Time For The Stop Charter School Cheating Act


It seems Scott Lake Elementary has joined the chorus of snooty Lakelanders trying to seize taxpayer-constructed public buildings for their “private” schools.

Now, I have long considered the state’s school grading system stupid and more or less rigged–the formula for grading changes every year, according to political need–but Scott Lake has been an “A” school for the last couple of years. Obviously, it’s failing miserably under the collectivist leadership and management of the School District.

Here’s the money euphemism:

Wizda said Thursday that faculty members are driving the change so they can have more instructional choices.

Riiiiiiigggghtttttt. Translation: We want to make our already easy kids easier to teach, make sure the unwashed don’t contaminate them, and then get rewarded for it.

Here are Scott Lake’s most recent enrollment demographics. Rounded, they are:

White: 63 percent
Black: 16 percent
Hispanic: 14 percent
Asian: 3 percent
Multi-racial: 5 percent

Economically Disadvantaged: 43 percent. The District number of “economically disadvantaged” is 63 percent and the state 53 percent. I think that phrase aligns with free or reduced lunch percentage, but I’m not certain.

I will bet my next Lakeland Local paycheck that if Scott Lake goes charter, its percentage of white and Asian students will steadily rise, and its percentage of black, Hispanic, and economically disadvantaged students will steadily fall. It will then host fancy trainings at the beach where its administration and faculty will sing in self-congratulation for creatively getting rid of kids that take a little more effort to teach, eerrrr, doing things differently than the traditional school system.

Memo to teachers unions, and their legislative allies: Rather than griping, understandably, about pay and pension and all of that, you should focus more narrowly on the cheating of charter schools. Introduce a bill that requires every conversion charter school to select an enrollment pool by lottery. Then that enrollment pool must then be pared down to match precisely the demographics of the wider district. And any student that leaves that school for any reason other than a family move or other such extenuating circumstance gets counted as a 1 on the FCAT. It’s time to stop rewarding failure. Now which one of you glibertarian government-school-haters would be against that? And give me an argument why? How about you, Seth McKeel? The legislature is done for the year, now. How about committing to sponsoring these rules next year. Wouldn’t that make for a nice gesture of educational solidarity? Please respond here in comments.

And rest assured, I’m going to ask you about it when you and Adam Putnam and I sit down to talk. Remember, I bought you guys a while back. Please, executive assistants/chiefs of staff, please email me at townsend@lakelandlocal.com to set up the date.

I have zero problem with charter schools that don’t cheat and don’t brag. And as the parent of a child in a charter school, I would happily live under those rules. Would you, gentle reader? Why not?

Creative Commons License photo illustration credit: Tom Hagerty for Lakeland Local

32 thoughts on “Time For The Stop Charter School Cheating Act

  1. So put the decisions in the hands of the parent like New Orleans did. They use the “backpack” funding model where the money goes with the kids. The parents can choose to put their children into any school in the district.  They’ve got more reduced lunch kids than before Katrina and they’ve made a huge comeback from their old “bottom of the barrel” achievement position. They’re heavily charter now, but there are still regular public schools and everyone has to compete for the same kids in order to get the funding. All the funding is still Public, it’s just portable according to the desires of the parents.

    School choice is winning all around the country, it’s time to get with the “change”. Teaching our kids is not an assembly line process and schools need to be free to innovate and serve the students, not the old-line management.

  2. Just incapable of actually answering the question you are asked. Sigh. Lemme ask this very slowly: Do you think charter schools should be made to account for the kids they dump? It’s yes or no.

  3. Your demographic lottery wizardry would be completely unnecessary. Parents should choose the schools for their children based on the needs and desires of the family, not some arbitrary and capricious gambling system. 

    If there were a truly free market, with a profit motive, in education the parents would enjoy any number of positive choices. Look at all the choices available to us in any area of commodity that is not tightly controlled by the government monopoly. How many varieties of bagels or cuts of meat do you find at Publix? How many varieties of automobile are available to meet your needs? Cell phone carriers? Computers? Clothing?  Education is no different. It’s a service like any other. There are consumers and there are providers. Where a free market exists, entrepreneurs will generate choices for consumers as the ability to profit brings them into that market. It’s simple economics and it works everywhere that it’s allowed to.  Market competition drives down costs and increases choices. Is it Utopian? Certainly not, but Utopia isn’t an option for anyone.Did you know that you could take your child’s middle school and high school education completely online in Florida, for free? http://www.flvs.net/Pages/default.aspx

    • Can’t answer the question. You’re talking about unicorns; I’m talking about the world as it exists, which is the difference between us. I ask again, real slow: “Should charter be held accountable for kids they dump?” 

