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Where Is The Oversight?

Charter Schools – the “for-profit” “public-private partnership” that is being allowed by our state legislature to use taxpayer funds to become rich. Oh you say they are not getting rich! You as a taxpayer need to check out the Financials of Academica, a Charter School Consortium run by Rep. Erick Fresen’s sister or maybe Senator John Legg who has been voting on Charter School legislation all the while running and serving as the schools business administrator of his Charter school or maybe even Sen. Anitiere Flores (who is leaving office) and will be the Administrator for the new Charter School Community College, Doral, which will fall under the Academica umbrella.

How about our legislators who are also serving on Jeb Bush’s various Foundations?

Maybe even the fact Florida’s last two Commissioners of Education are members of Jeb Bush’s Chief’s for Change.”

I wonder if this reminder of the facts will help the Florida legislators deal with what happened at the Northstar Charter High School in Orlando, Orange Cnty, FL.

The passing of the buck between the county school board and the legislators in Tallahassee should be interesting as the inspection goes on.
Is everyone in Tallahassee asleep or just so busy running for office that you cannot do the current job you are getting paid to do? The number of Charter school closures in this state or having severe rating problems in the past 2 years is outrageous and JUST WHO IS MINDING THE STORE? Why they are still open?

Is the point that you really want them to fail so you can push forward your “school-work” programs? Do the legislators really believe we have no idea what they are doing with the Charter school BUSINESS’?

Recently the story broke in regard to the abrupt closing of the Northstar Charter HS in Orlando.
http://www.edexcellence.net/commentary/education-gadfly-daily/choice-words/2012/better-oversight-could-have-weeded-out-a-charter-school-scandal.html
<a href="http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-10-25/features/os-troubled-orange-charter-northstar-20121025_1_charter-school-charter-law-english-language-learners
“>http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-10-25/features/os-troubled-orange-charter-northstar-20121025_1_charter-school-charter-law-english-language-learners
http://us.mg5.mail.yahoo.com/neo/launch?.rand=0ifk2lucrbk3m

“The law is very clear that school boards cannot put limits on or control how a charter school spends their money, including payouts like this ” Bill Sublette, Orange County School Board Chair told the Sentinel. He called the payment “a shameful abuse of public tax dollars” and “immoral and unethical.”

Bur sir, I would ask why this school has been allowed to remain open as many years as it has! Years ending in May of each school year, this school has had grades of: 2004 D; 2005 D; 2006 C; 2007 F; 2008 B; 2009 D; 2010 D; 2011 D and 2012 F. This works out in my world of a school average grade of D over 9 years! What the heck is wrong with the Orange County School Board this was allowed to happen? In 2010 and 2011 they graduated 69% of seniors and in 2012 44%. Just who is minding the store? Where is the concern for these students?

What do you guess the prospects of success are for these students who were not graduating – three-quarters of them had failed reading tests and half of them failed the math tests this past year?

How many times do we have to point out the errors of the ways of the State of Florida Department of Education? Now that this has happened you are asking questions when what you should be looking in the mirror!

Senator David Simmons, who was the Chairman of the FL. DOE, states “There’s no room for abuse by charter or traditional schools,” Simmons told the Sentinel. He called for an investigation. “All it does is hurt children.” I say to you Mr. Simmons for 2 years I tried to get an appointment with you to speak to you about the state of “Charter Schools” in Florida and I was forced to sit through a phone interview with your secretary who was given that privilege to determine whether what I wanted to discuss with you warranted your attention. I guess to her it did not! Do you honestly feel you are that important as to turn away from taxpayers?

Just what is going on in Tallahassee?

