The simplest definition of school vouchers is that they are generally state-funded money or scholarships that give opportunities for students to choose from various private schools. In most cases, funding for school vouchers comes from our taxes resulting in less tax money for our public schools. However, as we will be hearing of shortly, this funding scenario is not always the case. Under the new Trump administration arguments will be made that the vouchers will not touch our tax base. We must be weary of this promise especially when we reflect on what occurred to public schools in New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans went almost all private charter resulting in their public schools going downhill in educational quality and in student enrollment. Is that what we want?
Let’s take a close look first at the history of government support in education. The movement began in 1955 after economist Milton Friedman’s paper: “The Role of Government in Education”. This paper influenced efforts to use public dollars to pay private school tuition in hopes that competition among schools will lead to increased student achievement and decreased education costs. In 2001, Florida enacted the John M. McKay Scholarships Program for Students with Disabilities. We became the first state to offer private school vouchers to students with disabilities. Later, under Jim Hamilton, we would open a public charter school for those with disabilities plus those in a low–income area. Later in 2011, Indiana created the nation’s first state-wide school voucher program for low income students.
Arguments for Private School Vouchers:
Private schools will be in competition to gain “customers”. In so doing, they will be forced to either improve or risk losing students and the funding tied to those students. Private schools, by their simplistic accountability system, will have more flexibility in staffing, budgeting, curriculum, and academic standards than public schools. Thus, we are dealing with a true market economy where private school franchises will be appearing and competing with each other.
Arguments against Private School Vouchers:
The central argument is that shifting a handful of students from a public school into private schools will not decrease what the public school must pay for teachers and facilities. However, funding for those costs will decrease as students leave. Also there is the important question and concern of how accountable are these “new” types of schools and to who they are accountable to. Then there is the argument that government incentives to attend private religious schools are violating the separate of church and states.
What the Research Says:
When voucher students are compared to public school students, voucher recipients have performed at the same level on reading and math assessments. (Study Center on Education Policy’s review.) However, there are gains made among low income and minority students who receive vouchers. Other research (Milwaukee and Racine County Parental Choice Programs) found a slight improvement in student graduation from high school than their public school counterparts.
Data is still in question since many researchers say improvements may have come from individual school reforms vs. being just being a voucher funded school.
As a policy maker I must make sure our Hillsborough County Public School District has the resources to adequately educate every child. I will question that vouchers will weaken our existing School Choice programs with less funds due to tax money paying for these vouchers; be it on State and/or Federal level.
Meanwhile, Hillsborough County Public Schools have developed “School Choice” programs which serve the needs of all student demographics including those of low income and/or disabilities, plus the many intellectual and physical levels. In a nutshell; many of these Choice schools are diverse in so many ways that the need for “private schools” is easily matched with the “School Choice” program we offer.
Educators and parents need to understand that there are three huge predictors of why kids drop out of school.
I am a teacher of 9th grade students in a “regular” learning level or average level of study. In this case it is in Algebra, which as we know is a sequential learning subject; meaning one lesson builds upon the next lesson – literally. Math is also a core academic course required for graduation.
The parents come from Columbia and want their child, Matthew, to visit their hometown and does so each holiday break. Instead of taking two weeks, the family stays three weeks missing the first week of the new semester. Math is a weak subject for their child and now with Algebra, Matthew cannot keep up with his new equations upon returning. The “homework” was provided by the teacher for the holidays however, his family really does not know how to do this “new” Math. Along comes the first big Math test of the semester and Matthew fails. Then the State Assessment Tests role around, and his lack of Math skills lower his overall grade. It did not help that Matthew also had a record of misbehavior. His frustration turned to anger and he would now talk back to teachers and come in “tardy” for his Math class and other classes.
Mid-way through 9th grade, Matthew is fully frustrated and has learned to dislike school. He frequently tells his parents he does not feel good and needs to stay home. Plus Matthew now begins hanging around friends who also have learning challenges and many have openly stated they wanted to quit school. Matthew’s continual misbehavior eventually led to suspension.
There is the cycle: absenteeism leads to course failure, which gradually leads to behavior problems. Matthew will probably drop out of school is this cycle continues. Now let’s bring in interventions to turn this around.
Taken in part from: Child Trends DATABANK – High School Dropout Rates, November 2015
9th grade example provided by Lynn Gray – B.A., M.S.
The Hillsborough County school system is long overdue for executing a study such as what the Gibson Consulting Group did. This should have been one of the priorities of our district personnel and School Board members. It is a fact that each School Board member has a strong knowledge base of what educational needs our students have. They also should play a key role in the operations of our district. Operations include knowing how to allocate expenditures and to oversee that those expenses are fair, equitable, and will protect the quality of education.
Further, each board member must know what expenditures to cut. Reducing air conditioning is an example of not cutting the right capital expenditure. Children will not learn in stifling hot temperatures, nor can teachers teach effectively. Keep in mind many schools are aging and may have challenges with maintaining optimal air conditioning.
