From Gradebook’s Jeff Solochek:
A national advocacy group that in recent years has pressured Florida lawmakers to adopt the controversial “parent trigger” school takeover plan will not push that initiative again in 2014.
Instead, StudentsFirst will spend its political capital urging the Legislature to improve the state’s financial reporting so that families can see clearly how spending is tied to academic achievement at the school level. The group is run by Michelle Rhee, the former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor who has informally advised Gov. Rick Scott.
In its annual report card of state education policies, released today, StudentsFirst identified Florida’s spending practices as more concerning than the state’s parent-empowerment laws.
“Certainly, parent trigger is not going to be a priority for us this year,” said Nikki Lowery, executive director of StudentsFirst Florida. “It’s hard to justify going after that as a priority when we have a D+ in another (area).”
Even Senate Education Committee chairman John Legg, a charter school owner, says that it’s “highly improbable” that parent trigger will return this year. It left a bloody mess on the senate floor the past two years and level-headed senators like Legg don’t want to have to be forced to vote for it again this year. Some speculate that a few republican “No” votes last year were cast to protect Rick Scott from having to veto the bill as he no longer supported the divisive bill.
While Rhee doesn’t have the credibility she once had in Florida after last year’s fraudulent petition put senate bill sponsor Kelly Stargell in a bad spot. It’s easy to see through Rhee’s agenda. Her ranking of Louisiana as best in the nation at “parent empowerment” is a sop to Bobby Jindal’s universal voucher scheme.
Rhee’s rep Nikki Lowrey, say the group has crafted their supposedly new agenda around the Education Week report that Florida ranks near the bottom in “categories of school finance and ‘chance for success’, a measure of the impact of education across a person’s lifetime.” Strangely their Florida agenda does not include equitable funding for charter schools. That clearly separates Rhee from the state’s powerful for-profit charter schools.
Or does it?
If Rhee swoops in to support HB 377, Bill Montford may realize he’s been had. He filled an identical companion bill yesterday in the senate, SB equi628. The original text of Micheal Bileca’s bill revises “provisions relating to the financing of independent nonprofit higher educational facilities to include financing for private nonprofit elementary, middle, and secondary schools meeting certain criteria.”
Bileca and Montford will point out that this doesn’t include charter schools as they are “public schools,” though privately run. This clever wording has never really past muster as Florida’s charter school operators act as if many rules don’t apply to them . The late addition of K-12 schools should have sent up a red flag for Montford. There aren’t any real obstacles from keeping the state’s for-profit charter school operators from declaring themselves “private nonprofit elementary, middle, and secondary schools meeting certain criteria” under their current business model. Their new financing can move to this newly established system, and can just keep setting up non-profit schools that pay them huge “management fees.
Moreover the establishment of a separate board of political appointees to govern the system remains the key prize for the charter school industry.
Both main provisions of the bill – a permanent financing mechanism and independent board – would address Rhee’s “parent empowerment with choice,” and “categories of school finance.” Parent trigger and “equitable funding for charter schools” are small potatoes in comparison.
Can funding for the state’s public schools be siphoned off in some way as a result of HB377/SB628? Rhee can find a way rhetorically to say no and to discredit anyone who says it does. Let’s see if Rhee’s top Florida rep, Lowrey, signs up to speak in support of the bill.