter schools may be discouraging students with disabilities from enrolling.”

It seems there’s no theme the charter school industry won’t use to it’s advantage with emotional manipulations. Who could ever be against equitable funding after all? But to not acknowledge  the reality that most of their schools don’t serve the most vulnerable and spinning school safety to benefit you represents a new low.


About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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