There is an urgent need to return our reserve funds and other deficits to an acceptable level. Returning our reserve funds can be resolved with a direct fiscal response beyond those mentioned in the Gibson report. A suggestion is to cut the district’s higher level employees within a two year period by 40%. Currently there are 91 employees earning more than $100,000 a year, for a total of $10.5 million.
The discussion of cutting teachers and educational resource personnel is not acceptable. As a teacher for decades, I spent more than 10-12 hours per day trying to take care of 5-6 classes which had an excess of 25 or more students. Teachers now have yet another challenge requiring more of their time; that of making lesson plans which reflect the growing diversity inside their classrooms.
There is also a need for a “smarter” fix to the norm of continual school underfunding. I call it using “human resources”. The business community was my source of revenue when I needed to add textbooks, computers, school supplies, and fill tutoring needs. Years ago I called it a “business partnership”. Many of the tools teachers need to teach, including tutors can be met by asking a business to “adopt a school”, and further to “adopt a teacher”.
Our district can no longer wait until our legislative branch appropriates more money to schools and teachers. Nor can our district resolve this financial crisis without dramatic and urgent action; systematically planned and made transparent to all employees and unions. Lynn Gray, Tampa
What we do know about early learning in language development –*Facts:
Revising the duties of the Just Read, Florida! Office; revising requirements for school improvement plans and early warning systems; revising core curricula requirements for certain teacher preparation programs; requiring candidates for an educator certificate in certain areas to demonstrate competence in specified areas ...
A few strategies parents do naturally to facilitate early language development:
What teachers (certified/experienced) do to facilitate early language development:
CAUTION: Early literacy does NOT always mean or result in early reading and writing. Formal instruction which pushes infants and toddlers to achieve adult models of literacy such as the actual reading and writing of words IS NOT developmentally appropriate. If children meet reading and writing experiences with failure; this can damage the child’s association with reading, writing, and expression.
Ways to Facilitate Early Learning – Literacy Development throughout the
Hillsborough County Public School System
Lynn Gray, B.A., M.S.has been an educator for more than 26 years as well as a published author and Tampa area business owner. Remember Lynn Gray on election day, November 8! She is ready to serve on your School Board and advocate on behalf of educators, students and their families.
Educating “Barrier” Children - The Human Cost
Lynn Gray, B.A., M.S.
It is an expensive and comprehensive task to educate a child. A central goal of education is to have children become successful, productive and caring human beings. A key concern is to get every child to graduate from high school. However, many students today come to our schools with a tremendous amount of mental and/or physical barriers. These “barrier children” face challenges which can include one of more of the following: single parent households, parents who lack employment, lack of basic nutritional meals, living in high poverty areas, and not intellectually on grade level of reading and math skills. We know that half of these children do not attend pre-school and come to class ill-equipped to keep up with the intellectual progress of their classmates.
These barriers impact parts of the demographic groups attending our public schools today. It is not surprising that these students are less likely to complete high school, and, thus, do not graduate. Furthermore, during their time in school they suffer from low self-esteem and become easily frustrated which often lead to behavioral problems. All too often these children will have a difficult time developing relationships with their peers.
How do we get our “barrier children” to succeed in getting their high school diploma? Can teachers alone fill in the gaps and interventions to facilitate success? No, not alone. Human resources from the community must be included.
As an educator working for years with this population, I have implemented a human resource model for intervention and positive change among barrier children. This model requires the investment of time of those individuals who will become role models. Working in a timeline fashion, each will bring both their experience and resources in bridging the gaps these children face. Hopefully, the end result will be that these challenged students will become successful, productive, and, yes, caring human beings.
The Human Resource Model
Human Resources needed:
Step 2: Develop relationship building through peer mentoring. The effective teacher will teach those students how to build relationships, solve problems, set goals, and help others. Eventually, pair up the “barrier child” to help another one of his/her peers on a routine basis. Again, recognize verbally to peers and significant others within the school.
Step 3: Develop productive relationships with business owners and local community leaders. The effective teacher brings in business owners and local leaders with the idea of one of them partnering or adopting a class or classes. These human resources from outside the school are the conduit to real world productivity. Routine visits established by the volunteer coordinator will demonstrate to “barrier children” how their “talents” can lead to success.
Step 4: Develop a collaborative relationship where a business owner or community leader becomes an official partner with the class(s). This could be in one or more subject areas such as: reading, math, music, art, vocational, and/or technical skills. Field trips become a reality; and, depending on the age of the children, an apprenticeship practice can begin either within school or at the workplace.
Lynn Gray has practiced this human resource model while at Middleton Middle School, an inner city school. Among other awards, Lynn Gray received recognition from implementing this model which included becoming a nominee for Teacher of the Year, nominated for Teacher of the Year finalist, and awarded the Peer Facilitator of the Year. Lynn continued to practice this model with modifications during her time in other Hillsborough County Public Schools, at Jesuit High School, and the JMJ Homeschool organization in Tampa.
We need an educational expert who can set relevant policies based on the intellectual, social and physical needs of our schools. Currently, we have the eighth largest school district in the United States with almost 16,000 teachers and a growing budget of 3 billion dollars. I have been an educator for more than 26 years with experience in public and private schools as well as a home school organization. I have taught elementary, middle, high school, and vocational school students. Those experiences, plus being a department head and a team leader throughout, have given me first-hand knowledge of the specific needs and policies which will bring success to teachers and students.