Legislators writing and voting on Charter School legislation who know nothing about education obviously is not the only problem!
1. Legislators who at the same time have a financial interest in Charter Schools
2. Legislators who are also serving on Jeb Bush’s Foundations and he has an alternative motive to his actions
3. Legislators who question Jeb Bush before voting on legislation as if he were still the governor and had a background in education of which he does not
4. A state school Board of which half of them are also in the business of Charter Schools in one form or another, work on Jeb Bush’s fund raising events, serve on his Foundations or have worked in some capacity for the Bush family.
5. Legislators who have written lenient legislation in regard to Charter schools with no oversight
6. Charter schools are “for-profit” “public-private” partnerships – to whom do you believe allegiance is to – the business of Charter Schools or the children?
7. Now with the governor’s blessing and involvement, Communist China may invest one million or more into our Charter schools and get a permanent green card status!
8. Since 2010, there have been 67 incidents of some form of “bad behavior” to give reason to close down Charter Schools around Florida. If there were that many public schools involved in this type of behavior i.e., uncertified teachers, embezzlement, cheating, poor conditions, no textbooks, un-responsible boards, cronyism, bankruptcy – if these kinds of actions were taking place in “regular” public schools the outcry could be heard around the country!

www.truthabouteducation.org
http://charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com/

In October, Clint Bolick of the Goldwater Institute wrote a glowing article about how the AZ Charter schools are the best in the country. My research showed they were not #1 in the country and in fact most of their Charter schools showed no grade at all for the 2011-2012 school year. Upon my research of the top 20 Charter schools in the Country, AZ had 2, Texas 4 and CA 9 with FL having 1. Now if you were to speak with Jeb Bush or his mouthpiece Patricia Levesque they would tell you Florida is the leader in Charter schools. They must mean in lenient legislation and lack of oversight – not the teacher accountability.

Oh, by the way, Mr. Bolick, who has written several favorable articles regarding Jeb Bush and his Charter school successes, the two of them are soon to release a book they wrote together on Immigration. More cronyism!

Please do not insult us by telling the taxpayers it is more money that is needed because it is not! What is needed is for Florida to take charge of its own Education system without the influence of the Federal government, get rid of RTTT, CCS and all foreign education/curriculum’s within our state.
It is time for Florida Legislators to do the job they are being paid for rather than paying homage to Jeb Bush and the lobbyists. You, the legislators, are ruining our children with your false beliefs that what you are doing in regard to education is right. You might do well to learn from people who know what they are talking about!

You ladies and gentlemen of the Orange County School Board, the Florida State School Board and the Florida Department of Education are to be held accountable for this ugly monster you have created. Time to clean house and act like Patriots rather than Politicians!

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Poor Jeb Bush – Not Always Winning!

The election sucked all of the oxygen out of the air for the last three months. And from me, too. But as Romney supporter who awakened yesterday with disappointment, I’ve hope that the totality of the voting across that nation signals that public education was saved. Most notably, the education reform movement’s chief political architect, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, suffered three significant political defeats. Lets take a look.

1. Floridians didn’t buy the religious freedom nonsense and defeated Bush’s Amendment 8. Voters saw that it was just another back-channel attempt to legalize vouchers. Nearly 1 million Floridians voted against the measure, clearly showing that republican and Independent voters didn’t want it.

2. Allow me the opportunity to gloat: So how’s that Chiefs for Change thing going, Jeb? Just a few short months after Gerard Robinson resigned in disgrace in Florida, one of Bush’s hand-picked stars suffered defeat in a red state which Mitt Romney won on Tuesday. Indiana school superintendent Tony Bennett was defeated by a teacher, Glenda Ritz. Over 100,000 more Indianans rejected Bennet’s hyper charter school-voucherism in favor of the wisdom of an educator.

3. Bush’s foundation have provided significant political support for Idaho school chief Tom Luna. This from The Answer Sheet:

Idaho voters appear to have overturned the “Luna laws,” three school reform laws named for state schools Superintendent Tom Luna who made them the centerpiece of his agenda. Voters rejected his plan to require high school students to take two online courses and for the state to
spend $180 million to lease laptops to make this happen. They also rejected merit pay for teachers that is linked to student standardized test scores and they opposed limits on the collective bargaining rights for teachers.

Mitt Romney won Idaho by a 64 to 36 margin, a clear indication that republican voters rejected Bush-style education reforms.