      • Yes, they should lose the funding for any child that leaves the school for any reason.

        Your class warfare, racism tinged, rant aside, maybe there are better instructional choices available. 

        Stop beating around the bush and just say it. You apparently believe the school is simply doing this to force the poor Black kids out to setup an environment that favors only the rich White kids. The Racists are in charge at Scott Lake Elementary and they’re dying for a chance to run the inferiors out on a rail. 

        The poor Black and Hispanic kids do better in choice districts too.

        Unicorns are real my friend, and they’re popping up in education all over the country.

        • Hey, there’s the start of answer. Progress. But I’m not just talking about funding, I’m talking about record keeping and how they are able to sell themselves with scores. Should they be penalized on ratings/grades etc. for getting rid o kids or failing to reach them. I think they should, do you?

          And concerning your desperate lying about what I wrote — that’s what you do, so I expect it — will you simply take the bet I offered? It’s only based on the well-documented statistical facts of McKeel. Do you question that the kids McKeel dumps are poorer than the ones it keeps? Again, simple yes or no question.

  4. I know you’re not talking about funding. You want to punish the school for not living up to your progressive vision of educational Utopia.

    Education is too complex a subject to be centrally planned. A market based, self-organized structure would provide the best options to everyone and take into consideration all the real-world resource constraints without pitting us against one another in a vain grasp for control of that centralized power.

    In my vision of perfection, it would all be privately funded too. However, I accept that is extremely unlikely in our country today. So be it. Fund the schools publicly by putting the money in the kid’s backpack and let the competitive market serve the needs of education consumers just as it does so ably in other areas of our lives.

    • Three paragraphs of avoidance. I am completely uninterested in your vision of perfection–or your visions generally. I want to know if schools should be rewarded or penalized for getting rid of the kids they fail to teach? Yes or no. Why are you afraid to answer simply?

      • Turn it around Billy. If the school has failed to teach a child, why would a parent want to leave their child there? 

        And just how is it you would “force” them to do something you seem to believe they are incapable of in the first place? But wait, hasn’t Scott Lake been an rated A school these last few years? What, are they only testing the “easy” to teach kids?Your entire rant is predicated on your negative perceptions of people’s motives. You won’t even confess your true feelings and motivations here. I bet they’d sound just as ugly in public as they do in your own mind. Take off the mask Billy, or are you afraid people will finally  understand you for the reactionary Leftist you appear to be?

        • You can’t answer. Amazing. What a goofball you are. Dude, it’s not hard. Yes or no. And whatever the hell a reactionary leftist is in your addled brain, I’m happy to be it if if gives you a figment of superiority to cling to. 

          • Just say it straight out Billy…

            What – Do – You – Think – Is – Really – Going – On?

            Why do you think this is about ejecting students? 

            What proof do you offer? 

            It’s not about “failure”, they’re already an A school.

            I believe you’re the one being dishonest here. It seems to me you’re hiding your real motivations.

  5. Let’s see. I tweeted yesterday that “another wealthy Lakeland school wants get rid of its riff raff.” How you can’t get that from the post you’ve spraying graffiti on is beyond me. It starts with this: “It seems Scott Lake Elementary has joined the chorus of snooty Lakelanders trying to seize taxpayer-constructed public buildings for their “private” schools.” And I’ve only been writing posts with “class warfare” in the title for weeks. So yes, I’m obviously being cryptic about what I mean. You won’t acknowledge any of this because you are intellectual coward.

    And I’m asking Chuck now to formally ban you based on your willful obstuseness and filibustering. He won’t because he’s more of an absolutist than I am. But I want it on the record. You are a dishonest buffon, who can’t answer very simple question and adds nothing to this place but clutter. Every time I respond to you it hurts Lakeland Local, so I will never do it again.  

  6. I refuse to answer your question because to do so would mean I accept the underlying premise. I do not.

    How can I be filibustering, you still get to talk. Right? 

    Obtuse? Maybe, or maybe it’s just that I don’t agree with you much, and that’s just a point of view. 

  7.  How can answering a question mean you accept the underlying premise? That makes no sense.

    • Here’s Billy’s question:
      “I want to know if schools should be rewarded or penalized for getting rid of the kids they fail to teach?” To answer that question you have to accept that first there are kids the school fails to teach and second that those kids are targeted for dismissal from the school. A simple yes or no to the question of punishment accepts both premises as true.