I am also a small business owner of Take...The First Step, a teaching/coaching business for individuals wanting to become physically fit. Being a sole proprietor requires knowledge of the prioritizing of both expenditures and allocations. Planning a yearly budget was a key component of my business success.
Based on my experience, I have a vision for bringing about both educational effectiveness and quality for all students in our public schools.
Lynn Gray is running for the Hillsborough County School Board. It makes sense that those recommending Lynn for the School Board position are also related to education. Below are some of the endorsements Lynn has received by leading educators and advocates of education.
Tampa Bay Times - August 4, 2016 - statement
"Lynn Gray, a longtime teacher in Tampa-area public and private schools, has a firm grasp of educational issues and is rightly focused on the basics, from improving literacy in the younger grades to fostering more discipline in the classroom."
I would be honored to have your vote in the local primary, August 30, 2016! Learn more at:
First off my philosophy on teaching kids:
Optimally...each day: "I want a child to know what excellence is, what it feels like, and do something they are excellent in."
Second- Homework Philosophy:
Homework gives a child introspection, practice, and self remediation of what was covered in class. It reinforces learning...which will heighten achievement. If they are doing excellently in a subject, homework lends another opportunity to do that "extra" and show it off to their teacher, friends, parent, etc.
Homework is the real world equivalent of "going to work to finish the job". We want to teach our children to do the extra for excellence in whatever they do.
Third - how much?
Homework has to be monitored collectively by their subject/grade level instructors. For example; if in middle school "Johnny" has 6 subjects, those teachers need to articulate and come to a consensus of what is a reasonable amount...such that the net "homework time" is not an unreasonable amount. Elementary instructors can easily monitor their amount based on the needs of their students and subject areas (ex. challenging/new Math concept...give them more Math practice)
General rules of homework time:
Elementary - 10 min. per subject; more in their challenge subject for practice
Middle - no more than 30 min. per subject, Remedial: Math, Science, Reading - another 30 min. in their weak subject.
High School - depends on track and needs:
College - expect some subjects will give an hour (AP & Honors), most of us agreed on 1/2 -45 min. per subject
Vocational - an hour or more since this is project orientated
Remedial - Math, Science, Reading - up to an hour in their weak subject
Frequently the question of adding more public charter schools comes up. We should always remember that public charter schools were originated to provide education for those demographics our public schools could not. Thus, charter schools serve as a "compliment" to our public schools vs. having a replacement status. An example would include Pepin Academy - a public charter school which serves only learning related disabilities.
Public charter schools were not intended to replace, duplicate, or receive dedicated funds for our public schools. Remember, there is one pot of money for education; our state legislature and local leaders need to be reminded to not "rob Peter to pay Paul".
What is your position on the expansion of public charter schools in Hillsborough County?
Yes, for continued expansion under these conditions:
2. To determine where they are best needed and if they “best serve the needs of our kids”,
4. To gain a clear understanding of their funding, where they are getting it from, and how they are spending it
Consider the Facts:
1. Currently, in Florida there are 17,000 students (estimated Hillsborough County) in our public charter schools and 206,000(est) students in public schools...consider that when you look at public education funding. Also, consider us taxpayers foot the bill for public charter schools; and if they fail, students frequently return to existing public schools.
2. There are currently 47 operating and 56 approved public charter schools.
3. In 2016, the growth of For-Profit charter schools will increase duplication in curriculum, specialization, and location to existing public charter schools. Check out: Charter Schools USA
An average week for Lynn Gray who is running for School Board – countywide includes endorsements, luncheons, and fundraisers. This past week Lynn visited the Tampa Civitan Club, led by Dee Dee Kirk; the same organization that awarded famed educator – Terrell Sessums, the “Citizen of the Year” award. The next day, candidate Lynn Gray spoke with both Betty Castor and Alex Sink for advice and counsel in running a strong campaign. Following those talks, both Lynn and Karen Dalton met with the most accomplished leaders of our Tampa Bay Community at the Future Leaders of Florida dinner and gathering. Lynn’s big end of the week luncheon was with the Tampa Downtown Partnership where active business women and men network and celebrate the 30th anniversary of this partnership. Bob Buckhorn was the guest speaker and brought a huge level of enthusiasm to the Tampa Bay business community.
The need for endorsements are ever present and Lynn was so happy to announce endorsements from Mary Figg, Richard Gonzmart, Thomas Hyde, Carolyn Bricklemyer, Don Evans, Karen Marziarz and the list goes on. In each case, her support comes from educational advocates who are deeply concerned and care for the future of our children.
Lastly, the need for additional fundraising is the forefront of every campaign; especially the At-large School Board countywide one. To this end, Lynn will have another fundraiser hosted by Jeanne Coleman and co-hosted by Cheri Donohue and Wit Ostrenko. This reception should include 80 – 100 supporters and will meet on July 10th at Jeanne Coleman’s home in Temple Terrace.