FSC Professor Larry Ross Wants Your Tax Money For His Underachieving Fake Private School

Physics Class, mods 19/20

The Ledger published a simpering and funny ode to the greatness of charter schools on Thursday. It focused almost completely on McKeel. It’s almost like somebody’s been saying mean things about predatory charters, and McKeel decided to get its story out in a forum where it knew no one would question it.

Here’s my favorite part, the story’s definition of a charter school:

Charter schools are tuition-free public schools that are allowed to be more innovative while being held accountable for improved student achievement. Data released by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools came from state departments of education, charter school support organizations and resource centers.

Let’s try a thought experiment. Assume for a second you were assigned to write a feature about Billy Townsend. Could you get away with this paragraph?

Billy Townsend is a man in the prime of life, who stands 6-4, with rippling stomach muscles. He is known for his incisive wit, good charity toward mankind, and his way with the ladies. Data on Billy Townsend came from his wife–on a good day.

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Anyway, I’ve been making the case for a while now that the McKeel Empire exists solely as a way for the parents of relatively rich kids to pretend they send their precious youngsters to a mediocre private school–on your dime. Along comes McKeel Board Member Larry Ross, a (presumably) tenured professor of business at Florida Southern College to confirm it.

Explaining the appeal of charters, The Ledger story said this:

Ross said that also contributing to the growth trend are continuing parental frustration in the existing systems and a poor economy that makes it difficult for many families to afford to pay for private schools.

Which families do you think Florida Southern College business professor Larry Ross is talking to? Where do you think they live?

Now admittedly, the statement above was a paraphrase. Please, Larry, if Mary Toothman inaccurately paraphrased you, I’m easy to reach. We’ll fix it. But absent error, I’m amazed at how little coding this statement contains. He pretty much comes right and says it.

Larry also notes, for good measure and in a real quote, that predatory charters are a partisan project.

“We have got in Florida a ­Republican-controlled Legislature, looking for an alternative to the traditional public education model, which a lot of people think is broken,” he said. “And we have a number of legislators who have been able to sponsor and usher through very favorable charter legislation.”

I demonstrated last week, with actual data and analysis, that wealthy elementary schools in Polk County, especially wealthy charters and the McKeel Empire, far underperform on the FCAT what their student body makeup predicts they should score. (Lakeland Montessori, where my son attends, is the only real exception.) Larry Ross and his McKeel buddies want to expand this mediocrity elsewhere.

I also demonstrated, with actual data and analysis, that the poorer schools, especially traditional schools, over-perform. This is what is supposedly “broken.” The only thing broken is our local and state elite’s sense of decency and honesty.

On Monday, I’ll show you, with actual data and analysis, that an identical pattern holds true for the state of Florida as a whole. St. Johns County, Florida’s richest, also comes in as its worst performer compared to what its free and reduced population predicts. Gilchrist County, of all places, is the most overperforming.

Of course, people like business professor Larry Ross will ignore this data. Because actual data on performance is irrelevant to a business professor on a predatory charter school’s board.

I’m going to try anyway. Come on, Larry. Weigh in on my data. You’re a rock-ribbed, data-loving entrepreneur. You’re the personification of elite around here. Surely you can refute me and put me in my place as a silly STEM-fearing liberal arts grad. Come on.

Oh well, that’s fine; silence never stopped me from writing. And McKeel is the only place I’m getting silence. Some pretty interesting folks have expressed interest in my data since I published it.

In the meantime, Ledger folks, I praised you up and down last week for your work on USFP. This included Mary Toothman and Glen Marston and Chuck McDanal’s editorial page. Bring that level of scrutiny to what the predatory charters are doing. You know it deserves it. You know it. I know all three of you, and I know you know this is at least as ridiculous as the USFP stuff. And primary public education directly affects far more people. You know all of this.

And here’s a note to the non-existent Florida Democratic Party and teacher unions: Predatory charters are a wedge issue if you can get people to understand them. People do recognize an unfair scam eventually. Start talking about them. Predatory Charters. Free, exclusive, underperforming private schools for rich kids–paid for with your money. This is easy language to use. And an easy argument to make. I’ve done the numbers for you. I’ll be doing more. Please steal from me.

If you make people understand predatory charters, they might well take down the rest of the charters with them. I don’t actually want that to happen, because I understand the difference between predatory charters and regular charters that want to do good. But most people don’t, and bad apples ruin the batch, as they say. The latter class of charters, like LMS and the Lake Wales Charter System, need to understand the difference, too. They’re going to have to decide how closely they want to align themselves with the predatory charters. Ultimately, even if the voters don’t come for the predators, the predators will come for them/us/you, too. That’s what predators do.

I hope you’ll tune in Monday, I’ll have charts and little arrows and little call-outs and all kind of STEMMY Excel stuff on display.

Until than, keep the word “scam” floating in your head.


Creative Commons License photo illustration credit: Anna Vignet

7 thoughts on “FSC Professor Larry Ross Wants Your Tax Money For His Underachieving Fake Private School

  1. Billy, I’m looking forward to the upcoming ‘STEMMY’ data. 
    -From a STEM grad with much love for the liberal arts.

  2. Billy, I’m looking forward to the upcoming ‘STEMMY’ data. 
    -From a STEM grad with much love for the liberal arts.

  3. Great job Billy. Maybe we can add The vindictive Senator J D Alexander to the list of elected officials who use their power to destroy our educational system for their own gratification.

  4. Thank you, Tom. I look forward to reading that and seeing if they make the distinction between the different types of charters and especially predatory charters. Thanks again. 

  5. Billy,

    I’ll admit that I haven’t taken time yet to dig through the data. Kudos to putting in the time you have to compile all of this, but I can’t agree or disagree in confidence at this point until I’ve really gone through everything you’ve put together. This isn’t something you just drive-by comment on, so I won’t.

    A point from the Herald article that interested me was the use of these management firms in South Florida. To my knowledge, the big charters in Polk County don’t use a management firm. Do you know if any do? I’m curious about that part, because they seem to really have done a number on the charter system in South Florida.

  6. I appreciate you taking it seriously, Brandt. You’re an intellectually honest guy. And I know it’s a lot of stuff. I don’t expect everyone to pick it up instantly. But it’s here now, and I hope you’ll take the time to work through–as time permits you– and point out any flaws in my analysis you see.

    I am not aware of any of the big for-profit managers working here. In fact, I think they turned one down recently. That’s a separate, but important, issue from what I’m writing about.

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