YOUR OPINION: Letters to the Editor January 13, 2013

By NEMS Daily Journal

Loome distorted facts about Florida foundation
In her Dec. 17 column “Is public education for sale?,” Nancy Loome of The Parents’ Campaign included misleading statements about Florida and the Foundation for Excellence in Education.
After noting Florida’s strong academic gains, Loome writes, “Yet, rather than promote the achievement-based initiatives responsible for its improvements, Florida’s most vocal ‘edcation reform’ advocates, the Foundation fr Excellence in Education, attribute Florida’s success to school choice.”
As the Foundation’s CEO, I’m baffled.
At no time has the Foundation promoted choice as a cure-all for public education. In fact, we support a comprehensive reform agenda.
School choice is important. But so is a strong focus on early literacy, rigorous academic standards and coursework, strong accountability measures, an expansion of digital technology in the classroom, and policies that attract the best and brightest to the teaching profession.
This isn’t a nefarious plot to promote a corporate takeover of public education. During the Foundation’s multiple trips to Mississippi, our policy experts have testified at sessions, attended by Loome, where they discussed literacy and accountability reforms, not school choice.
Loome’s selective data also distorted Florida’s charter school performance. These schools serve a greater proportion of at-risk students (i.e., low-income, minority or students with disabilities). Consequently, many schools start out failing, but most quickly improve. They must; Florida law states charters rated as low performing for two consecutive years can be closed – a policy not applied to traditional public schools.
Loome neglected to mention that between 2002-03 and 2010-11, the percent of high performing charters jumped from 53 to 73 percent while the percent of failures dropped from 16 to six percent.
Outside research says Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program has improved public schools, and that poor-performing students using the scholarship perform as well or better than their public school peers. Also, the program will save Florida about $58 million this year. Perhaps Loome forgot to mention this.
We support high-quality options because they work.
Loome notes that we take funding from for-profit providers. In fact, more than 90 percent of the foundation’s budget comes from family foundations or philanthropic organizations dedicated to improving students’ educational success. We advocate for policies that benefit students, not the interests of one particular non-profit or private entity.
And I can promise you that these policies will very much benefit the children of Mississippi.
Patricia Levesque
CEO , Foundation for Excellence in Education
Florida