      • The reality of the world is there are “kids the school failed to teach.” It has happened since there have been schools in every place on the planet there have been schools.

        In that subset there is Polk County. In a sub-set of Polk County is McKeel. Billy postulated that McKeel failed to teach select students. He made a compelling case in another commentary. If you want to argue that point, you’d need to present facts from that case study. The one forming the basis of this argument.

        Without presenting any facts that McKeel did not drop those select students, then your argument would have to accept that point as a given. 

        Once you are talking about the same set of students at the same school, you’d be able to agree on the demographics of those students. It would be a simple matter to see the race and/or poverty level of those students. Then you could agree on the makeup of the students no longer attending McKeel.

        However, all that is simply background to the question “Do you think charter schools should be made to account for the kids they dump?”

        I wouldn’t accept that as a “yes or no” question either, but it is a question anyone who has looked at the issue could answer. And if you haven’t looked at the issue, why comment at all? (I can answer that: because one who comments without knowledge is speaking on faith and propaganda alone.)

        So, let’s end this thread. We know Billy believes the formula for judging charter schools should include a penalty for those students that they attempt to teach, but fail to do so. He also believes charter schools accept students through a lottery and have their schools reflect the local population demographics.

        Do you agree with either statement?

        • I completely disagree with the premise of question one. I’ve looked at Billy’s commentary and primary source information. I don’t agree that these schools are “dumping” “hard to teach” children. The use of the word “dumping” in this context is simply pejorative and inflammatory. More than half of the students who depart, other than through graduation, are withdrawn by the parents, not ejected by the schools. Parents and their children who attend these schools commit in writing to comply with academic performance and behavior guidelines. Certainly, some are asked to leave when they can’t meet the performance or behavioral standards. Why is that wrong? What’s wrong with high standards and having expectations that they be met? Charter schools have specific performance requirements as part of their contracts and are far more accountable than regular public schools. If a particular child requires twice the resources for the given material, that probably isn’t the right setting for them anyway. That’s one of the primary reasons for forming these charter schools. Why slow a class down the level of the poorest performer and leave all the best performers unchallenged? We are not all equal in capability and are not capable of equal outcomes regardless of the inputs. Children who are challenged emotionally or simply through lower intelligence should get the help they need, and we all pay for public schools to do that. In public schools the challenged kids are identified and taught by staff trained to deal with them. I live next door to one of those teachers and discuss these issues with her. My father’s late wife was another example. She taught in Hillsboro public schools and her class was pretty much the last stop before juvy or drop out. Let the high performers perform and have a safety net for those who can’t.

          I have to deal with this in my daughter’s private school. A number of parents have chosen to mainstream their autistic and emotionally challenged kids. I see these kids struggling and I see the staff unprepared to deal with it. These children require a disproportionate amount of attention from the teachers to deal with their issues and are performing at the very bottom of the class. I feel bad for the kids because there are educational settings that are tailored to their specific challenges (and free scholarships to pay for it) and the kids could go a lot further, but it seems the parents are unwilling to accept that their children need the help. Those kids suffer, my kid gets a reduced educational experience, who’s winning?

          His second question regarding a lottery selection is simply uninformed. Florida Statute 1002.33(10)(b) already provides a random selection process for charter school applicants:“(b) The charter school shall enroll an eligible student who submits a timely application, unless the number of applications exceeds the capacity of a program, class, grade level, or building. In such case, all applicants shall have an equal chance of being admitted through a random selection process.” http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/filestores/web/statutes/fs07/CH1002/Section_1002.33.HTM

          • “His second question regarding a lottery selection is simply uninformed. ” 

            Good try, but keep reading. Make sure you get at least to Fla. Stat. sec. 1002.33(10)(d)(5) before you stop.  

  8. That just defines who’s in the random selection:

    5. Students who meet reasonable academic, artistic, or other eligibility standards established by the charter school and included in the charter school application and charter or, in the case of existing charter schools, standards that are consistent with the school’s mission and purpose. Such standards shall be in accordance with current state law and practice in public schools and may not discriminate against otherwise qualified individuals.

    Nothing in there about socioeconomic status and that’s likely against Florida law anyway,  right?

