Jeb Bush’s Rhetoric Proves Hypocritical When His Allies Seek to Defend Florida Charter Schools

Writing in redifinED, Step Up for Student’s Patrick Gibbons took exception to the Palm Beach Post’s report that charter schools were to blame for  the county’ low graduation rates. Gibbon’s admitted it was because of poverty. He really did.

As it turns out, 57 percent of charter school students eligible for graduation in Palm Beach County appeared to be attending schools that identify themselves as alternative education or specializing in at-risk or special needs students. Only 2 percent of graduation-eligible students in the district-run schools were in a similar setting……

It should be noted that the “regular” charters serve more free- and reduced-price lunch students than their district counterparts, 55 percent to 37 percent. They also graduate 80 percent of their FRL students, compared to 74 percent within the traditional district schools.

Blaming charter schools for the 0.7 point drop in the overall district graduation rate is premature. This is especially true when you consider that Mavericks High School – a charter that serves at-risk student – is just two years old. Those students had to come from somewhere and it is highly likely the vast majority came from district-run schools. Had Mavericks never been founded, many of those kids (most of whom did not graduate with a four-year standard diploma) would have been counted against their district-run school. That alone would constitute up to a 2.2 point drop in the graduation rate of district-run schools.

Hiding behind the record of the ethically challenged Mavericks’ schools is almost a rich as Gibbons using the at-risk population and poverty as an excuse. And to think we were just lectured to again by Jeb Bush that poverty doesn’t matter and to not make excuses again in October during his key-note speech at his foundation’ education summit in Boston.

A child enters kindergarten.  His mother is a single-parent who works a minimum wage job.  Perhaps he lives in the inner city or he is an immigrant learning English. What do we expect of him?Do we expect him to read by the third grade? Do we expect him to learn fractions? To write coherent sentences? To graduate from high school equipped to attend college, begin a career or join the Armed Forces? Or, as a society, do we look at his circumstances, dumb-down his expectations, and give his school an excuse not to make every effort to ensure he learns. Do we just shuffle him through the system?  Promote him out of third grade even if he can’t read.  Let the fourth grade teacher deal with it, who in turn will let the fifth grade teacher deal with it and so on until he is so far behind nobody can deal with it. Perhaps we sanction this under the guise of self-esteem and compassion because it sounds right and it relieves adults of their responsibilities but not their paychecks. So, seriously what would you do – expect more of this boy or less? If you would expect more, welcome.  You’re in the right place. When you boil down education reform to one guiding principle, it is this – every child can learn. And so, we refuse to accept excuses that only set children up for failure and deny them the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.

UPDATE: Chris Guerrieri also caught on to the chutzpah

No excuses, eh?

Bush’s screed against public schools and it’s teachers continues to decline into shrill.

Those vested in the status quo in public education are fighting back harder than ever.  And that’s hardly surprising. We are taking on a $600 billion enterprise with more than 6 million employees.  The old one-room school house has been turned into a government jobs programs where the number of employees has grown at four times the rate of students. Public education has become a labyrinth of political, bureaucratic and union empires that depend on a captive population of students and minimal quality control. Empires do not go quietly into the night. They can’t defend their past and so they attack those trying to change the future.  They have their talking points down, their cast of villains set and their allies in the media anxious to tell the tale.

Has Bush become desperate and needs to maintain a  boogeyman to demagogue? Guys like Gibbons obviously agree with Bush, but he is making excuses for his charter school allies. Bush’s foundations and Gibbons’ salary are financed by the people who benefit from the spew Bush delivers from his bully pulpit.  Even the ethically challenged among  Bush’s guys  land on their feet. Tony Bennett’s new cushy job with one of his backers is indication that it is Bush who is “fighting harder than ever” to keep his “empire” from “going quietly into the night.”


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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2 Responses to Jeb Bush’s Rhetoric Proves Hypocritical When His Allies Seek to Defend Florida Charter Schools

  1. If Bush and his cronies do not believe that the scenario about the poor student does not happen at Charter schools as well as public schools, they are all drinking the kool-aid. I’ve seen it first hand.

  2. Patrick says:

    Hi Bob,

    The regular charter schools are getting the same graduation rates as the district schools but with a higher poverty rate. They are also graduating a larger percentage of their low-income students. That is impressive.

    I’m sorry you and your friend Chris missed the point of the article but I will try to explain further. Comparing all charters to all district schools is unfair because charters in Palm Beach serve a disproportionately larger at-risk and special needs student population. At-risk students are students at-risk of NOT graduating. Comparing graduation rates of normal schools to schools that serve students which are statistically unlikely to graduate with a regular diploma in 4 years is simply unfair. This is especially true when you understand how graduation rates are calculated. If a district school pushes a kid with too few credits to graduate on time out and into an alternative school (district- or charter-run) it is the alternative school that takes the hit on the graduation rate. Thus, alternative schools shouldn’t be lumped in a comparison with regular schools because they are designed to serve a special population that is unlikely to graduate and try to get them to graduate (in 4, 5, 6 years or with special diplomas).

    I pointed out Mavericks because it is so new and it highlights the fact that the district’s graduation rate would have likely decreased whether the charter schools were around or not.

    I hope this makes sense. Thanks for reading!

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