Florida republican lawmakers were scolded this week by the Tampa Bay Times for voting “twice to lessen accountability for private-run charter schools and sidestep calls for more accountability for private schools that accept tuition vouchers.”
So much for local control. The Republican-led House on Tuesday approved a bill, HB 7083, that would standardize charter school contracts, eliminating the already limited discretion local school boards have in negotiating contracts with charter schools. Supporters argued school districts view charters as competitors and should not have such discretion. But they failed to make the case that removing discretion will lead to more successful charter schools. There is, in fact, more evidence that school districts already lack the leverage and authority needed to shut down poor charters faster.
Most remarkable about this bill’s passage was that it’s sponsor, Rep. Manny Diaz (R-Miami) is part of a federal probe into – you guessed it – conflicts of interest by the charter school corporation which pays him $100,000 a year. During hearings, Diaz dodged questions from colleagues by saying a “task force” was working on the details. Scathing Purple Musings discovered that Diaz task force was aligned with the lobbying arm of his employer, not in any way affiliated with the Department of Education and not subject to state Sunshine Laws.
The Times also takes republicans to task for their utter failure to provide accountability for anyone on voucher schools:
Also significant in a year when Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, pledged otherwise: The voucher program would still face far less stringent accountability standards than public schools. Voucher recipients must take a norm-referenced test — though not the FCAT — but there are no financial repercussions when students fail to make sufficient learning gains. Nor is there adequate disclosure of those test results for most schools enrolled in the program, making it impossible for the public to evaluate a school’s performance.
Republicans cannot counter the Times conclusions that they are intentionally creating an unequal system of education in Florida. So much for leveling the playing field. The removal of “discretion of local school boards” on charter schools coupled with “less stringent accountability standards” for voucher schools are leveraged initiatives intended to weaken Florida’s public schools.