    I see the markedly lower percentage of kids in the various McKeel schools who are on reduced or free lunch. What do you think is more likely the largest contributor to that:

     1. A conspiracy on the part of the charter school management to exclude such children?
     2. Lack of involvement by the parents in applying for their kids? (applications are not automatic)
     3. Something else?

    Number two seems the simpler explanation to me. I’m betting the kids that are in those schools that are part of the free or reduced lunch program have motivated parents who are involved and striving for their children to have better circumstances than the parents have. Bravo!

    •  “That just defines who’s in the random selection.”

      If this is your attempt at logic, then I have nothing further to gain from engaging with you. 

      • Is it true or not, that from the pool of applicants who meet the criteria agreed upon in the school’s charter (you know, the one agreed to by the school, the parents, and the school board) that those applicants are chosen at random?

        For generations now our schools have been mired in mediocrity. Education in this county has devolved into an assembly line, mass produced product, that has failed to teach our children. Whatever the flaws might be with the Florida Charter system, it is at least an attempt to allow those capable of performing to experience a good education that just might prepare them for life and do so without the thugs or those mired in a culture of non-achievement. Sadly, there will always be some kids that due to intellectual, emotional, or medical reasons will be on the left side of the achievement bell curve. That’s just the vagaries of life. In the absence of responsible parents who had prepared for that eventuality, I will happily support a safety net for those kids and give them the best chance in life they can get.

        The one serious failing I see in our Charter system is that while the law says it encourages charters to take on “at risk” populations, the accountability standards don’t appear to allow for that. To many underachievers and bang, no charter. It certainly leaves them open to specious charges.

        • “Is it true or not, that from the pool of applicants who meet the criteria agreed upon in the school’s charter (you know, the one agreed to by the school, the parents, and the school board) that those applicants are chosen at random?” 

          I refuse to answer your question because to do so would mean I accept the underlying premise. I do not.

          • I recognize that this has been a contentious and combative thread for me, but it has also been a serious and honest one. 

            Within the limits of my admittedly non-lawyer understanding of the statute, I believe I am correct. Whether or not that satisfies someone’s sense of social justice is another matter altogether.

          • You are correct, the random sample comes from those that are otherwise “qualified.” But THAT’S NOT THE ISSUE.

            The issue is that charter schools are permitted to select the best students, drop students if they fail to maintain the academic standards, and then, as alleged by Billy, those schools brag about how good they are. Billy’s point is simply that it’s apples and oranges. You can’t allow a charter school to only take the best students (or a random subset of the best students), then allow the school to drop those students who do not do well, and then compare the school to the public schools. Billy’s question is, wouldn’t it be better if the school were required to include the students that they drop in their numbers?

            From there, you ignore the simple logic of all of this respond obtusely and argumentatively that you reject the premise of the question, and then launch into one of your usual diatribes about how your grand philosophy is better than everyone else’s grand philosophy. Your comment, “”That just defines who’s in the random selection,” just about proves Billy’s point – the random sample really isn’t random. You seem oblivious. 

            You have just about reached the point where no one (my included) wants to talk to you here anymore because you always have the same drum to beat. 

            I have the utmost respect for you as a person, I just think I have more productive things to do than engage with you anymore. 

  9. At the risk of being flamed, let me point out that the traditional public school system  (flawed though it is) is probably among the most important institutions in the country.  For a whole bunch of cultural reasons that have more to do with collective lack of responsibility/accountability and refusal of large segments of the population to think/act like adults, public education has become the whipping boy of a growing segment who are all too willing to throw out the baby with bah water.

    What we clearly ought to be doing is putting our efforts into fixing what’s wrong with the system and improving education for all of our kids — not in undermining  what used to be the underpinning of the middle class with idiotic diversions of resources to help small elite groups.  Public education ought to provide a basic education for all.  If someone wants the frills of  a private school, they should have them — at private expense.

    But, our first (educational) priority as a society ought to be to assure a basic level of education for all of our kids that will enable them to be competitive and productive.  Of course that’s hard — for parents who refuse to take responsibility; for teachers and administrators — and certainly for politcians who dogmatically oppose anything that involves the government (except, of course, their own pay and perks).

    Since we refuse to buckle down and fix the system, we’re falling farther and farther behind the rest of the developed world every year while while we undercut the very system that allowed us to highest standard of living on the face of the earth.  Florida and Polk County seem determined to win the race to dead last in educational effectiveness.

