Rosanne Wood, Your Turn Published 2:00 p.m. ET April 21, 2018
The Florida Legislature allocated public schools a whopping 47 cents more per student for discretionary spending for the upcoming school year. In real terms, considering rising insurance premiums and inflation — that’s a big cut. Last year the school board received a hundred extra dollars per student, which wasn’t enough to provide needed teacher salary increases.
So what does this have to do with approving new charter schools? Well, if you hear a loud leaking sound near your local public school, be alarmed, but don’t be surprised. It’s not a gas leak — it’s the sound of funding being siphoned off to support private school vouchers and public charter schools.
Unfortunately, for every charter approved, the District gets poorer and less able to offer new innovative programs and choices for everyone’s children. Leon County has some new attractive programs in the works, but may not be able to afford them if our budget keeps shrinking.
The current local controversy over whether the school board should approve two more charter schools is not about believing in school choice, it’s about survival. In a perfect world where funding is plentiful and the playing field is level, it would be easy to say yes to all kinds of school options. Charters can be good vehicles for meeting parents’ preferences and experimenting with innovative ideas.
However, we are faced with a decision. Can we afford a dual education system when one slowly drains the other, plays by a different set of rules and leaves many children behind?
The Plato Academy charter application is from an out-of-town charter company with an out-of-town school board run by a for-profit management company. There are six of these charter chains in Pinellas County alone.
While they are considered “high-performing” charters, close inspection of Plato Academy student populations in Pinellas County reveal that their enrollment of African American, disabled and low socioeconomic students is far below the Pinellas district average (According to the DOE School Public Accountability Reports, 2015-16.)
In this application, no location has been named and we have no assurance that their student population will mirror Leon County. We do know the projected population of 728 students will drain at least $4.5 million dollars per year out of the Leon County school system once it is completely built out.
The proposed Classical Charter model is affiliated with the conservative Hillsdale College in Michigan and is being pushed by powerful politicians around the state. One was just approved in Martin County this week. But, at least this charter application was primarily written by local parents who clearly want this school option for their children.
Unfortunately, the other Hillsdale affiliated Classical charters in Florida also show a disproportionate enrollment of white, non-disabled, middle-class students. Carpooling is the only transportation plan, services for handicapped students are minimally described and no location has been announced. They also project 746 students with a similar $4.5 million funding drain.
What most people don’t realize is that buildings charters lease and improve with tax dollars are not publicly owned. If they fold, as four already have, it’s tax money down the drain. Furthermore, elected school boards have little discretion whether a new charter school is approved or not. If the application meets the mandated criteria, they are difficult to deny. If denied, they can appeal to the State Board of Education.
When school districts have tried to put local requirements in a charter agreement, such as a concrete justification of need, required bus transportation, a reflective student body, or location in an impoverished area, rules have been tightened to disallow restrictions.
The charter school contract no longer allows districts to add any conditions that the applicants don’t agree to. If the new proposal from the Constitutional Revision Commission passes, school boards will be bypassed completely.
By not recommending the two currently proposed charters, Superintendent Hanna is asking the question, “If DOE says that we can’t build a new school because we have plenty of available capacity, how can we authorize two new charter schools for over 1,400 students?”
What if 10 charter proposals were submitted that met the required criteria? Would the School Board have to approve all of them? Maybe so. Where do we draw the line?
All parents want schools that meet the needs of their children. So do we. But when your car tire is leaking and you can’t afford a new car, you fix the tire first. You don’t buy a shiny new car.
Both proposals have interesting elements and I hope Leon County Schools can incorporate some of them into our existing public schools. But that takes resources, and 47 cents just won’t cut it.
Rosanne Wood was a principal for 32 years and now serves on the Leon County School Board.
(Photo: Pat Bagley/The Salt Lake Tribune)
Rosanne’s remarks about why we are passing a resolution to only allow law enforcement officers to be armed in Leon County Schools.
“Creating a safe school climate is also a big part of the solution for preventing problems.”
I was proud to introduce a resolution to make sure only certified law enforcement officers are armed on our school campuses. This is all about keeping our students safe and our school employees focused on their mission- to educate kids!
The School Board voted unanimously to adopt this resolution, one of the first in the state. To ensure safe campuses, there will be a certified law enforcement agent on each campus as well as increased monitoring and safe school practices.
Published Feb. 19, 2018, Tallahassee Democrat
Teachers are heroes every day. Now, It’s our elected officials’ turn.
Countless teachers put themselves on the line every day for our children. Some days it’s a small act, like a hug, a phone call to a parent, breaking up a fight, teaching empathy, resiliency; you name it.
And then there are the big acts — like throwing yourself in the trajectory of bullets from a military assault rifle to save your students’ lives. Whatever it takes; that’s what teachers do.
As a mom, a grandma, a former principal and now an elected School Board member, I call upon our governor and Legislators to take their turn to be heroes. Thoughts and prayers are not enough.
