Nine low-performing traditional public schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties can apply for extra funding this school year under the controversial new “Schools of Hope” program that lawmakers narrowly approved this spring.
The Florida Department of Education released a preliminary list of eligible schools in guidance sent to the state’s 67 school districts this week, advising superintendents of how they must address their failing schools under the terms of House Bill 7069, which took effect July 1.
One option available to 93 newly failing schools statewide — which serve about 64,500 students — is to vie for “Schools of Hope” dollars: up to $2,000 per student that could be spent on wraparound services, such as after-school programs and community partnerships.
The schools will have less than a month to make their pitch and only 25 of the 93 schools will get the extra money in 2017-18, due to a cap Republican legislators put in the new law.
The program has $140 million for its inaugural year, but at most about $58 million — less than half — of that could be earmarked because of the program’s cap on 25 schools, according to an analysis by the Herald/Times.
The remaining dollars will be available to state-approved charter operators who can set up new, privately managed schools within five miles of the existing schools to essentially compete with them.
The Florida Department of Education has not yet released information on how it will select the charter operators or how it will choose the public schools.
A letter, sent Tuesday, from state Public Schools Chancellor Hershel Lyons to district superintendents said, “a rubric and review protocol is being developed and will be used to rank and award applicants” in selecting the 25 public schools.
“Schools of Hope” was the brainchild of House Republicans, under the leadership of Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, and represents their solution to address traditional public schools that, sometimes, fail year after year with no improvement to the detriment of tens of thousands of students.
With 18, Hillsborough County has the most schools eligible to apply for the “Schools of Hope” aid, followed by Escambia and Polk counties, which each have eight, according to the DOE materials requested by the Herald/Times.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools last month celebrated the elimination of all of its “F” schools under grades released for 2017. But the district still has five schools that recently received successive “D” grades, which would be eligible for the “Schools of Hope” dollars.
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the district is “analyzing and evaluating the possibility of accessing these additional dollars for the benefit of these students.”
“As a practice, we do not turn our backs on possible supplemental resources for fragile schools,” he added.
But there’s not a lot of time. Eligible schools have until Aug. 15 to submit their applications, describing why a school needs the “hope” funding and how the dollars would be spent to meet benchmarks — such as developing community partnerships, increasing parental involvement, boosting academic achievement and “creating high academic and character standards” for students.
Statewide, the potential money each school might get could be as much as a few million dollars for the most populous schools — such as Northeast High School in Oakland Park, with its 1,800 students.
The list of schools the DOE provided is “not the final list as it contains schools with ‘incomplete’ grades,” Lyons noted.
Schools targeted by “Schools of Hope” are those that earned grades of less than a “C” for at least the past two years and must now submit turnaround plans to improve their standing. Dozens of low-performing schools that are already in turnaround status can’t apply for the dollars.
Another major change in HB 7069 expedites and limits newly failing schools’ options for improvement.
The 93 schools have until mid-August to submit turnaround plans so that they can begin that work in this upcoming school year. Under previous law, failing schools had a whole school year to devise their turnaround plan.
Senate Pre-K-12 Education Appropriations Chairman David Simmons, an Altamonte Springs Republican who has been critical of HB 7069, had cautioned the changes in the law would cause some schools to potentially shutter their doors as early as September.
That won’t be the case, according to the guidance from DOE. The earliest that could happen is in the 2018-19 school year.
At that point, schools that have earned three consecutive grades below a “C” have only three options: Close the school, turn it into a privately managed charter or convert the school into a district-managed charter with all new administrators and teachers not affiliated with the previous school.
South Florida schools eligible for ‘hope’ help
These schools will be required to submit a turnaround plan for the 2017-18 school year and will be eligible for new “Schools of Hope” dollars from the state. Twenty-five low-performing schools statewide can get up to $2,000 per student to pay for additional support services.
▪ Homestead Middle School, Homestead
▪ Lorah Park Elementary School, Miami
▪ Miami Carol City Senior High School, Miami Gardens
▪ Toussaint L’Ouverture Elementary, Miami
▪ West Homestead K-8 Center, Homestead
▪ Dillard Elementary School, Fort Lauderdale
▪ Larkdale Elementary School, Lauderhill
▪ Northeast High School, Oakland Park
▪ North Side Elementary School, Fort Lauderdale
Source: Florida Department of Education. The list is still preliminary because some schools statewide have “incomplete” grades for 2017.