Do Bush and his acolytes know they are backpedaling? They may. Late last month, they quickly jumped on Rick Scott’s bandwagon after he had released his official positions on education policy. Speculation that Bennett would leave Indiana for Florida will probably end after this week’s rebukes of the Bush way. Scott, who clearly has put his finger in the wind on education, may no longer be as enamored with what he’s being told by the Bush camp.

Bob Sikes – Scathing Purple Musings

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Florida’s Parent Trigger Bill Is Headed Back Our Way!

Last year Florida’s “Parent Trigger Bill” failed – but watch out because it is coming back “undercover” with a brand new name – “Parent Empowerment Act.”  Sounds really really great, however the problem is three fold:

  • Most parents do not have a real opportunity to read a bill, act or amendment and if they do, it is written so they will not understand it anyway
  • No legislator is going to take the time to actually make sure the voters understand what the legislation is, how it will be used and what it will cost
  • Legislators across the country have learned if you use these “touchy-feely” words, most voters will buy into it and think it is for the good of their family

Recently Florida state Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice) asked this alarming question, “If we’ve got a bill called the parent empowerment bill, then why is the PTA against the bill?”.  The answer to that is simply Florida parents didn’t see it as a parent empowerment bill, but instead they thought the bill, known as the “Parent Trigger Bill,” would lead to the takeover of public schools by for-profit charter management companies and other corporate interests.  They were right!

People across the country need to understand that Charter Schools and all the bills the legislators are trying to pass, especially in Florida, are nothing more than “for profit” “public-private partnershisp” intending to make big bucks through the large consortium’s – for the most part.  Let me be clear, there are many Charter schools across the country which are being run by well meaning individuals who are NOT in it for the money nor are they involved in this game – their goal is to see the children receive good educations and they are. But Charter School consortium’s are a business, big business and the scandals linked to Charter Schools around the country continue to grow.

Not a single major Florida parent organization supported the bill, including the PTA, which is what Senator Detert was referring to during the hotly contested debate on the legislation before the 20 to 20 vote effectively killed it.  Detert has supported many Republican school reforms opposed by Democrats in Florida, but this act went way   too far for even  her.  She stated, “The charter people will walk right in and take over our buildings … and I don’t know how you’re going to explain that to our taxpayers.

Who has been behind this legislation?  My “friend and it seems everyone in the legislature” with the lead of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, for one. Both of his foundations, Foundation for Excellence in Education and the Florida Future’s Foundation lobbied strongly for it and even flew in advocates from outside Florida to testify on its behalf when there were wasn’t a groundswell inside the Sunshine State.

Along with the Florida PTA opposing the legislation in Florida were members in other groups including the League of Women Voters, Parents Across America, Save Duval Schools, 50thNoMore and Testing is Not Teaching and hundreds of concerned parents – not to mention several Tea Party Watch Dog groups.

Parent trigger legislation is intended to give parents with children at low-performing schools (based on standardized test scores) the legal right to petition the state or district for a change in school structure, with the parents getting to pick from a list of options. Those options include turning the school over to a private management company still using tax payer funds to run the schools.  The length and breath that this goes is astounding and I will talk about that in another blog!

Proponents say it simply gives parents more options and power in their children’s education. Opponents say that it will lead to more privately run schools and contentious battles in school communities.

The extent of this evil treachery showed it’s ugly face as the legislator’s were debating and voting the bill by proponents, who had been dropped off in vans, wearing yellow T-shirts with “Parent Power” embossed on them, handing out fliers calling Florida parent groups “union affiliates” and defenders of the status quo.  These are  strong  insults often hurled at those who oppose the “school choice” movement and standardized test-based accountability.

One thing Floridians must understand is our legislators received massive donations from foundations such Jeb Bush’s foundations, Bill Gates, Walton Foundation, Michelle Rhee’s Student’s First, Charter Schools USA, Fl Charter Alliance, Apollo Group, Red Apple Development, Meredian Education and on and on and on with a supposed agreement to vote “YES” on the Parent Empowerment Act.

Florida is just one of about 20 states that are considering similar “parent trigger” laws; a few have already passed them.  In almost every case the legislation was organized not by local parents but by a pro-charter school national organization called Parent Revolution, a LosAngeles based organization funded in part by the Walton Family Foundation, and it bitterly divided the community.  Parent Revolution helped Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future push the bill through the Florida Legislature.

