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MIAMI (CBS4) – When Governor Rick Scott visited Florida International Academy – a charter school –  in Opa Locka in January, he brought his special advisor on education, Michell Rhee, with him.

Rhee, the controversial former superintendent of the Washington DC school system, is a big believer in spending public money on privately-operated charter schools.

“Who are we to deny a child, a low income child, who has the opportunity to take the same dollars and actually get a better education?” Rhee asked.

The answer may in fact be that kids in charter schools aren’t getting a better education.

When it comes to the failure rate, charter Schools – operated at public expense by private companies – tanked on the 2011 FCAT.   And an explanation provided by a major charter school booster does not appear to make the grade.

The numbers, first reported by CBS4 News Tuesday, are striking:

Of Florida’s 2,280 public elementary and middle schools, only 17 scored an “F” on the FCAT.  Of the state’s 270 Charter elementary and middle schools, 15 flunked.

Charter schools had a failure rate 740% higher than that of public schools.

Charter school boosters were working damage control Wednesday.

“Traditionally, they (the charters that failed) were in failing school neighborhoods,” said Representative Erik Fresen, a Miami Republican who sits on several education committees and is a strong supporter of charter schools.

Fresen said that a rule that requires charter schools to give the FCAT in their first year of operation accounts for most of the failure rate.

“They started as an “F” because they inherited, essentially, “F” performing students,” Fresen said.

Fresen’s defense, however, does not appear to wash.

CBS4’s analysis of the 15 charter schools that failed show at least nine have administered the test for at least two years.  Some saw their grades plunge from an “A” to an “F.”  At least two had back-to-back “F” grades, including Broward Community Charter Middle School and Lawrence Academy Elementary Charter School in Miami-Dade.

Fresen, whose sister and brother-in-law own a charter school management company, Academica, said he sees no conflict between that and his leadership role in education in the legislature.

“It certainly provides me a different perspective…that others perhaps don’t have,” Fresen said.  “But it certainly doesn’t influence the politics one way or the other.”

At least five companies involved in charter school management contributed the maximum allowable donation to Fresen’s most recent election campaign.

Democratic state lawmakers say the explosion of publicly-funded, privately-operated schools is a growing drain on the public education system.

“People need to get out of the business of profiting from public education,” said Rep. Dwight Bullard of Miami.

Rep. Luis Garcia, a Little Havana Democrat, agreed.

“The present policies that….state government is taking seem to be attacking public education in favor of for-profit – to the extreme,” Garcia said.

CBS4 News Producer Jeremy Jacobson contributed to this report.

Comments (20)
  1. UckTheFunions says:

    What about instead?: Unions need to get out of the business of profiting from public education., Charter Schools are meantto break the mold of Unionized teachers where good or bad teachers are treated the same. We need to disband the unions and keep the good teachers and fire all the teachers that suck. Just like it happens in real life.

    1. Mike S. says:

      What does your reply have to do with the article itself… nothing!…I’m a public school teacher, not in the unio, and my students did great on FCAT!…Charter schools are becoming to be big business and Rick Scott just wants to put money in the pockets of his friends…Do I need to spell it out for you…Wake up Miami…Wake up Florida! Hell is coming!

    2. David says:

      Of course the states with the highest performing schools are also the most unionized in the nation.

      The fact is, unions protect good teachers and they are not the least bit interested in protecting poor teachers. If there is a poor teacher left in the system it is due to administrators who are unable, or unwilling, to articulate a reason the teacher should be fired.

      As for real life, during the period of this nation’s highest standard of living and when the middle class actually existed, we were highly unionized. Now, with the death of unions, CEO wages have increased over 300% at the same time workers wages have remained stagnant.

      The unions, while not perfect, are far from the problem.

  2. lmmd says:

    fresen needs to step down. How he cannot fathom a conflict of interest when his family owns a number of charter schools is just amazing!

  3. tim says:

    ms. rhee, you are such a waste of office space. YOU cannot deny nor provide an educatio0n for any student, low income or not. All you can do is play out your role as a minority hire and hopefully, eventually, you will fade away.