It is ludicrous that our state laws allow 18-year-olds (or anyone else) to buy military-style assault rifles. They serve only one purpose — to kill people, lots of them. It is a sorry state of affairs to inject fear into children by teaching them how to hide or run in the case of an active shooter on campus. Yet at this point, we must.
I don’t think living in the land of the free and home of the brave means our school children should have to hide in closets or our teachers should be expected to take bullets to protect them.
I want our elected officials to be brave and stand up to the pressure causing them to be afraid to protect our children with sensible gun safety reform.
No doubt about it, more safe school money and mental health counselors are needed. But that’s not enough. We cannot arm our way out of this danger.
The young people from Parkland and around the country are leading the way. They say enough is enough.
On Wednesday many of us will gather with them at the Historic Capitol at noon to demand action at the “Rally to Support Gun Safety Reform.” We will rally to ban assault rifles as they were from 1994 to 2004. We will rally for common sense.
The best antidote to feelings of helplessness is action. Bring your children for a live civics lesson on Wednesday. Show them what democracy looks like.
Rosanne Wood is a mom, grandma and Leon County School Board member.
As a public-school principal for 32 years, and now as an elected school board member, I consider protecting our students from violence and bullying our sacred duty. No child should ever feel afraid to attend our schools.
I’m sad to say we live in a culture where many children are exposed to violence or can be harassed any time of day on social media. Without adequate supports in place, the resulting trauma can spill over into our classrooms. Our kids and public schools need the Legislature’s help more than ever.
We desperately need early intervention programs, more mental health counselors, and proven safe school programs to protect all children. These measures would help us prevent bullying in the first place.
We are told over and over there is no money for such things.
Meanwhile, House Bill 1 aims to divert up to $40 million for private school vouchers (“Hope Scholarships”) to parents seeking a way out of a public school because their child has been bullied or has been in fights. However, in this bill, parents can use this reason even if their child started the fight or the problem has been completely resolved at the school.
I support zero tolerance for student bullying. Florida Statute 1006.147 requires every public school to investigate, report and protect any student who is victimized by bullying. Parents and superintendents already have many options to transfer students to another classroom or public school as needed.
HB1 is not the answer; it opens Pandora’s Box for those who want a voucher to attend a private school yet does nothing to prevent the remaining students at the public school from being bullied. Neither does it provide any resources to help us address the problems of the troubled child who is doing the bullying or starting fights.
Furthermore, calling this a “Hope Scholarship Program” so folks can donate $20 instead of paying that tax when registering a car, seems like a ploy to disguise what this really is. Unknowingly, people will be diverting tax dollars to a private school voucher program instead of paying taxes that could otherwise support needy children in public schools.
During the 2016-17 school year, Florida corporations were allowed to divert $539 million to the Florida Tax Scholarship program to 1,733 participating Florida private and religious schools. No standards or accountability required.
I can’t understand why the Legislature keeps channeling our tax dollars away from our public schools when our need is so great and their duty is so paramount.
In a time when public schools are in such need, diverting more tax dollars to private schools that are not accountable to them makes no sense to me. Aren’t public schools their primary responsibility?
If the House passes this bill, the message to public schools will be loud and clear: “You don’t respect us to look out for the very students we are pledged to protect and educate.”
Our public schools need financial support and real solutions, not a new $40 million car registration gimmick disguised as hope.
Rosanne Wood is a member of the Leon County School Board and was the principal of SAIL High School for 32 years.
Here I am proposing a Magnet School/Choice Task Force to the Superintendent and School Board.
Americans love choice; walk through the cereal or toothpaste aisle at any store if you’re not convinced. All parents want the very best for their children. Many are willing to make sacrifices of money and convenience to enroll their child in what they perceive as the best available school. The fact that this year Leon County Schools had nearly 3,700 new choice requests for a school outside of their home-zoned school proves this point. Another 1,000 parents are homeschooling their children and 5,000 are choosing our 41 private schools, not including FAMU or FSU Developmental Research Schools.
There are many good reasons people choose a school other than their zoned school, such as work proximity, special programs, religion and tradition. There are also very ill informed reasons caused by misleading school grades, rumor mill, prejudice and misconceptions.
Often schools are too busy dealing with what they are doing to effectively market themselves and create new programs. It’s up to us in the Leon County School District to help them. To do this right, we’ll need help from the business community, developers, realtors and the City and County governments to help us make every school a good choice and an informed choice.
My Proposal–Include a wide-range of stakeholders to:
- Map out a long-range vision/plan to make all schools attractive to a broad socio-economic mix of students.
- Provide district support to existing magnet schools and programs and create new attractive, dynamic K-12 magnet programs in targeted schools.
- Design a marketing campaign to better inform parents of new and existing Leon County School options to those who are choosing to attend private, home, charter and public schools outside their school zone.