Linda Serrato, a spokeswoman for Parent Revolution in an Associated Press interview said,  the legislation would help parents, not hurt school communities. She said her organization is not all about pushing charter schools, and if that really was its aim, it would be easier in Florida to simply open charters through the state’s charter laws.  But  legislators disagreed. “It has everything to do with laying the groundwork for the hostile, corporate takeover of public schools,” Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston was quoted as saying in the AP story. “Parents will divide against parents and even children will divide against children.”

After all my research into those involved in the Charter School takeover of Education in America, you can be sure they already have their ducks in a row and are armed for war.  The legislation being passed in Florida under the direction of Jeb Bush not our legislator’s has in no way any interest in our children’s education or they would not be taking this “for-profit” road to accomplish this. If money was the answer, why not use all the money they are pouring out for this evil agenda, and divide it among all the public schools in America to fix whatever they say is wrong.

But you see they are not addressing the wrongs in education like curriculum, lousy textbooks, teaching to tests, blaming all the teachers for every problem within the schools. Maybe if they even thought of dumping NCLB/RTTT, stop the implementation of the Common Core Standards and let the children have well rounded educations that are not sized to “one size fits all”, we would have better grades, less drop-out and actually happier children.

But that is not the goal is it Jeb?  Why not be a man and step up and tell the American people what the bottom line goal of Charter Schools is?  Parents, watch for them to start attacking Home Schooling!

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CHARTER SCHOOL CORRUPTION IN TALLAHASSEE

Topher Sanders reported in the Florida Times-Union that 8 more charters are in the works for DuvalCounty. Included in the list is another Somerset Charter to go along with the other three already operating in Jacksonville. A Somerset principal will sit on the board of two new charters.

So who is Somerset Academy of Schools? Its 23 campuses across the state are listed as clients of Academica – a charter school company run by the sister and brother-in-law of Rep. Erik Fresen. Fresen’s sister, Magdalena is Academica’s VP. Just how involved is she in the operation of Somerset? On the Board of Director’s website, it directs that any complaints be made to “Maggie Fresen” at her Academica office.

Why this is important is that Fresen self-reported a potential conflict of interest after voting for HB7195. While he was cleared of wrongdoing, Fresen may have been incredibly vague in his disclosure. He wrote: “I am disclosing that my brother-in-law, Fernando Zulueta, operates a charter school that may be affected by HB 7195. I do not believe he would receive a special private gain or loss from this legislation as the law applies to all charter schools and school districts, but in abundance of caution, I am disclosing this conflict.”

In fact this statement was made only after a Florida taxpayer filed a Legislative complaint with the Ethic’s Committee against Fresen for “conflict of interest”

A map on Academica’s web site indicates the company operates 15 charter schools in south Florida which brings its umbrella of influence to almost 40.

A second look at Fresen’s involvement is certainly in order. Was he deliberately misleading? It’s furthermore fascinating to know that House general counsel he reported to, George Levesque, is the husband of Patricia Levesque, the powerful lobbyist who orchestrated the past session’s education reform package. Patricia Levesque is also the one in the same who was then Governor Jeb Bush’s Deputy Chief of Staff and is currently the Executive Director of the Jeb Bush Foundation for Excellence in Education. The same Foundation working with Bill Gates and his Foundation to push Charter Schools, RTTT and CCS. Sounds like a family affair!

Commission staff interviewed the House’s general counsel, George Levesque, who said Fresen had approached him before HB 7195 came up for a vote in the Education Committee with concerns about a possible conflict. Levesque concluded Fresen’s discussion and vote on the bill did not pose a conflict, but Fresen filed the disclosure out of an “abundance of caution.”

Whose conflict of interest is greater? Fresen’s or Levesque’s?

