Reimagining Education

Good news from Florida

What we need to be hopeful of is  that more people in Missouri and across the country have viable quality high education options for their children.
Gov. Rick Scott signs education choice bills
Winter Garden charter school hosts one of three signing ceremonies
By Leslie Postal, Orlando Sentinel
11:33 a.m. EDT, June 27, 2011
Surrounded by charter-school students, Florida Gov. Rick Scott touted school choice this morning during a bill-signing ceremony
intended to praise programs that offer parents options for their children outside traditional public schools.
The event at Hope Charter School in Winter Garden was the first of three scheduled today in which Scott was to sign five education bills passed by the Legislature this spring. The bills aim to expand charter schools, virtual schools, school vouchers and a program that allows students to transfer out of failing public schools.
After the brief ceremony, Scott said that choice and competition would fuel improvements in public education and that in coming years he would push for “education savings accounts,” or what some called “universal vouchers.”
The savings-account idea was touted by Scott early in his term and pushed by some lawmakers but died in committee during the spring legislative session. Parents who pulled their children from public schools could use part of the money the state would have
spent educating the child to pay for a private education option of their choice.
“Everything we can do to encourage more choice, we should be doing it,” Scott said. The five bills that did pass allow:
•”High-performing” charter schools — public schools freed from some state rules — to open additional branches without local school  board approval.
•The Florida Virtual School to expand its offerings and other virtual providers to offer programs in Florida.
•The McKay Scholarship program to offer tuition vouchers to a bigger pool of youngsters with disabilities.
•The Opportunity Scholarship program to expand its definition of “failing school,” giving more students the chance to transfer to
better performing public schools.
•The Corporate Tax-Credit Scholarship program to seek more contributions that would then be used to give private-school tuition
vouchers to youngsters from low-income families.
Scott is scheduled to be at the St. Petersburg Christian School at noon and then at the North Broward Academy of Excellence, another charter school, at 3 p.m. to continue his ceremonial bill signings He was introduced in Winter Garden by state Rep. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, a sponsor of one of the bills.
“This is an awesome day for parents. This is an awesome day for students,” said Stargel, a mother of five.
The bills, she said, mean that parents can find the best educational fit for each of their kids. Scott, whose key goal is job creation, said improving education will help make sure Florida has the “best educated workforce” and is attractive to would-be employers.
All parents, he added, should have options for their children, no matter where they live. And with the bills’ passage, “more students and their parents will be empowered to choose a better school, and with it a better future.”
Hope Charter School, and its companion, Legacy Charter High School, are A-rated schools that serve about 550 students in kindergarten through grade 12. Although school is closed for the summer, about 20 Hope students in their school polo shirts attended the ceremony. Scott and his wife, Ann, chatted with them before the ceremony about school, reading and even the problems of hamsters as pets. Each student got a pen from the governor when he was finished signing one of the bills.
Crystal Yoakum, the school’s executive director, said the school’s leaders were pleased to be recommended as the site of Scott’s ceremony. I would be considered “high performing” and able to set up branches under the new law.
But Yoakum said the school would move cautiously with any expansion plans because it would want to maintain the same quality and offerings, such as an inclusion program for children with autism and a schoolwide focus on healthful eating.
Parent Janet Enright, who teaches at Hope Academy, said she enrolled her children — who are going into grades 6, 8 and 10 — because of the school’s small size compared to traditional public schools.
“If the size is smaller, they can get more attention,” she said.

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