  4. depi says:

    Unions are not in the business of keeping bad teachers; they’re in the business of making sure all teachers are treated fairly. There is a difference. If a teacher is a lousy teacher (not that many left that I see), an administrator has slipped up somewhere. Teachers in most districts can be let go for no reason given during the first three years of their employment. This is where most who aren’t suited to the career disappear. As for the article — no surprise there. Diane Ravitch has already written of a study that found 1/6 of charter schools perform better than the surrounding public schools, 1/3 did worse, and scored about the same.

  5. depi says:

    Unions are not in the business of keeping bad teachers; they’re in the business of making sure all teachers are treated fairly. There is a difference. If a teacher is a lousy teacher (not that many left that I see), an administrator has slipped up somewhere. Teachers in most districts can be let go for no reason given during the first three years of their employment. This is where most who aren’t suited to the career disappear. As for the article — no surprise there. Diane Ravitch has already written of a study that found 1/6 of charter schools perform better than the surrounding public schools, 1/3 did worse, and half scored about the same.

  6. Joe S. says:

    While union busting may be one goal of Florida’s legislature and governor, the primary goal of the charter school push is not education, but pure profit. This is a business built on diverting public funds to private companies and legislation created by Erik Fresen and signed by Gov. Scott basically strips any control of these schools from local government.

    Everyone in South Florida needs to wake up and realize that it is now very easy for one these for-profit companies to suddenly open up in your neighborhood, next to your house, and you may have no power to stop it, control the size, or control the traffic. Just ask your neighbors in The Roads, Coral Gables, South Miami, the Redlands, and Miami Lakes.

  7. JRayn says:

    I am not familiar with all parts of the FCAT, but I used to be employed with a company that administered the practice FCAT essay section and graded thousands of essays…. I found the FCAT requirements/priorities to be quite disturbing. Creativity, grammar, spelling, legibility are not what students are graded on in the essay portion. A very creative student with superior language skills cold easily flunk the FCAT if they did not follow the correct protocol. There is a specific organization, certain key words that must be used, (transitional words)… I thought the essay rules were absolutely ridiculous! If a student was not trained to write an essay that is specifically meant for FCAT, there is a good chance that student would fail. I wouldn’t say that is the fault of the educational program, because the program could be focused on other things that the educators may consider to be more important! Generally, in public schools, teachers have to set aside time specifically to teach the students how to take FCAT tests, thus the creation of my previous employer who administers “practice FCAT tests”….. If the rest of the FCAT is anything like the essay portion, I wouldn’t count it against a school. There should be accountability in a charter school. Standardized tests are not the answer!

  8. Daniel Kulas says:

    “They started as an “F” because they inherited, essentially, “F” performing students,” Fresen said.

    Sooo….did she just call everyone at the school dumb? Or they are all a failure?

    1. LOL says:

      The problem is they are not dealing with REALity. They are masking the problems with this “charter” school alterntive, but they are NOT dealing with the real problems. Instead, they are blaming teachers for something they can’t fix overnight. In addition, some of the problems are caused by teachers.

  9. Teacher86 says:

    I love how peole who are invested in charter schools can think of every excuse in the book for why their students are not performing and people continue to dump money into them. However, when a public school is struggling due to some of the same factors it is automatically due to bad teachers. I teach in a very low income and extremely challenging area. Instead of helping us out with the vast challenges we face we are told we aren’t cutting it. Someone needs to teach these kids and we step up and give it our all every day. If a charter school thinks they can come in and get our students to perform better I would love to see it! (by the way our school has maintained a C for the last few years and given the obstacles we face that feels like an A !)

  10. proudlyleftbehind says:

    We need to give them more money. More money will help bring up their scores. We can hire better CEOs who will tell them how to allocate their resources to put more money into the the charter management companies and that will bring up the scores.
    BTW did you ever notice that even with all the anti-charter comments in these threads it makes not a bit of difference to your legislators. they just do whatever the he!! their corporate masters want them to do.

  11. John says:

    Convenient. When charter schools fail they blame the neighborhood. When a public school fails they blame the teachers.