Both of them are up to the eyebrows in it, but Levesque’s could prove to be the most far-reaching. He cleared Fresen of wrongdoing in a matter which involved legislation his wife was advancing. Investigative reporter Lee Fang wrote just how involved Patricia Levesque was involved in crafting legislation during the last session: Lamenting this series of defeats, Patricia Levesque, a top adviser to former Governor Jeb Bush, spoke to fellow reformers at a retreat in October 2010. Levesque noted that reform efforts had failed because the opposition had time to organize. Next year, Levesque advised, reformers should “spread” the unions thin “by playing offense” with decoy legislation. Levesque said she planned to sponsor a series of statewide reforms, like allowing taxpayer dollars to go to religious schools by overturning the so-called Blaine Amendment, “even if it doesn’t pass…to keep them busy on that front.” She also advised paycheck protection, a union busting scheme, as well as a state-provided insurance program to encourage teachers to leave the union and a transparency law to force teachers unions to show additional information to the public. Needling the labor unions with all these bills, Levesque said, allows certain charter bills to fly “under the radar.”

If Levesque’s blunt advice sounds like that of a veteran lobbyist, that’s because she is one. Levesque runs a Tallahassee-based firm called Meridian Strategies LLC, which lobbies on behalf of a number of education-technology companies. She is a leader of a coalition of government officials, academics and virtual school sector companies pushing new education laws that could benefit them.

Can’t it be assumed that George Levesque was aware of his wife’s legislative agenda? Just how involved was Levesque’s husband – the house general counsel – involved in all these manipulations clearly should be explored. At the very least, a fresh look is in order on George Levesque’s opinion on Fresen’s ethics complaint. The fact that the lead House counsel offered an opinion of legislation his powerful lobbyist spouse was advancing cannot be brushed aside.

No wonder republicans squashed ethics reform last year.
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ANYONE WATCHING CHARTER SCHOOLS?

If you have read any of my recent articles regarding Charter Schools you will know I am not happy! If you haven’t, here goes! We had new legislation passed this year which grants high performance Charter schools added powers, making it even more difficult for local school boards to govern them.

The new abilities granted to these high performers include adding enrollment annually without having to request outside permission, getting 15 year contracts, expanding grade levels without sponsor approval, and opening “replicated” schools anywhere in Florida with minimal barriers. Of course, that replication is limited to one per year, but that hasn’t stopped some operators from proposing several all over the state. Keep an eye on that! I watched those hearings – it appeared to me it was a done deal from the get go!

I have previously critized Rep. Erick Fresen for sitting on 3 Education Committees and voting on legislation regarding Charter schools all the while his sister is the co-owner in a Charter School Consortium in Fresen’s district and he has refused to recuse himself from voting on Charter legislation. Dean Cannon should also be ashamed for putting one of his legislators in a position like this. Do they not look at “conflict of interest”?

In April, 2011 Fresen slipped language into a bill that would prohibit cities from imposing stricter zoning and building restrictions on charter schools than on traditional public schools. Charter schools are publicly (taxpayer) funded but privately run.

The provision is aimed in part at South Miami, which recently approved charter school regulations that could directly affect Academica, Fresen’s sisters company. The company, city Mayor Philip Stoddard said, may be looking to expand Somerset Academy in South Miami, where Fresen’s twin sons go to school. Academica has also expressed interest in building a school in Palmetto Bay. Fresen is a land-use consultant for Civica, an architectural firm that has designed several Academica schools.

Now we have another chapter in the ongoing saga. In an effort to save money on a hurting budget, legislators cut funding for Adult Education. This was supposed to save the state a considerable amount of money but once again we find our legislators in their typical “cronyism”. The Florida Department of Education was able to scrape together $20 million to sponsor political allies who want to start charter schools. Some of even the most “die hard republicans” are beginning to take a second look at the actions of our legislators. The hypocrisy is beginning to be much too much to deal with. There are more than enough (one is too many) republican legislators who already have financial interests in charter schools and having the “gall” to vote on legislation that clearly benefits them needs a much closer look. It appears there is a bit too much playing with the taxpayer’s hard earned money.