    If we’re really that stuck-on-stupid, we deserve the third world country that we’re all too quickly descending in to.  And, when the time comes, we will deserve to have our nursing homes run by “professionals” brought up with home/private school junk science rather than the hard science of the real world.

  10. We have skeptics sipping the tainted educational Kool-Aid served by Rick Scott, concocted by the self-appointed education czar Jeb Bush.  You know Jeb, he and his overly large noggin introduced the state to tuition vouchers, school grades based on FCAT testing and other overreaching and under delivering educational reforms.  There was mention of the New Orleans School System and the backpack funding model better known in Louisiana as the Hollywood model.  The Hollywood Model refers to what happens on a movie set.  The producer is given a budget and they manage the film based on that budget but most of the time the film goes over the limit and then the producer must go before the parent company and request additional funding.    According to a study done by Tulane University, there were 10,600 students in New Orleans direct‐run and charter schools in October 2010. This is an 87% reduction from the number of students served a decade and a half ago. The Tulane study also mentions that those that can afford to go to private school go to private school. A University of Houston study indicates that the Houston school system swelled by over 5,000 students after Hurricane Katrina and those numbers held steady four years after the storm.  The study also states that the Houston school system experienced an influx of behavior problems.  The research into one of the greatest child migrations US history shows that the infusion of some so-called “bad apples” — low achievers with disciplinary problems from Louisiana — resulted in higher rates of absenteeism, suspensions and expulsions among native Houston students.
    The Tulane study outlines the demographic shift in public schools including charter schools.  Approximately 65% of the population in New Orleans is African-American and the make-up of public schools is closer to 95% African-American.  There are skeptics that question whether or not the charter schools can support themselves without additional state and the federal dollars that have been pumped into the system since Hurricane Katrina. So, we have the New Orleans school system as a model where some of the poorest and lower functioning students left the system, there is little or no diversity in the classroom and there is the long-term funding issue – then we have the fuzzy vision of Governor Rick Scott where every parent would be given public education money to spend on whatever education system they believe in, whether it’s public school or private school or private school with public school monies but that is an entirely new spirited debate.   

  11. Hi and welcome. Don’t remember seeing you comment here before.

    Respectfully, I would say that such hypothetical kids as you cite have always existed in our schools. I sat next to them, too, although the level of disruption varies.

    However, you are answering a question that I didn’t ask. I’m not asking what should be done with those children, which is the most difficult question in education. I’m asking how they should be accounted for in an educational world obsessed with numbers and measurement. 

    Should charter schools be able to write them off and force regular schools to eat them, in an accounting sense? Do charters have no responsibility for them? If so, is that any different, in an accounting sense, than getting a government bailout?

  12.  “For generations now our schools have been mired in mediocrity. Education in this county has devolved into an assembly line, mass produced product, that has failed to teach our children. ”  skepticalenlighment
    Since this quote is your premise on schools, then you have fallen in the first trap of the Regan era.  If one looks at the data prior to 1983 one would see a dismal dropout rate, 50% graduation rate and perhaps a little higher SAT rate since access to public education was limited.   Before one starts to argue, go way back before WWII and an 8th grade education was good enough…One must remember in the 80”””s,70″s, 60″s etc you could work at General  Motors, Ford, go in the military at 16, find work in the mines, groves etc. 
    Billy recently wrote the article on wrting scores as it relates to public and charter schools in Polk County and these results pretty well match the data nationally…Private schools and Charter schools rarely out perform any school whose clientle is matched by similar demographics…..
    Most adults today would not be successful on the tests their children are taking as tjhey have ramped up the test items to a much higher level. 
    But lets not let the facts cloud our Fox News reports.

    • I’m always skeptical of anonymous contributors. And I certainly wish we could find answers for Florida’s sad education system. I don’t see any real answers coming from Tallahassee.

      •  I think, Terry, one of the answers is to realize that the vast majority of parents — something like 70 to 80 percent — are satisfied with their kid’s school. It other people’s schools we love to slag off on for human reasons of superiority, spitefulness, whatever. And I’m certainly not immune to that. 

        But there are very few human institutions with that level of approval. And I think it’s wrong to refer to “Florida’s sad education system.” That’s pernicious abstraction even if you don’t mean it that way. We need to talk as specifically as we can about issues and realize that none will even be resolved to a point that even a consensus will agree upon. We should start with that and then realize that education carries no magic answers for addressing the other 25 percent. It’s the accrual of millions of daily particles of interaction. We need to work, as non-ideologically as possible, on maximizing the quality of those interactions.

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