  12. Teri Lopez says:

    That’s what happens when you have non educators opening up charter schools and hiring non-certified teachers to teach our students. Nonetheless, this is what the public wants well then let’s see how it feels now. Eventually, they will catch on and realize that it is just another new way for underdogs to get rich quicker and legally.

  13. prws says:

    Initially, I had placed my child in private school due to needing aftercare. The daycare and aftercare cost were competivie to placing her in a headstart center. The moment that the opportunity to transition my child to a charter school and give my family some financial I relief, I jumped at the opportunity to move my child out of the private school. Though initially I was very happy with my decision, after a close look at what was actually happening in my child’s classroom I changed my mind. As I walked in the classroom everyday, I discovered my first grader was reading to her peers on a daily basis. At first, this really impressed me. But by the third month of watching my child read and not being read to, I realized there were no resources to accommodate enrichment for her. Due to the fact that I am an educator as well, I realized that this was not the setting for my daughter. She needed to be in a settng where her needs could be met. The extended hours of this charter school were great but that was no exchange for great academics, variety and services. I hear parents say. “My daughter attends an A school.”. Parents need to do their homework and that consists of learning the school grading system and get a better understanding of the process. I realize that not everyone may have the resources and the options that it appears I had. The car I drove when my daughter was in the private setting, I continue to drive. She was four when the car was purchased. I continue to drive that car 14 years later and she entered the public school system in the fifth grade. My daughter is in college because of the fine public school education that recognized her great verbal and math skills. Fast forward, 100% Bright Futures, at least 1000 invitations to various colleges, and a totally paid for academic full ride to the college of her choice. I know in part, the public school sysem in Broward County is responsible for helping my family. GEM, AP Scholar, Debate, Duke. etc, are opportunities that Broward County Public School affords students and families. I am sure some charter schools are very good. I am also sure those are overcrowded. Parents have to get involved and not expect schools are going to do the work for us.

  14. LOL says:

    LOL “Lawmakers React To Charter School FCAT Failures” LOL

    Talk about egg all over their faces.

  15. Oleg says:

    and done, No Child Left Behind may cause the most dmgaae out of any of Bush’s initiatives, and that’s one Hell of a looooooooong list of disasters.Whodda thunk it?

  16. cookies please says:

    OMG! Who freaking cares! I have recently moved here from CALI! I am horrified with Florida’s school system. Florida is setting these kids to fail and making sure they dont continue to college. If they went to college they dont ask them how well they did in 3rd grade FCAT!
    Elementary school is suppose to prepare you for life. Teach as well as inspire. Music, sports, reading, math, dance, history, singing, acting. It builds imagination. It makes future doctors, nurses, singers, teachers, actors, scientist,
    My 9 year old is in 4th grade she has a friend who is 12 and in 4th grade. How can that feel good to the child, it surprises me how that parent doesnt put their foot down. By the time these kids reach High School they want to quit! I would too, the school never seems to end!!! Am I correct, you can stay in High School until 22??!! What is that about! That is 4 years wasted that could have been in college. No one cares HERE! I hope to leave in 2 years, I cannot stay in a state that 12 year olds still dont know how to hold a pencil, something taught in Kindergarden, or where kids are confused how they are suppose to act because they are not with their peers? Why is this okay!
    These LAWMAKERS need to go visist the schools and see that the basic is not taught to the kids, not that I think they would care. This is not life, this is not school. Florida is trying to prove something, not sure what? What they are making are kids that are 12 dont even know manners because in order to pass the FCAT they dont have time,to teach the basic, yes please, no please, thankyou and washing their hands, skipping, small and large motor skills all taught throughout the years in elementary, mostly Kindergarden in California.
    FCAT has no time for a breaks and to play, recess and PE. Carnivals to raise money, PTA planning parties and dances. These kids in Florida if they are in a public or charter school dont know the great memories made in elementary school. I wish the private schools would lower their fees so all the public schools would empty out. Homeschool is a big option and recommended if you cant afford private schools. I am pretty sure these lawmakers have nice school day memories!!!! It really breaks my heart.

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