The legislators included in this mess are: Rep. John Legg (Dayspring Academy in Pasco Cnty), Rep. Erik Fresen (several Academica Schools in Miami-Dade), Rep. Seth McKeel (South McKeel Elementary Academy, Polk Cnty) and Sen. Anitere Flores (Doral Academy in Miami-Dade). These schools are either run by or connected to these legislators. When questioned previously about this, Rep. Fresen responded, “I was voting for all Charter Schools”. Really? Where are your ethics? Did I hear somewhere there is a rumor Fresen is to be House Speaker in a few years?

The $20 million that’s earmarked for a few well-connected charter operators could easily have kept a good portion of the Adult Ed program afloat. How about not spending the $20K at all? I would think it would be part of Rep. Cannon and Sen. Haridopolus’ jobs to oversee things like this and make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen.

Time to clean out the Florida House and Senate – they are as rooted in place as those in Washington.

ADDING INSULT TO INJURY –

It has come to our attention there are even more high powered lobbing groups forming in FL to push for the expansion of Charter schools with absolutely no mention of oversight. These groups are even “bragging” they have an inside track with both current and former lawmakers.

The Florida Charter Alliance has received a $900K grant from the Walton Family Foundation – yep, the Wal-Mart folks! The main purpose of this group is to bring the public to their way of thinking and then once again they will do as they want – not the wishes of taxpayers! They are also going to try and convenience you it is all about opening more and more Charter schools. Now we are back to the Charter School Consortium’s and it being a very lucrative business on the taxpayer’s dime (that is about all a dollar is worth today).

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STOP TRYING TO HURT OUR CHILDREN!

Gerber, Abbott Nutrition Labs, Mead Johnson, Walmart, Kellogg’s and the Federal Government are force-feeding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to the most vulnerable among us: our children. This does not even address what is fed to our cows which ends up in the milk.

Nearly all of our infant formula, including every one of the millions of bottles distributed free by the government, contains genetically engineered corn or soy, as well as milk from cows injected by bovine growth hormone.

The FDA doesn’t conduct or even require a single safety study on GMOs. They allow Monsanto and other biotech companies to do their own safety tests. Keep in mind that the FDA also assured us that past products DDT, PCBs and Agent Orange were perfectly safe. This was before they were banned. Today, companies can put GMOs into baby bottles, sippy cups, and breakfast cereal, without even telling the FDA or consumers.

Because of their less-developed immune systems, infants and young children are more sensitive to toxins found in GMOs. And diseases linked to GMOs in animal-feeding studies are skyrocketing among America’s children. This can’t be a coincidence.

Children are More Vulnerable

-Infants and young children are more sensitive to toxins found in GMOs.

-Their immune system and blood brain barrier are not fully developed.

Again, diseases are skyrocketing among America’s children. Their disorders include the same ones identified in GMO animal feeding studies by the physicians group, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine.

Enough is enough. Tell the food companies ( Gerber, Abbott Nutrition, Mead Johnson and Walmart) and the government agencies ( California WIC) that they must stop companies from feeding our babies genetically modified infant formula and baby food and to stop using our kids as guinea pigs.

 

So What About the Vaccinations They Are Giving Our Children?

For decades, half of all childhood vaccines contained a chemical preservative called Thimerosal.

It is made from mercury, one of the most poisonous substances on Earth.!  Approximately 12 out of the 18 vaccine doses the average American child receives before the age of two contain Thimerosal. Cumulatively, that’s more than 200 micrograms of mercury, which would fit on the head of a pin.

According to the EPA, dropping that pin-head of mercury into 23 gallons of water would make it unsafe for human consumption. “Think about the idea of injecting your own child with levels of mercury that are thirty to forty times what’s considered safe for an adult,” Dallas attorney Andy Waters said. “And, I think if any human being thinks about that very long, they recognize that this is something that never should have happened.”

Before the 1990s, 1 in 10,000 children were diagnosed with autism. But in the past decade, as the government has increased the number of mandatory vaccines, some recent studies suggest the rate of autism has risen to 1 in about 250 children.

WHAT BETTER REASON TO HOME SCHOOL YOUR CHILDREN – NO VACCINATIONS!  COLLEGE ENTRANCE DOES NOT REQUIRE VACCINATIONS!

Are you willing to gamble with your child’s future?  Do your own research!